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ATBU’s directive on drug test for students

The management of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi recently issued a circular to its students returning for this year’s academic session directing them to…

The management of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) Bauchi recently issued a circular to its students returning for this year’s academic session directing them to undergo a toxicology test (also known as drug test), which is carried out to check for drugs or other chemicals in people’s blood, urine or saliva. 

According to a report by a newspaper, the ATBU management’s stance followed the violent protest by students of the school over the murder of a 500-level Geology student, Joseph Agabaidu, by assailants.  According to the police, he was stabbed to death on December 2, 2023, while trying to retrieve his girlfriend’s bag from the hoodlums who had earlier snatched it from her.  

Angered by his murder, some students started a protest, which turned violent, after the police, who stationed their armoured tankers opposite the school gate, tried to disrupt it fearing that it would lead to the breakdown of law and order, not only in the institution but parts of the state metropolis. Still, the situation got out of hand as the protesting students shut down the entrance of the university and disrupted activities on the campus. 

  The ATBU authorities probably believed that some of the actions they saw on the part of the students must have been influenced by the rising cases of illicit drugs and related substance abuse in our society, hence their decision to ask returning students to subject themselves to a toxicology test, so as to stop a recurrence of the December 4 incident and other forms of lawlessness. Meanwhile, according to reports, parents of students of the university and lecturers have rejected the ‘compulsory toxicology test’, which the management asked the students to undertake accompanied by a signed form of “Oath of Good Character and Compliance” to be submitted upon resumption. There is also the issue of credibility of the test results and where they can be carried out. 

While parents complained of the cost implication of the test, which reportedly ranges from N5,000, to N10,000, depending on the laboratory, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and the Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, ATBU, Inuwa Ibrahim and Sulisma Jatau, respectively, said they were not in support of the management’s move because they were not consulted. 

The Director, Information and Public Relations Unit of the ATBU, Zailani Bappa, said the decision was for the benefit of the students and very necessary to curb social vices among the over 10,000 students of the institution, adding that “When we give out degrees, we first of all say that a student is found worthy in character before we say and in learning. So, it is our duty to be like parents for the students.” 

No doubt, drug abuse is a menace and responsible for so many acts of violence and destruction in the society and the earlier we address this problem the better for all of us. So, while agreeing with the ATBU management that we need to check the rising cases of illicit drug abuse, its decision seems more reactionary than proactive. Fighting drug abuse is something it cannot do alone. There must be consultation because it requires the buy-in of every stakeholder in the society, including government, parents, community and religious leaders for it to be effectively managed. 

We call on the management to note that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees each and every citizen certain freedoms which include academic freedom, and this supersedes its directive. Thus, it must not initiate policies that will deprive students of access to education. There are other actions that the school management can take to reduce, if not totally eliminate, cases of drug abuse. For instance, they can seek the help of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to establish presence in the institution, as a starting point. 

We also call on the management to dialogue with all stakeholders with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem. We believe the fight against drug abuse requires the involvement of all. 

Parents and lecturers should appreciate the level of destruction drug abuse is causing to lives and property in our society and support moves to address it in a legally and socially responsible manner. Children are today killing parents under drug influence, while many have become completely invalid and totally incapable of being useful to themselves and society. Students should also remember that while they have the right to peaceful protest, the management and other authorities have a responsibility to ensure law and order.  We advise that they must shun drugs and never condone violence in advancing their cause. 


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