In 2005, Aguda was to have graduated but for two reasons. First, was the non-accreditation of his course by the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the second was that his class was one year behind. His class was running programmes that would have been taken the previous year.
The story as told by Aguda is: “…The chancellor Rev. Father Emmanuel Edeh, through Rev Sister Purosima asked our class to stay and finish up whenever that was possible. But he assured us that we were not going to pay fees. He knew that was our fear. We agreed and continued with our studies.
“A letter was written by the then class captain, Mr Adeife Tunde to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lawrence Onukwube upon which the chancellor acted.
“In 2006, when we were to take our final exams, we were a sed to do through clearance by showing evidence that we were not owing the school. We were there and Rev. Purosima who was supposed to clear my class said we were not up-to-date because we tendered school fee receipts for 2005/2006 session and for we that were not going to sit for our exams.
“Immediately, we walked to the registrar and informed him of the development and he asked me to put down a passionate appeal on paper signed by me on behalf of the class. In the appeal, I explained that the delay in the class’ graduation was not on our part and that we had spent so much even on our projects and that the plight of the class be looked into with the view of waiving these fees as the chancellor had promised a year ago. It was more of a reminder!
“About a week later, we got a reply that we could go for clearance, the issue had been resolved. On getting there, the same Rev Purosima turned us down. She said we had gone to report her to the VC, I in particular—that she would see how we would graduate.
“It became a serious issue. The chancellor said I, Bernard was behind all this and a panel be set up. Before setting up the panel, he [the chancellor] pronounced me expelled.
“On March 26, I was going for morning mass when one of the security men walked up to me and said, ‘Ben, there is a problem.’ I said wait let me go for mass and come back. But he insisted that I immediately go and see the chief security officer. I went to him and he said the chancellor no longer wanted me as a student and I should pack my belongings and leave the school.
“In the next five minutes, my things were hurled into a Volvo vehicle and my expulsion letter handed over to me.
“Since then, I have been doing more of appeals, trying to let the chancellor understand that there was a mistake in that decision. He later said my letter to the VC deceived the VC and the registrar. But this is far from truth—only calculated to instigate the school against me.
“I wrote to Archbishop John Onaiyekan [Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese], the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, the National Human Rights Commission, the Public Complaints Commission—I scattered my letters all round—even to the Voluntary Aid Council. I wrote the NUC . I met the leadership of NUC and they looked into the issue. But to my surprise, when the VC eventually called me, he gave me a note to take to Caritas University [he owns Caritas as well].
“On reaching there, the registrar asked me to apply for admission. I did that and I was admitted to study Biochemistry. I said, if you have Medical Physiology, I would comfortably run my programme but to take me to Biochemistry after finishing Human Biochemistry, I wouldn’t accept that. I left!
“The chancellor said since I refused his own alternative, that would mark the end of it.
“After two years, I saw the need to institute a court action.”
Though Sunday Trust could not get the owner of the university to speak, the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the institution, Professor B. Ngwoke threw light on the circumstances surrounding the expulsion of Aguda.
Ngwoke told our reporter that Aguda, at one time, visited him in his house and complained that after spending an extra year in the school, the clearance officer had refused to allow his class to sit for their final year examinations despite having their fees waived by the owner of the school.
The DVC said he advised Aguda to go to Elele (Port Harcourt campus of the institution) and meet the chancellor for a reminder of the said waiver because he (chancellor) might have forgotten.
Ngwoke said the expelled student was equally said to have forged a letter claiming to be the chancellor’s and incited students not to pay their fees.
He said the chancellor directed that a panel be set up to investigate the circumstances that led to all this.
The DVC said, “So Bernard went and wrote a letter and presented it to his classmates as evidence of the waiver from the chancellor which made them to refuse sitting for their exams…So after getting the correct information from his classmates, the panel decided that he should go [be expelled] to avoid riot, disruption of examinations that were going on.”
Also, the registrar, T.I. Ugwoke told Sunday Trust that when Aguda approached him and complained about the payment of fees he asked him to put it in writing, only for him to come back to tell him that the chancellor had approved that the class should not pay any fees. This, he said, was contrary to what he gathered from the chancellor.
Purosima on her part said, “I was surprised that Bernard who claimed he had no money would go and forge a letter claiming the chancellor waived the fees for them. Bernard made the whole class not to appear for the clearance.”
The school’s letter to Aguda dated 28th March 2006 and signed by the registrar simply entitled “Expulsion” however reads: The senate disciplinary committee of this university in its careful and thorough investigation[s] on the reason for the discontent of your classmate[s] with waiver granted to your class by the chancellor of the university came out with these findings: (1) It was in your misleading letter to the Vice Chancellor that you introduced your interpretation of the chancellor’s waiver and gave it a twist that was never contemplated by the chancellor and even when this was pointed out to you by the clearing officer you stuck to your error. (2) It was your letter which deceived the school registrar and the vice chancellor and made them append their minutes on it. (3) It was your letter that deceived the bulk of your classmates into thinking that your erroneous interpretation was correct and led them into revolt against clearance and exams.
On account of this, the management of this university has decided that you be dismissed from the university without further delay.
Having failed in getting people to make the school shift position, Aguda is now hoping that the court would overrule the decision of the school. His case comes up in a High Court in Awka tomorrow for mention.