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Unease as tertiary education in Sokoto comes to standstill

From the Federal University in Sokoto to the state Polytechnic, College of Education as well as the College of Legal and Islamic Studies, it is…

From the Federal University in Sokoto to the state Polytechnic, College of Education as well as the College of Legal and Islamic Studies, it is tales of gloom. While the university has been shut, academic activities at the three state tertiary institutions have been suspended.

Usmanu Danfodiyo University, UDUS, was closed down May 28, 2013 following students protest over alleged electricity and water problems.
On the other hand, academic staff of the three prominent tertiary institutions in Sokoto state down tools to press home certain demands which include implementation of Consolidated Polytechnics and Colleges of Education Academic Salary Structure, (CONPCASS), 65 years retirement age for all academic staff in Nigerian tertiary institution and CONTISS 15 in colleges of education and polytechnics as well as payment of the arrears of the 2012 and 2013 leave grants.
For UDUS, it came as a surprise to the management when some students marched to the Vice Chancellor’s residence on the night of May 27 to protest problems of electricity and water supply.
The authorities insisted they have been trying their best over the water as well as recent electricity situation which it noted was not peculiar to the institution.
The students’ action however led to the closure of the university, a move which authorities of the institution maintained was to forestall any further unwholesome development in view of the prevailing security situation in the country.
The Vice Chancellor Professor Riskuwa Arabu Shehu asserted, “We certainly cannot guarantee 24 hours power supply but we have been trying our best. During the day time our library has dedicated generator that operates from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Friday as well as 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
“In addition to that, we have dedicated generator in the hostel that operates 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. We went further to ensure major halls have electricity through solar panels.”
He said when power supply was a bit more regular, they make provision for 22,000 litres of diesel which last for about 18-20 days   but that during the recent general power problem in the state, the last provision was exhausted much earlier and they had to make emergency supply.
He added that  they also used electricity to generate their water supply from borehole but that there was water shortage Monday, May 27  which  was addressed immediately by purchase of four tankers to supply the reservoir as temporary measure.   
Prof.Shehu noted, “Our students have always been peaceful but when few bad eggs may want to create problems, you don’t take things for granted particularly taking into consideration the security situation in the country. It is better we have sober reflection, take more appropriate action before we call them back.”
Speaking with Daily Trust on the prevailing situation, President Students Union Government, UDUS Usman Maizare said, “What happened was a tragedy not only to the students and management but to Sokoto, Kebbi and Zamfara states as it is the only federal university in this axis.
What happened was an act of irresponsibility. Our University was known to be very peaceful and we have it as a slogan, ‘the most peaceful university’. I am sure 99.9 percent of our students are not in support of the students’ action.”
He said the when general electricity problem occurred in the state, as student union government, they went to see the VC over the issue about three times.
Maizare said there was no rationale behind the protest saying due to lack of patience on the part of the students who were involved in the protest, they took what he noted as the unreasonable decision.
According to him, there was 10-hour daily electricity supply at the institution while availability of water was also ensured.
He appealed to the university authorities to consider the number of innocent students who he noted form the vast majority and re-open the institution.
Similarly, a former president Sokoto Sx tate Students Association, SOSSA, Ridwanu Ahmed also pleaded with the UDUS management to re-open the university so that the students can take their examinations before the forthcoming Ramadan fast.
He called on students to always maintain disciple saying though protest is allowed, due process should always be followed.
Ahmed was of the view that the closure of the university was a warning and that the students would have learnt their lessons.
However, opinions are divided on the closure while some people say other measures should have been taken by the institution to check the situation other than shutting it, others support the closure.
Former state coordinator, Civil Society Action Coalition on Education for All,(CSACEFA)Mallam Ibrahim Tudun Doki says it was unfair to many of innocent students who may have gone through a lot owing to the closure of university just few days to examination.
He called on university authorities to call the students back as early as possible so that it does not completely disrupt the academic programme.
 “The students should not be left behind their counterparts in other institutions; it has a long time effect.”
For their part, the academic staff of three tertiary institutions in Sokoto commenced an indefinite strike on June 1, 2013 to press home their demands. The institutions include Sokoto State Polytechnic, Shehu Shagari College of Education, and the College of Legal and Islamic Studies.
With they embarked on the industrial action, the first semester examinations in the institutions which were said to have gone midway, was suspended.
Speaking under the aegis of the Sokoto State Joint Tertiary Institutions Academic Staff Union Consultative Forum, the Chairman of the Colleges of Education Staff Union (COESU), Bello Abubakar said the strike would remain in force until the forum’s demands are fully met by the state government.
He said the struggle for the implementation of the demands started four years ago, that is since 2009, and that despite series of letter to the state government and visits, there had been no response.
 “The forum has taken all necessary steps to avert the strike action on these issues without success. The struggle to salvage our institutions and our welfare is both patriotic and legitimate. We have been very patient. We have explored all diplomatic avenues including letters to prominent people and key government officers in the state to intervene,” he stated.
Abubakar added, “The forum at its emergency session on 6th May, 2013, critically examined the non-response of government to the issues raised since 2009, resolved to commence total and indefinite strike from midnight of Friday 31st May, 2013.”
Sokoto State Head of Service, Alhaji Bature Shinkafi said, “Negotiations have been going on and we told them to be patient. The state government had also approved the payment of the arrears of their years leave grants.”
He stressed that the state government was doing all it could to meet their demands urgently.
Many concerned citizens have called for the redress of the situations at the university and the state tertiary institutions.

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