Lingering crises in UNIPORT: Students blast VC FeaturedWritten by Kelechi Esogwa-Amadi
... Accuse him of high-handedness
... Cultists terrorise Abuja campus
... PRO: matter has been resolved
The plethora of crises that have engulfed the University of Port Harcourt in recent times have been blamed on the alleged inefficiency and high-handedness of the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Prof. Ndowa Lale.
Speaking to The Neighbourhood on Tuesday following the sporadic shooting at the Abuja campus of the university by suspected cultists, some students of the university blamed Prof. Lale for the various crises rocking the institution.
They accused him of gradually turning UniPort to a battlefield of sorts since he assumed office as the VC, because of the unfriendly policies he introduced, one of which, according to them, is the no fees, no examination policy.
They also accused him of failing to fulfil most of the promises he made during his inauguration ceremony, some of which included improvement of staff and students’ welfare, provision of more hostels, enhancement of security, among others.
They lamented that rather than protect their lives, Prof Lale has been creating situations under which their lives are now being endangered.
According to the embittered students, the UniPort VC’s inability to manage the university is responsible for all the woes besetting the school.
The students, who complained that they are now living in constant fear because of the volatile nature of their academic environment security-wise, appealed to the vice chancellor to resolve all issues with aggrieved students before things get out of hand.
“I heard the gunshots but I didn’t see the people doing the shooting. Some students are saying that they are cultists but honestly, I don’t know. All I’m after is my life. I don’t want anything to happen to me; so the VC should do something about this. They should not allow this school to turn to a war zone. We have suffered enough since last year,” a 200 level female student of the university told The Neighbourhood. The female student, who said she is studying Fine Arts, refused to mention her name.
A 3rd year level male student, who also pleaded anonymity citing security concerns, lamented over the deteriorating security in the university, shortly after the shooting and arrival of the police.
“I don’t know what this university is turning into. What if spray bullets hit somebody? VC should take it easy so that he doesn’t spoil the few good works he has done already. He should resolve this problem with the expelled students, especially the faculty presidents. That is what is causing all these problems. Since that protest last year, we have not known peace in this school.”
The Neighbourhood was at the Abuja campus of UniPort when the shooting occurred near the Nelson Mandela and Presidential hostels.
About 20 minutes after the shooting, a group of policemen in a white Hilux van arrived in front of the Nelson Mandela hostel and in a Gestapo-like manner, rounded up two students. Another student, believed to be one of the SUG officers, joined them in the Hilux van and they drove off.
They were later seen parading round the Abuja campus allegedly in search of the shooters.
However, suspicion was high among the students that cultists were behind the shooting.
Some students linked it to the suspected cultists expelled by the university, speculating that they may have come for revenge.
Others linked it to the imbroglio between the university management and the suspended faculty presidents.
When The Neighbourhood went to the office of the Students Union Government (SUG), it was locked.
Also, both the vice chancellor, Prof Ndowa Lale and the PRO, Williams Wode, were not on seat when The Neighbourhood visited their offices twice between 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
When The Neighbourhood visited the Choba campus of the university, normal academic activities were ongoing. However, there was commotion at the gate of the Student Affairs Department as students were struggling to enter the premises.
On enquiry, the students said they wanted to go and collect their accommodation forms from the office of the Dean, Students Affairs but were being hindered by the short, fair-complexioned female security officer at the gate who was picking those she wanted to enter.
When The Neighbourhood finally entered and met the Dean, Students Affairs, Dr. Otu Ekpenyong, he explained that they instructed the security lady to check the influx of students into the small premises to avoid congestion, adding that they had earlier addressed the students to wait until the processing of their forms were completed after which they would be notified.
He expressed regret that the desperate students would not listen, adding that he had instructed that no more accommodation fees should be collected until they settled all those who had paid already, adding that any student who would not be able to get accommodation would be given back their money.
On the shooting at the Abuja campus of the university, Dr. Ekpenyong said he was aware of the incident. He said immediately he heard it, he alerted the police to go and bring the situation under control. He, however, referred The Neighbourhood to the university PRO for further comments.
When contacted on phone later on Tuesday evening, the Deputy Registrar/Public Relations Officer, PRO, of the institution, Dr. William Wodu, disclosed that the problem between the rusticated faculty presidents and the university management had been resolved.
He explained that the faculty presidents apologised and the senate met and commuted their expulsion to suspension for the entire 2016/2017 academic session.
Since coming on board as the vice chancellor of UniPort, Prof Lale’s administration has been fraught with one crisis or the other, which got to a climax on April 11, 2016 when students of the university embarked on a protest over the ‘no school fees, no examination’ policy he introduced.
The protest resulted in the death of a final year student, Peter Ofurum, who was allegedly killed by men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) allegedly invited by the university management.
The development led to the sacking of the vice chancellor by the governing council of the university which cited incompetence of Prof Lale for its action, after its meeting on Monday 6th June 2016.
Prof. Lale would later obtain a court injunction restraining the governing council from placing him on suspension or sacking him as vice chancellor.
He was surprisingly re-instated after he allegedly visited the federal capital territory.
The presidents of the various faculties in UniPort had been expelled from the university due to an alleged letter written by them to the vice chancellor on the need to adopt student-friendly policies for the academic well being of the institution, but the vice chancellor, rather than dialogue with the disenchanted students or explore other humane ways to resolve the issue, expelled all of them, in what could be described as a sheer display of power-drunkenness.