The authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, have debunked the claim that five students of the University were arrested and arraigned because they were protesting an alleged illegal eviction of students from the University hostels.
A release by the Public Relations Officer of the University, Mr. Abiodun Olarewaju, stated that the University, as a matter of policy and as is generally known, accords to its students the right to civilized protests; however, the University will, on no account, condone any form of criminality by staff and students in breach of the laws of the land and the University’s sacred motto of “For Learning and Culture.”
Giving the facts of the matter, Mr. Olarewaju stated that the University authorities had, in a Release dated 21st February, 2018, given the directive that all students resident on campus should vacate the halls of residence to enable renovation works and repairs to be carried out in the hostels before the commencement of the next academic session. It is to be noted that allocation of bed spaces in the hostels is always for one academic session, and even without being told, students are expected to vacate the hostels at the end of each session.
Aware that some students would be on SIWES, IT, Teaching Practice and other compulsory academic programs during the period, the University had designated two hostels on the campus, one each for male and female students, for the accommodation of these groups of students.
Contrary to the directive of the University and the fact that their allocation had lapsed, some students obstinately refused to vacate the hostels in spite of several notices to them. On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, the Hall Warden and Porters at Moremi Hall (a Female Hostel) moved round the hostel and reminded students unlawfully occupying the hostel to move out. The students were complying when all of a sudden, some men came out of nowhere and forcefully moved the belongings of the female students back into the hostel on the ground that the University had no right to ask them to pack out.
Attempts by the Hall Warden and university staff at the scene to invite their attention to the earlier notices directing them to pack out drew the ire of these men, who not only were extremely rude to the Hall Warden but also harassed and physically assaulted the Hall staff and also held them hostage. The University officers were only rescued when the Hall Warden was able to send a distress call to the University Security Department.
The men who assaulted the University staff were later reported to the Police who, upon investigation, decided that they had a case to answer and consequently filed charges against them in the law court. It subsequently turned out that these men are students of the University who are not on any academic program and do not belong to the group exempted and accommodated in Akintola and ETF Halls as earlier pointed out.
It is in the best interest of all stakeholders: students who are allocated bed spaces on campus, parents, lecturers and the University that the hostels are renovated for the next academic session. Furthermore, students who are not on SIWES, IT, Teaching Practice, etc, and who are not for that reason allowed to stay in designated places on campus have no business residing in the hostels during long vacation when the University is on break. Again, students, as well as all other members of the University community, are not above the rules and regulations of the University as well as the law of the land.
It is therefore clear that contrary to the rumours making the rounds, the students charged to court were not charged for protesting or for dissent.
According to Mr. Olarewaju, the University as one of the leading academic institutions in the country respects dissent and will not punish any member for expressing their opinions. However, criminal conduct will not be tolerated and will promptly be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agencies.
The University enjoins parents, guardians and sponsors of students to impress it on their wards the need to respect the laws of the land as well as the rules and regulations of the University, which are in any event designed to make their stay in the University safe and comfortable.
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