A pro-labour civil society movement, Joint Action Front (JAF) has demanded the immediate reversal of increment of school fees in Nigerian public universities and other tertiary institutions in the country.
JAF, in a statement issued at the weekend and signed by its Secretary, Comrade Abiodun Aremu, and chairperson, Dr Dipo Fashina, condemned the increase and described it as insensitive to Nigerians’ predicament.
The group also condemned the increment of the Federal Government colleges’ school fees, describing it as a clear sign that the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Tinubu-led government would not benefit the Nigerian masses.
The statement reads: “The increments, we note, are as high as 800 percent in some of the universities. We consider this callous and insensitive as it adds to the burden of working people and the poor who are already in pain under the deadweight of the criminal hike in petrol prices, naira devaluation and other anti-poor neo-liberal policies of the Bola Tinubu’s regime which account for high inflation and economic hardship.
“This further underscores the fact that the Tinubu regime does not care about the well-being of working people and the poor, including access to education by their children.
“Also, we note that the school fees at the Federal Government Colleges (unity secondary schools) have also been increased. These criminal increments have equally given the lie to the claim of Tinubu’s regime that one of the reasons for the removal of the so-called petrol subsidy is to make more money available for education and infrastructure.
“As we have argued in our previous statements, the entrenched corruption sustained by successive regimes and their anti-poor neo-liberal economic policies, meant that the poor masses will never benefit from the hike in petrol prices under the guise of subsidy removal. Rather, the money will as it is the practice, be looted and used to further finance the opulent lifestyles of top government functionaries.
“We commend students from different universities who have risen up in protests against the fee hike. However, as against the isolated character of these protests, we call for a unified response of Nigerian students including nationwide days of action in addition to independent actions at different universities.
“We also call on students not to be deceived by the empty directive of the Tinubu regime to the universities not to increase fees. The fact that no Vice Chancellor has been queried or punished for going against the so-called directive shows that it is a blatant deception.
“Besides, Tinubu’s regime has failed to ensure adequate funding to universities, while its neo-liberal policies have truly increased the costs of running universities. However, it should be stressed that another major problem is the characteristic mismanagement, including embezzlement of even the limited allocations and other revenues by university authorities.
“This is the more reason why students and education workers should join forces to call for adequate funding of public education and also demand democratic management of finances of universities to involve committees of elected representatives of all staff unions and students. This is in order to put measures in place towards the judicious use and management of resources of public universities.”
JAF, therefore, urged the “Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, education workers unions (ASUU, NASU, SSANU, NAAT, NUT, etc.) and pro-masses organisations to actively support the struggle against the outrageous fee hikes”.
“A united struggle of workers, students and the poor masses, with a series of mass activities including a day of nationwide action that includes general strike and mass protests, can force the anti-poor Tinubu regime to stop the fee hike and compel the regime to ensure proper funding to public education,” it said.