Senate orders return of student expelled over fee hike protest

The Nigerian Senate has instructed the management of the University of Abuja to reinstate Cyprian Chukwuemeka Igwe as a student after he was expelled in 2023 for calling students to discuss a fee hike of 50%. He was a student leader at the time.

Olalekan Oladeru, who was also part of the students’ union at the time, and who was expelled at the same time for reposting Igwe’s message on his personal social media, still awaits clarity about his status.

They were expelled in May 2023 after completing their second-semester examinations. However, due to the disciplinary steps against them, they could not get their final results and could not start their compulsory National Youth Service.

 

Speaking about the intervention of the Nigerian Senate, Igwe explained that he submitted a petition in July 2023 to the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges, and Public Petitions through Senator Dr Victor Umeh, who represents Anambra Central, his constituency.

<blockquote
class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">To the glory of
God, a student of University of Abuja, Igwe Chukwuemeka, who was
rusticated by the school has found favour through my intervention in the
Senate and that of the Senate Committee on Ethics, Privileges &amp;
Public Petition<br><br>Igwe is from Anambra Central, my
Constituent. <a
href="https://t.co/hGvzyB33tk">pic.twitter.com/hGvzyB33tk</a></p>&mdash;
Senator Victor Umeh OFR (@SenVictorUmeh) <a
href="https://twitter.com/SenVictorUmeh/status/1727975723078492640?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">November
24, 2023</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js"
charset="utf-8"></script>

His senator informed him in March that the University of Abuja had been directed to reinstate him and open his student portal. However, by 10 April he still has not been able to obtain his final examination results and finalise his studies.

These portals serve as resource platforms (academic materials and results) while students study. Upon completion of their studies, it hosts their academic records, including transcripts and certificates. This allows graduates to access and retrieve important documents whenever needed, whether for further studies, job applications, or other purposes.

Dr Habib Yakoob, the acting director of information and university relations at the University of Abuja, confirmed that Igwe was required to draft a letter of apology to the university. “We hold the senate in high regard, which is why we complied with their directive,” Yakoob emphasised.

Confirming the receipt of such a letter, Yakoob stated: “However, upon review, we believe that the content of Igwe’s letter does not align with the senate’s directive.”

When asked about Oladeru’s situation, Yakoob responded: “I haven’t received information concerning the other student you mentioned.”

Standing up for others

Before the senate’s recent order, Igwe and Oladeru spoke to University World News about their anguish and subsequent mental health problems because they have been unable to graduate. According to them they have also fruitlessly struggled for months to find employment or other opportunities to continue their education.

As a former Students’ Union government member Igwe said that, at the time, he felt a duty to speak up for those who could not.

“[Taking a stand] has crippled my chances of furthering my education abroad as planned. I lost opportunities because I hadn’t received my certificate. I have been emotionally drained and mentally affected by the rustication. I planned on committing suicide multiple times between August and November 2023,” Igwe told University World News.

“Most of my friends stopped talking to me out of fear of facing unfair punishment or becoming victims, themselves,” he added.

But, according to him, being a leader comes with challenges as you have to defend what you believe in.

Oladeru’s case

As in Igwe’s case, Oladeru’s expulsion also took a heavy toll on his mental health. In his life, education was his way out of hardship as an orphan.

After the expulsion, he struggled to sleep and found himself in hospital due to high blood pressure. Medication offered temporary relief, but the uncertainty about his future lingered.

“What will happen to my four years with all the ASUU (Academic Staff Union of Universities) strikes and expenses and the money I’ve put into it? When you have no parents … [you have to] work hard every day, every month, every year to stay in school,” he told University World News.

He said he wished this had not happened, but he did not regret standing up for less privileged students: “I know of over 50 students who dropped out and I can name at least five from my batch. They still don’t know if they are going back to school because of the fee hike in a federal university,” he added.

He contacted Senator Fadahunsi Francis from Osun State, Central District, his constituency. The senator intervened by contacting the vice-chancellor of the university who requested an apology letter, stating that the students should not repeat their actions.

“The school was instructed to reinstate us contingent on receiving an apology letter acknowledging our social media actions. We complied, submitting three apology letters acknowledged by the deputy vice-chancellor and the dean.”

Like Igwe, he has not been able to access his portal.

“I believe it will be treated together because when they reinstate him, they will also reinstate me. After all, we have both faced the same allegation,” Oladeru explained.

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