By our Investigation Bureau
Students of the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, Uyo Study Center, have given Akwa Ibom state government a Twenty one- Day ultimatum within which to provide them with a permanent site or be ready to deploy its resources into quelling mass protests in the state.
The students made their position known last week at the famous Ibom Plaza, Uyo, the state capital during their extra-ordinary congress.
Acting under the aegis of Concerned Students of the National Open University of Nigeria, (COSNOUN), Uyo Study Center, the students maintained that protests, which is the only available weapon for students the world over, was their last resort since the state government was adamant at providing them with an alternative structure in lieu of their supposed permanent sites which it (state government) is currently occupying.
The enraged COSNOUN alleged that the Akwa Ibom state government was illegally occupying secretariats of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) on Oron Road and National Republican Convention (NRC) on Abak Road, all in Uyo, in contravention of the Federal Government directives to states to hand them over to the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN.
The students further alleged that they were aware of efforts made by the management of the school to get from the state government a befitting alternative structure for them since they were occupying their supposed permanent sites. They further noted that their current temporary site at Mbaba Afia, off Aka Road, Uyo could no longer accommodate the ever increasing number of students in the institution.
Our Paper gathered that the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, which was established by an Act of the National Assembly ( The National Open University Act, 1983) is recognized, and its courses accredited by the National University Commission, NUC. NOUN, which Headquarters is at Ahmadu Bello Way, Victoria Island, Lagos, has its Study Centers approved by the NUC in all the states of the federation.
The aggrieved students of Uyo Study Center noted that it was disheartening and unproductive that while their counterparts in other states had been provided with befitting structures by their respective state governments in line with the federal government directives, theirs was a different story.
While enumerating employment opportunities of which indigenes of the state are being denied, owing to the institution’s inability to secure a permanent site, the students said it was time they took their destinies in their hands.
In a communiqué read by the Convener, Comrade Usoro S. I., COSNOUN said in parts “… we have been keeping quiet while we watch the National Open University of Nigeria, NOUN, Uyo Study Center lagging behind due to unavailability of learning facilities.
We the students are the worst hit by this evitable scenario. When we labour to pay in every academic session for Biology, Physics and Chemistry laboratories as well as Libraries and ICT facilities, etc, we cannot use them because the Center’s management has no structures in which to set up these learning facilities”.
While taking a swipe at Governor Udom’s claim of having provided employments for the youths of the state, the aggrieved students said that denying the institution a permanent structure in Akwa Ibom was a mockery of such claim as according to COSNOUN, many youths of the state are being denied employment opportunities by the government’s alleged insensitivity.
They continued: “Today, many qualified indigenes of the state who suppose to be working in different departments of the institution are still roaming the streets, while some have died while working as thugs to politicians. Yet, the government is claiming to have provided employments for youths of the state.
“Study Centers in other states of the federation have since been provided with permanent structures, most of which are Secretariats of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party, (SDP) in line with the federal government directives through the Federal Ministry of Education.
We at NOUN, Uyo Study center have waited patiently, thinking that the state government would respond to several appeals by the Center’s Management in this regard. While the structure opposite our supposed permanent site ( i.e former SDP secretariat on Oron Road by Udo Udoma Avanue which currently hosts the Local Government Service Commission) was being renovated, we thought that the Commission would relocate there for us to take over our place. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
“Whereas we need a conducive learning environment with up-to-date academic facilities which would guarantee effective learning; and whereas the qualified youths of Akwa Ibom state are being denied employment opportunities by the prolonged refusal of the state government to release to us our permanent structure or an alternative; we hereby give the state government a Twenty one- day ultimatum within which to release to us either of our supposed permanent structures, ie: the Secretariats of the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), currently being occupied by the Local Government Service Commission or the National Republican Convention ( NRC) being used by the state’s Cultural Center or, a well befitting alternative within the capital city.
Where the government fails, we shall use the only available weapon of students the world over: protests. We shall mobilize all our students, the employment-seeking youths as well as our well-wishers and sympathizers in the state for mass protests. We shall barricade and shut down all the state government-owned parastatals until our demand is met. Aluta Continua!”
Checks by our paper show that the Uyo study Center of the University which started in 2007 with a handful of students now boasts of over Seven Thousand intakes, grossly inadequate for its current rented one-storey building on a very narrow Mbaba Afia Street, off Aka Road, Uyo.
Our Paper further gathered that while the Kogi State Government had released to the institution the old NRC Secretariat located on Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Lokoja; Edo State counterpart had handed over the SDP Secretariat on Ekenwa Road, Benin City and Oyo state Government gave the former Party Secretariat at Faith Clinic Road, Ijokodo Junction, Sango-Eleyele, Ibadan.
In the neighbouring Cross River state, the government which temporally gave NOUN, Calabar Center, the massive Parliamentary Building located along a dualized Ekpo Archibong Street (Parliamentary Village), has now built and handed over to the institution a complete edifice with Staff Quarters located opposite the Zone 6 Police Headquarters, Calabar.
Other states are Bayelsa: House of Assembly Quarters, Yenogoa; Nasarawa: former Ministry of Science and Technology, Jos- Makurdi Road, Lafia; Benue: former NDE office, opposite Mechanic Village, Makurdi; Kaduna: old NETC Building, Kaduna Campus by Trade Fair Complex, Zaria Road, Kaduna and many other states government which have provided alternative structures where the defunct parties secretariats are being used by them.
Meanwhile, some students of the institution who spoke to our correspondent on condition of anonymity lambasted the Deputy Speaker of the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly, Hon. Felicia Bassey, who is currently a Law student of the University and other government functionaries studying at the school for not doing anything to secure for the Center a befitting structure from the state government.
Efforts to reach the Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Mr. Ekerette Udo for comments on the matter proved abortive as calls to his known phone numbers were not answered nor returned. But an ally of governor Udom’s Aide (names withheld) who is also a student of the University confirmed to our reporter the receipt at the Governor’s Office of a letter from the school, requesting a permanent office complex.
The letter, according to our Government House source, dated February 1, 2016, was signed by the Uyo Study Center Ag. Director, Dr. (Mrs.) A. E. Abaa, and received at the office of the Governor on February 8, 2016. Our source further hinted that the letter which was addressed to the Governor, Mr. Udom Gabriel Emmanuel, was a follow-up to an earlier letter with reference number NOUN\UYO\AKS\GOV.\VOL.1\02.
Efforts by our correspondent to speak with the school authority were not successful at press time as according to a staff at the Mbaba Afia Temporary office: “We don’t have an Information Officer for now, please. Thank you”.