The Vice Chancellor of the University of Port Harcourt, Prof. Ndowa Lale, has said that the protest carried out by the students of his institution, which led to the death of a student was a ploy to remove him from his current position.
Lale made this claim on Tuesday when the Acting Commissioner of Police in Rivers State, Mr. Mobolaji Odesanya, visited UNIPORT to ascertain the level of damage in the institution during Monday’s protest.
The students had demonstrated against the institution’s policy of ‘No fee, No exams’, a development that led to the killing of one of their colleagues.
The vice chancellor explained that he was suspecting that the protest was not ordinary, adding that there was a likelihood that the students’ demonstration was sponsored.
He said, “I understand that some of them (protesters) are in touch with some other people who for whatever reasons want me, the VC, out of office. Therefore, they think that if they do this protest that the vice chancellor would be removed from office.”
The vice chancellor disclosed that the management of the institution regretted the death of one of the protesting students, Mr. Peter Ofurum, but denied knowledge of the circumstances that led to the death.
Lale stated that the protest had nothing to do with the hike in tuition, but bemoaned that the act was masterminded by students, who wanted to be certified without sitting for any examinations.
“As a university, we sincerely regret and mourn with the family of the deceased. I hear a student died in some circumstances that are not very clear to me. I regret it so much that such happened.
“All you hear is that the VC increased fees. Firstly, in federal universities, we don’t pay tuition fees, government only allows us to take some charges in which we use to provide students certain services.
“The charges that are being paid today in this institution were negotiated last two years under the administration of Prof. Joseph Ajienka, the former VC of the institution.
“I have just stayed nine months, during this period and I have not contemplated or dreamt of increasing any payment by a kobo.
“The students know it, but because they want to score cheap points, they are misleading the public. UNIPORT students want to acquire degrees without writing exams. If such schools existed, I would have attended because I wrote exams in all the schools I attended.
“Last semester, we also went through tough times in order to ensure that the students write exams and they wanted to go on rampage.
This time it is standard practice that students must register to be bonafide members of a school; that is all we asked them to do,” he said.
He, however, argued that the policy of ‘No Fees, No Exam’ was not strange, adding that nobody goes to school without payment.
In his remark, Odesanya, who is also the Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Administration, said the command was set to carry out an autopsy on the murdered student.
Odesanya said, “We heard of a corpse that was recovered. This corpse has been sent to the mortuary ready for autopsy. Apart from that, there was no other report of death.
“The police did not move into the campus until late 9pm when the VC wrote officially to the police to move in because we have no right to move in when we have not been given the permission to do so.
“Prior to that time, we were outside preventing the student from blocking the road and preventing the breach of the public peace. The police did not use firearm on the students and they did not shoot at any student.”
The spokesman of the university, Dr. William Wodi, said the school authorities were still taking inventory of property that were damaged by students during the protest.