There were serious mutiny at the Federal Polytechnic Offa, Kwara State, on Wednesday, October 19 as graduating students of the school have vehemently expressed their grievances over alleged extortion by the school management.
NAIJ.com gathered that the school management had released a memo recently stating that graduating students at the Higher National Diploma (HND) level, who are preparing for the National Youth Service (NYSC) would be paying certain fees into the school's account.
According to the graduating students, the management had mandated the HND graduating students to pay various fees, which they described as gross extortion, into the school's account, alleging that the alien idea was introduced by the acting Rector, Dr. Ayodele Olaosebikan.
The students who maintained that the school is supposed to take responsibility for expenses of the convocation just as it obtains at some other Federal polytechnics, called on the school management to slash the amount, considering the present economic state of the country.
"As graduating students, we have to pay for our statement of results which is a normal thing but according to the school, there is going to be a convocation which is going to hold on the 20 and 21 of this month. So we have to pay N5000 in order to collect our gown from our various departments but on returning the convocation gown, we were told that one thousand naira is going to be returned back to us whereas, the invitees; our parents and other guests, we would be the one to take care of them, when the convocation fee is supposed to be used to feed the guests. Although, I don’t know the school’s plan for the one that we must pay to the bursary which I believe is going into the school’s account.
“That one is for the statement of result, which is N2000. In my opinion, it would have been better if we are paying that into the remmital account or some other account instead. Other Federal polytechnics are not paying up to this amount we are being asked to pay here," a Mass Communication department graduating student, who spoke off the record with NAIJ.com revealed.
She continued:“Nothing has been done by anybody to appeal to the school on behalf of the students, so that the money would be slashed. The economy has affected everything now that one can hardly feed. Although, they have not yet mandated it, but we don’t know what might happen the next minute."
A Business Administration graduating student identified as Olojede Ayomide, also confided in NAIJ.com that the school authorities are unlikely to slash the amount they have stipulated, alleging that it was not the first time a money-related issue would ignite controversy between the students and the management without nothing been done about it.
He stated that the school authorities usually sweep such issue as that under the carpet, except the Federal government intervenes.
He therefore called on necessary authorities to ensure the school's management is constantly under check.
However, a graduating student of the Electrical department identified simply as Kolawole, said it is better the students complied with whatever the school says, stressing that any struggle against the school's decision at this time, might lead to forfeiture of studentship.
"In my own side, actually I’ve not paid the N5000 but I can’t say it is extortion. When I made my findings as to whether the convocation fee is compulsory, I was made to know at the Bursary office that it is compulsory for now.
"All I know is that all schools are looking for a way to generate funds for self-sustainability and all we the graduating students are just doing is to avoid having any trouble with the school at this delicate time we are in; just to look for a way to pay them and leave," he added.
On whether there was any objection by the students' union, he said: "Before exams started this semester, I heard the S.U.G wanted to fight against it on behalf of the graduating students, so that the money would be reduced, but after the exams, nothing was done about it and it is because no one would answer you again if you raise an issue after exams. So it was after we finished exams that we heard that we are going to be paying certain fees."
The school's Head of Public Relations and Protocols Unit, Mr Ladi Badmus, who described the students' reaction as needless and uncalled for, noted that the school was in fact among the cheapest in terms of fees in Nigeria.
Speaking with NAIJ.com, he also confirmed that the fees are compulsory and failure to pay would attract retribution on the defaulter.
Badmus further revealed that the convocation fee is a time honoured practice across the country, stating that this school should not be an exceptional.
"A memo was released that the graduating students will be paying a sum of N5000 for the upcoming convocation and graduating gown will be given to each student who has paid but after the convocation when they return the gowns, they would get back a sum of N1000, which means they are only paying N4000. So I don’t understand when they said N4000 is too much because other institutions are paying even more. University of Ilorin is a very good example, they are also holding their convocation just a day after ours and their graduating students are asked to pay varying amount ranging from N8000 and above, in fact, the advert of the memo is published in a national daily.
“The N5000 and the one for their certificate and testimonial is compulsory and they must pay. This convocation is being done all over the nation, so our school shouldn’t be an exceptional, this is operational everywhere even beyond Nigeria. The last time convocation held in this school, the students paid the same amount, N5000. Now please tell me, have things not changed since the last five years till now? Are the students not supposed to even commend the school for limiting the amount to N5000? And moreover, a thousand naira is going to be returned to them when they return the gown, so I don't understand the reasons for their grievances,” He said.
Established in 1992 during the administration of Ibrahim Babangida, the Federal Polytechnic Offa is a tertiary institution located in Offa, Kwara state.
After the retirement of the former rector, Dr. Mufutau Olatinwo, the polytechnic, which offers National Diploma and Higher National Diploma courses at undergraduate levels, is currently headed by the acting Rector, Dr. Ayodele Olaosebikan.