Tijani Usman Shehu, president of the National Association of Nigerian Students has been arrested in Abuja Thursday afternoon while protesting in the front of the Ministry of Education over the recent sack of vice-chancellors of 13 Federal Universities.
Shehu was arrested alongside five other students.
The students who had gathered at the entrance of the ministry protesting also carried placards with inscriptions: “ASUU Break the Silence Against this Injustice’’, “Sack of VCs, an Attempt to Cripple our Citadels’’, “Say No to Injustice’’, among others.
The government had last week announced the sacking of 12 VCs of federal universities as well as that of the National Open Universities of Nigeria (NOUN), Prof. Vincent Tenebe.
The decision, which has drawn protests from different groups and civil societies, has generated controversies within the academic circle.
The students accused the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, of usurping the duties of universities governing councils for him to went as far as new vice-chancellors.
“On February 12, 2016, the Federal Government, without due recourse to the governing councils of 12 Federal Universities and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), removed their vice-chancellors without any clear statement as to what their offences might have been.
“What is the reason for the sacking of the four vice-chancellors of Federal Universities and that of NOUN before the expiration of their tenures?
“We request that the Federal Government, should in the interest of due process, reverse its decision and reinstate the illegally sacked vice-chancellors,’’ Shehu said.
The NANS president said that the association duly notified all relevant agencies including the Minister of Education of its protest and wondered why the minister could not come to address them.
He accused the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Students (ASUU) of complicity in the sack of the vice-chancellors as it had been silent on the issue.
A team of policemen made frantic efforts to disperse protesting students but all to no avail.
It was in the course of this that the policemen manhandled a cameraman working for the African Independent Television (AIT), and smashed his camera.
Pandemonium struck when the students smashed the windscreen of a sports utility vehicle with registration number FG 23 A31, belonging the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as it drove by.
The students chanted angrily, threatening to force their way into the ministry, if Adamu did not come out and address them.
At this point, journalists, bystanders and the protesting students scampered for safety while the policemen made arrests.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has stood its ground saying it will not reverse the decision to sack 13 Vice Chancellors appointed by the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Adamu, at the flag off of the 2015/2016 annual school census in Abuja, reaffirmed the sacking of the VCs by the federal government.
Asked why the VC of NOUN Prof. Tenebe, whose tenure had not expired, was removed, the minister explained that he was removed because of the petitions against him.
He said: “Do you reverse government decision simply because somebody has criticized them? I don’t think there is any decision of government not going down well with everyone in the country.
“The ministry has received communications from some people who feel like this and we are looking at this.
“What I am saying is that they have already written to us. We are looking into their complaints. We will reply them.
Adamu said that all states including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would be included in the school census.
He said that the exercise would aid educational planning, administration and inform decision making by government.
According to the minister, the current trend in the conduct of the annual school census was informed by the provision of the Nigeria Education Information System (NEMIS) policy of 2007 which provided for the collection of data from schools.
He said: “The Education Management Information System (EMIS) process has since been decentralized to the states to enhance efficiency in the collection, collation, management and dissemination of education data in Nigeria so as to ensure the availability of credible, reliable and timely education data.
“The states therefore conduct the ASC exercise while the Federal Ministry of Education through NEMIS co-ordinates and monitors the process.”
He said that the ministry has concluded arrangement to host the NEMIS software on the internet for real –time online data entry and processing.
“This will further ensure uniformity in data reporting so that end-users will have timely reports for decision making and research. I am optimistic that, beginning from this year, Nigeria’s education data, at the basic and secondary school levels, will be cleaner, more accurate, more accessible and up-to-date,” he added.
Earlier in his address, Minister of the FCT, Musa Bello, said that the census was required to keep up – to –date and comprehensive data in schools in terms of infrastructure, numbers of students and personnel.
“The annual school census is very important because it is the foundation upon which all our planning and therefore policy directions are built.
“I learnt that UNICEF has already supported the FCT’s 2016 school census by printing 7,234 census forms to cater for all public and private schools minus the tertiary institutions within the territory,” he said.