Students lament the high cost of food on campus.
After two days of protest in which students locked down all traders shops and supermarkets in the University of Lagos, UNILAG, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Management and Services, Duro Oni, has revealed the plans of the school to drastically cut down the number of traders on the school campus.
Mr. Oni said, “The current thinking of the University of Lagos is that there is too much trading on the campus. This campus is becoming more like a market rather than an academic environment. The thinking is that in the next academic year, we must reduce the number of people who have no business other than trading on campus by at least 50 per cent. I can give you that information because I am the chairman of the committee (in charge of that). So, this might just be a very good time to actually get rid of quite a number.”
He made the revelation, Monday, in a closed-door meeting with the representatives of students and traders. The DVC also told the students and traders to have separate meetings with their members and reassemble for a meeting at noon on Tuesday to announce the new regulated price for all commodities on campus.
UNILAG students, in an expression of anger at the high cost of commodities on their Akoka campus had descended on shop owners by locking up their shops.
The protest started, Sunday, at Mariere Hall of the school when a shop owner, called Iya Ife, told the president of the Faculty of Law students, Seun Lari-Williams, a resident at the hall that he would have to pay N110 for one Indomie “Hungry Man” sachet and N10 for a sachet of pure water.
Angry, Mr. Lari-Williams rallied other residents of the hostel who eventually shut down the shop. He then led the students to shut down other shopping outlets on the campus.
On Monday morning, Mr. Lari-Williams said there were plans to continue the lock down but that may not happen as the school authorities, through the Deputy Dean of Student Affairs, Mr. Adebayo, had summoned him and other student leaders on campus for dialogue that morning.
Before the meeting was conveyed, Head of Counselling Unit of the school, Mrs. Asiwaju, while addressing some leading protesters said, “Come let’s talk and talk to your people. Why have you chosen to protest and not embrace dialogue? You want the shops closed?” she asked rhetorically.
The counselor also made a mild threat at the students, saying, “Do you want us to tell them to close the school as well? Ebi a kan pa yin ku (You all will just die of hunger) while my salary will not fail. Remember that examination is only six weeks away.”
The harsh statement did not seem to deter the students who went on to lock down UNILAG bookshop in protest.
Students claim the cost of items on the campus is rising continually because of the absence of a Student Union Government, SUG. The student body has not been reinstated since its disbandment in 2005 under the administration of the then Vice Chancellor, Ibidapo Obe.
Most students say they have little confidence in the puppet associations at department and faculty levels which have now replaced the SUG.
The high price has been linked to the cost of doing business in UNILAG. Some shop owners who spoke with our correspondent on conditions of anonymity, say they pay as much as N120, 000 per annum for shops only three times the size of a kiosk.
PHCN bills, they also claim, are as high as N13, 500 per month for those who use just a refrigerator, a bulb and a fan in their shops. Some shop owners reveal they pay as much as N26, 000 per month for power supply in a shop with just two refrigerators.
Independent investigations show that middle men who buy the shops from the school and rent them out to third party operators at the exorbitant rates are partly to blame for the high cost of commodities in UNILAG.
The shop owners also defended themselves on the price of sachet (pure) water which is sometime sold for N10 instead of the usual N5. They accused the school authority of charging too much on the shops and for not allowing them buy “pure water” from outside the school premises.
“They allow only UNILAG water which is not always available. We usually sell three sachets for N20 and a bag for N100. We have to hike the price when we don’t get UNILAG water to sell and we can’t patronize other water packaging companies,” a shop owner said.
However, an official, who does not want his name published, contend that the price of commodities are high because of greedy shop owners who want to make money at all cost.