Students of Akwa Ibom state origin studying in tertiary institutions on Thursday embarked on a peaceful protest against the state governor, Udom Emmanuel, for allegedly “refusing to show interest in their welfare.”
The protesters, a handful of them, gathered in the afternoon at the gate of the Idongesit Nkanga Secretariat, Uyo, chanting solidarity songs and displaying cardboards with the inscription “Pay us our bursary.”
The protesters complained that the students from the state were yet to get a bursary from the state government since the inception of Governor Emmanuel’s administration.
The protest, which coincided with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP’s flag-off of the campaign for the local council elections in the state, temporarily disrupted the free flow of traffic in and out of the state secretariat.
A senior police officer from the State Police Headquarters, Ikot Akpan Abia, who arrived the scene of the protest to talk to the angry students later led a few of the student leaders to the Government House for a meeting with the Secretary to the State Government, Etekamba Umoren, PREMIUM TIMES learned.
“Since all other channels of communication have been blocked against the students of Akwa Ibom state, we didn’t have any other option than to go public to let the people know that we are suffering,” Ime Hanson, the President of the National Association of Akwa Ibom State Student, NAAKISS, University of Uyo Chapter, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Hanson, who coordinated the protest, said that students were the most neglected set of people in the state.
He said that the students were yet to receive their annual bursary from the state government since Mr. Emmanuel became governor in 2015.
“The last time bursary was paid in this state was in 2013 and it was N5, 000 per students,” Mr. Hanson said.
He accused the Commissioner for Education in the state, Paul Udofia, and the Special Assistant to the Governor on Students’ Matters, Aquilla Akpan, of being the responsible for the problem.
“The governor is our grand patron. We don’t have a problem with the governor; we have a problem with those working with him. These people don’t work for the interest of the students or that of the governor,” said Mr. Hanson. He also appealed to Governor Emmanuel to sack the education commissioner.
PREMIUM TIMES tried to reach the governor’s aide, Ms. Akpan, on the phone. A lady, who claimed to be her personal assistant picked the call and promised to get her to call the reporter back.
The governor’s aide didn’t return the call as at the time of filing this report.
But another of the governor’s aide, Essien Ndueso, dismissed the protest as being political.
“Because they hear that PDP is commencing the flag-off of local government elections campaigns today, they have allowed irresponsible opposition politicians to mislead them,” Mr. Ndueso, who is a media aide to Governor Emmanuel, wrote on Facebook.
Mr. Ndueso added, “I ask these students, is bursary an entitlement or a privilege?”
“Nobody sponsored us. We are a pressure group and not an organ of any political party,” the NAAKISS leader, Mr. Hanson, responded to Mr. Ndueso’s allegation.
“We have the right to kick against any government policy or action that is not in our favour,” said Mr. Hanson, who vowed that the students would continue with the protest until they are able to attract the governor’s attention.
“Yes, we understand that the state may not have the kind of money it used to have in the past. But at least, the governor should talk to us, even if it is N2, 000 that he wants to pay, let him tell us,” the student leader said.