Wednesday, 17 July 2024.

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Re: That UNICAL Fee Hike Fiasco

By Austin Akan

Days ago, our attention was drawn to a supposedly truthful remark, but emotionally manipulative statement by Chief Ray U. Morphy on the reviewed, yet suspended school charges in the University of Calabar, entitled “#That_Unical_Fee_hike_Fiasco!”.

While the supposed Chief’s remark could be dismissed with a wave of hand, it is pertinent to address the hoard and childish vituperation and to lay bare the unsuspecting public with facts

While paragraph one alleged an attempted 100% hike in tuition fees, it is common knowledge that Federal Universities do not pay tuition and as clearly stated in the reviewed charges schedule, TUITION IS FREE. If it was not a calculated effort to cause unnecessary tension, a man who claimed to have served in the Governing Council of three higher Institutions should be aware of this simple fact.

Chief did not fail to express crass ignorance when comparing the cost of education in 2023 with the same cost over 30 years ago. This is too elementary and it’s least expected from a man of his status as one may want to ask him to also elucidate on the cost of a sixty leaves exercise book 30 years ago and now. What’s the cost of electricity bill, a University like UNICAL paid then, and now? What is the cost of a reading desk 30 years ago and now? Anyway, since UNICAL was not the only Institution existing about 30 years ago, we think the Chief should have the list of other institutions with such a low charges then and now so that he could recommend them to all of us.

Prof Obi hasn’t hidden her humble background from even her students. In fact, she uses it to mentor and spur them to be the best. A little investigation would’ve revealed this to Chief instead. However, 30 years ago you claimed to be a postgraduate student and Prof. Obi was an indigent student then is absolutely false as prof Obi has been a lecturer at UNICAL for over 33 years now.

On vices in UNICAL, you need to know that Prof. Obi is one VC who is intolerant of the vices that were the order of the day before she assumed office. It’s for that reason that beneficiaries of the old system use every opportunity to blackmail and try to portray her Administration in a bad light. Obi met a disintegrated system where all sorts of vices including examination malpractice, sorting, sexual harassment, uninhabitable classrooms, poor mobilisation of students for NYSC, heavily ethicised and polarised university, mounting of unapproved programs and a huge debt burden including sanction by Tetfund for financial mismanagement among others thrived. These, the VC has worked assiduously to change, thereby returning the university to her lost glory.

It is on record that no VC has dared to stand up for “academic purity” in UNICAL like Prof. Obi. It’s disappointing that a man of Ugban Morphy could condescend to street gossip and cheap blackmail. To liken the first female Vice-Chancellor with nepotism and favouritism is to show how mean Ugban Morphy is by listening and buying into street talks.

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The mother of UNICAL has lived to the universality of the University of Calabar. She is inclusive in all her approaches, appointments and dealings with official issues.

Gone were days in UNICAL where even headship of a department was based on where you come from, who you know and your social or group affinity. Professors were bypassed in appointments or even headships for young lecturers based on affinity. Today’s UNICAL, appointments are principally based on merit and not mediocrity. Ugban Ray Morphy needs to grow up and learn to become a statesman and stop echoing beer parlour talks.

Chief Morphy didn’t fail again to exhibit even the highest level of ignorance when he claimed that “Federal Government meets virtually all the financial needs of Federal Universities and questioned the rationale for the attempted fee hike”. It’s again unfortunate that a man who claimed to have been a member of the council of three federal universities, yet knows nothing about the funding and financial needs of the university, to say the least, it’s appalling. Three reasons can be deduced from this:

• Maybe Mr Morphy was an absentee member of the Universities Council

• He was either only there for the financial gains and added nothing to the system

• He lacks depth of understanding of the system and so very much uninformed.

We hope that he will care to know through this write-up that the resources for the day-to-day running of all Federal Universities in Nigeria come from the service charges paid by students.

Mr Morphy should have known having been a key player in the system for many years that the annual budgeted overhead for federal universities(that is where they are fully released)can’t pay two two-month energy bills of any university, UNICAL inclusive.

So, questioning the justification for hike in service charges in the face of the current inflationary trend and the need to provide and maintain teaching and learning facilities is only being mischievous and playing to the gallery to score a cheap political point which politicians like him are known for.

For your information, Usman Dan Fodio University (UDUS) mentioned by Morphy increased her service charges last year when inflation hadn’t reached the current magnitude and students were not protected nor did parents like him call the VC names. The charges paid there are higher than what is currently paid by UNICAL students.

Ray Morphy should know that he is not the only one paying fees for UNICAL students and most of the staff in UNICAL have their children and wards in the institution, including the VC and so cannot be insensitive to students cry.

Also, it is instructive to unequivocally state that, considering the prevailing challenges faced today by our Universities, NUC and the Minister of Education are in full support of increase in service charges and approval has been given therein although caution against astronomical increases.
Morphy needs to be reminded that even the Federal Ministry of Education has increased charges of Federal Unity (secondary) schools run by it to N100,000 and that parents like him have not taken up arms against the Federal Ministry. I hope the gang-up against the first female VC of UNICAL is not a case of gender violence.

Finally, while no one is totally in support of the proposed amount by Management due to the peculiarities of our environment (Cross River State) the expected meaningful contribution of well-meaning individuals should be a call for the reduction in the proposed charges. While we applaud Management’s decision to put on hold the proposed increase, we do sincerely encourage both sides to sit at the negotiating table and come up with figures that will be more acceptable to all.

Austin Akan, University of Calabar.

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