By Christopher Ambe
Buea- A press conference organized on February 12 by the University of Buea Administration on campus after it quelled a violent student demonstration, allegedly master-minded by a few students using the cover of the institution’s student union, UBSU, provided an occasion for Vice-chancellor (VC) Dr. Nalova Lyonga, and her immediate collaborators to present to the general public, through the media, how law-breaking and dangerous the current leaders of the union have become to the smooth functioning of the varsity.
|Vice-Chancellor Dr.Nalova Lyonga at press conference|
But, the VC, looking determined, while addressing the press conference, insisted that, because the varsity is governed by rules and regulations, LAW and ORDER must reign on the campus of the University of Buea.
While the press conference was going on, police arrested at least three students around the campus said to be some of the instigators of the strike
An angry Dr. Nalova Lyonga even revealed that UBSU constitution has never been accepted and endorsed by the UB Administration, noting that the student union has been operating due to administrative tolerance
It all started on February 6 the day, the VC had planned an important meeting, to look into some student union election concern raised. UBSU executives had agreed to attend it. But surprisingly, UBSU foiled the meeting, which was convened by the UB Administration for all elected executives of the Faculties and instead instigated what they said was to be a peaceful demonstration. The demonstration later turned violent, resulting to the disruption of classes and destruction of property and the VC was held hostage in her car for three hours.
UBSU reportedly claimed that they were a central body that must control all other executives. “To do that, they want to hold their own exclusive elections, without the other executives”, Dr. Lyonga explained, describing their claim as undemocratic
But UBSU had said the strike was intended to force the UB administration address some problems negatively affecting students’ welfare. The students’ demands included the reestablishment of on -campus businesses such as photocopiers said to have been suspended; improved online registration, dialogue with students, payment of a certain amount as youth day march past dues, speedy issuance of transcripts, extension of reading time on campus, and quality food in the restaurant.
The VC said the UB Administration only learned of the students’ alleged grievances on tracts circulated by UBSU.
According to UB administration, “UBSU is violent; they come to school with clubs and knives to terrorize students and teachers out of class. It is a dangerous group, consisting of undergraduates, ex-students, non-students - all persons susceptible to being used by extremists of all sorts who want political gains and self-aggrandizement”
The Vice Chancellor was at a loss to understand how UBSU, which is not properly constituted, would want to dictate to the UB administration and rule over 17,000 students.
“People have to have morals and values. You can not have a university where a handful of students want to govern over 17000 student population,”Dr Nalova Lyonga said, insisting that “Our doors are open for dialogue. Our doors for dialogue are very open”
The Vice- Chancellor was assisted in throwing light on the current state of affairs at the varsity by her aides: Professor Victor Julius Ngoh (DVC’/c of Research, Cooperation and Relations with the Business World), Professor Joyce Endeley (DVC i/c of Teaching, Information Communication Technology), and Chief Professor Sampson N. Abangma( Registrar) as well as Professor Mbua Efange(Director of Development)
Buttressing the Dr. Nalova Lyonga, UB Registrar Chief Professor Sampson Abangma, regretted that UBSU refused to submit to the authority of the VC.
“It is only in Buea (UB) that two or three students declare a strike, and because the strike is not accepted by the majority of students, they go in to class rooms and start beating others ready to laern and chasing them out”, the Registrar said.
Taking the cue, Professor Victor Julius Ngoh, said businesses on campus were not banned as alleged by UBSU.He said because of the chaotic way the businesses were being carried, owners were given up to December 2012 to stop operating and apply for the renewal of their authorizations, which he said were still under review.
He regretted that UBSU was giving authorization to people to come and establish their businesses on campus. Prof Ngoh wondered: “How can a group of student lease out University of Buea property?” He showed receipts from owners of businesses on campus said to have been issued to them by UBSU. He cited the case of a businessman from whom UBSU collected FCFA 1.6 million and issued him a so-called authorization for him to run his business on campus until 2019.
It emerged from the press conference that some 102 photocopiers had been operating on campus, and some owners did faulty connection of the photocopiers to electrical outlets, which caused two fire incidents on campus.
So frank were UB administration that they even told journalists that some staff especially lecturers were strongly behind the disturbances on campus.
“We want UBSU to exist according to regulations in force…We can’t succeed without the cooperation of the Government, parents, students and other stakeholders”, Prof Abangma noted.
In her closing remark, the VC called for collective responsibility and respect of regulations, noting that it is very difficult to build but very easy to destroy.
By the time of going to press calm had returned to UB especially as students will soon begin their end-of semester exams.
It should be noted even as the disturbances were going on, a determined Dr. Nalova Lyonga, still braved the odds and successfully laid, last week, the foundation stone for the building of a 2,500 bed-capacity hostel to house students on campus, a long-term plan for modern accommodation and a business center
First Published in The Recorder Newspaper, Cameroon, of February 15, 2013