There was outrage on Thursday, 8 December 2022, after beneficiaries of the Presidential Amnesty scholarship programme sponsored by the federal government were kicked out of their exam halls at Baze University Abuja. The university is a private one, owned by the Vice Presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed.
According to reports, the students were all set to write an examination on the course ‘Digital Entrepreneurship Gen 201’ when 185 of them were asked to vacate the institution’s multipurpose hall as they would not be allowed to sit for the examination due to their unpaid outstanding fees. A supervising lecturer was said to have walked out the students who had been screened and allowed to write when a messenger came into the hall with the directive.
Students, their parents, family members and concerned members of the public registered their displeasure with the development. A source in the school told newsmen that the university authorities interrupted the ongoing exam and threw out the affected students because the government’s scheme was yet to complete the payment of their school fees for the semester.
Some students who lamented the situation said it was unfortunate that the school never informed them of what was to occur nor did it draw the attention of their parents and guardians to the outstanding fees. The students, some of who had nowhere to go, having been sent out of the school premises, were reportedly seen hanging around some parts of Abuja on that Thursday.
Some were bitter about the university’s action, considering how they had long prepared for the examination with prior notification to the parents.
Some of the students lamented that they were among the over 500 mates who were already seated at the multi-purpose hall of the university to write the examination before a lecturer called out all the students on Amnesty Scholarship to leave the hall.
One of the distraught male students who pleaded that his name should not be in the print told journalists: “On Thursday, 8 December 2022, the over 500 students offering the DIGITAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP (GEN 201) course convened at the Baze University multipurpose hall to sit for the final exams for this semester. All pre-exam practices had been duly conducted. We had been searched, allocated our seat numbers and schooled on the rules by which we were to be bound for the exam duration. We were seated and ready to start at any moment. Then a lecturer informed us that he would be calling out a list of names, and if anyone’s name or matriculation number is mentioned, the person was to walk to the end of the hall. Naturally, we guessed that the aim of this was to filter out the students that had not met the attendance requirements to write the exam, but this assumption was struck out when we noticed a pattern – only amnesty students were being called out.”
The student said they were immediately escorted out of the hall and taken to the registration block, where they were informed through a messenger that they had henceforth been suspended by the school from writing the final exams because they had not paid their school fees for the semester. “This was all the information we were given as we were left to scatter about the school. Some of us made a choice to write the exam as it was being held online. We were not sure whether it would be recorded as we did not get the opportunity to sign the mandatory physical attendance in the hall before we were escorted out,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP) has explained why there was a hiccup in the payment of the students’ school fees. Reacting to the action taken by Baze University on the students, PAP Interim Administrator, Major General Barry Ndiomu (rtd), said there was no effort by the institution to put the Amnesty Office nor the parents of the students on notice before they were sent out of the examination hall.
According to reports, Ndiomu had written to the institution to notify it of a delay in the payment of the outstanding fees before the new development. In the letter reportedly dated 8 November 2022, and addressed to the Registrar of the institution, Dr Mani Ibrahim Ahmad, the PAP Administrator explained that the delay in the payment of the 2022/2023 fees was due to financial commitments and budgetary constraints. Ndiomu assured in the letter that the outstanding fees would be paid on or before the end of the first quarter of 2023.
The letter to Baze University authorities read:
“NOTIFICATION OF DELAY IN THE PAYMENT OF TUITION FEES FOR PAP-SPONSORED STUDENTS FOR THE 2022/2023 ACADEMIC SESSION
- I have been briefed about the corporate relationship and strategic partnership between Baze University and the Presidential Amnesty Programme (PAP), in providing qualitative formal education opportunities to beneficiaries.
- If you recall, tuition fees for students deployed in February 2022 have been paid. However, due to the current financial commitments of my Office as well as budgetary constraints, I write to notify you that there will be a delay in the payment of tuition fees for the students who are in training at your University for the 2022/2023 academic session.
- I can assure you that on or before the end of the first quarter of 2023, based on scheduled release of funds by the Federal Government, the PAP Office would have fully met its outstanding financial responsibilities to your University.
It must be made clear, however, that although it was the young-adults in the university who were directly hit by the strictness of the university’s decision, it had no political undertones. It was a decision taken by the university authorities and had nothing whatsoever to do with the owner of the university or his political ambition.