Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State on Friday said he had intervened in the school fees controversy at Delta State University, Abraka, with a directive to the management of the university to liaise with the students’ union to bring down the fees to acceptable levels.
Okowa disclosed this after inspection of ongoing works at the University of Delta, Agbor, and the Trauma Centre, Agbor.
Okowa explained that the state government did not fix school fees for its institutions, but had to intervene in the crisis because of the current hardship prevailing in the country.
He said that students of Delta origin did not pay for tuition but only for other development levies and called on the people to show understanding with government as fees could not remain the same over the years.
He said that fees being collected by the state-owned tertiary institutions were for some critical aspects concerning standards in the schools.
“From the beginning, we made it clear that it is in the best interest of the state that we upgrade some of our institutions and that we have done to ensure that our children have access to higher education.
“We are at very tough times in our nation now, but our students who couldn’t get admissions here have had to get admissions into private universities where they pay over a million naira.
“Some have even left the shores of Nigeria to other countries whose standard of education are not up to what we have here and some to other West African countries into mushroom universities where they pay a lot more.
“We are very mindful of this but also why we want to appreciate the economic situation in our nation and we know that parents and students are struggling through but we also want to be sure that the universities are maintaining a minimum standard.
“It is very important to maintain standard so that you don’t find yourself going through an educational institution and at the end you are not actually given the right academic capacity to be able to function outside the institution,” he said.
According to him, the state government pays the salaries and allowances of lecturers and other university staff, but the universities should be able to handle their day-to-day running cost.
The governor added that “what we are doing is that the lecturers are fully paid by the state government but in terms of the day-to-day running, the universities should be able to handle their day-to-day administration running cost.
“Unfortunately, the power sector is not functioning properly and the universities have to run on generators and we all know what cost of diesel is now with various forms of stationeries also needed in the universities.
“When you look at all these, they definitely need to find some means of being able to run themselves internally, not in terms of payment of their salaries which obviously is being paid by the state government.
“So, what the universities did is to have a readjustment of fees to meet current economic realities. It is not the state government because we don’t fix fees for them.
“Bearing in mind that the naira has depreciated and the cost of stationeries not the same as it was 10 years ago and never is the cost of fuel or the things they require for maintenance in the past.
“All I had to do was to get them along to talk with the students union, but in talking with the students union they brought the values down and I don’t know what the values are at the moment but I advised on the need to be responsive to the demands by the student unions.
“The student unions actually understand that the fees cannot remain the same way they were years ago.
“Even at that, what the fees were before they brought down the cost it was still definitely lower than that of other state universities across this nation, we have always been at the lower level of what other state universities pay and that is the truth.
“More significantly, they are not paying for tuition, what they are paying for is for other facilities and other services, they don’t pay for tuition in our universities,” he said.
On the projects inspected, the governor expressed satisfaction with the level of work, and said that the contractors had promised to deliver the projects on time.
“It is our desire to provide a proper administrative building for the university and for the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences which were totally rehabilitated because they were totally in bad shape and as you can see students are already receiving lectures.
“There is been a lot of change at the University of Delta, Agbor and it is our desire to improve on the level of infrastructure in the next one year,” he said.
On the Trauma Centre, Okowa commended the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) for its partnership on the project, saying that it would offer best services for all trauma cases within the area.
“The Trauma centre started some years ago but we had challenges with the design, but today work has gone far and the project would be delivered soon.
“I must thank God for the partnership being offered here by the CBN to put in some facilities for us, the fence work, other two buildings including the mortuary and the intensive care unit are projects donated by the Central Bank of Nigeria to complement what we have here.
“We are quite happy by the action taken by the CBN and we hope that this centre will becoming very functional and useful to our people because its a place where people receive specialised attention for all trauma cases and it is good enough here particularly because of the very busy Benin Agbor Onitsha road,” he said.
The governor who was accompanied by the Vice-Chancellor Professor Stella Chiemeke and members of the University Governing Council said his administration would strive as much as possible to complete major ongoing projects across the state.
“We have several ongoing projects but I have no doubt that we will be able to complete majority of them especially our four major bridges across the state.
“Those we are not able to complete the government is not coming to an end, but we will try as much as possible to complete and pay for them but the ones we are not able to complete which will be few, the next administration will complete them,” Okowa stated.