Strike: UNIBEN Pharmacy students take protest to Oba’s palace

Protesting students at palace gate

• Benin Monarch to intervene

• Students, shuttle drivers beat management to their game

Pharmacy students of the University of Benin, Monday took to the palace of the Benin Monarch, Oba Ewuare II to register their grievances over the industrial action embarked upon by academic staff in their faculty, CAMPUS GIST reports.

The protest comes few weeks after a similar peaceful match they staged at the university main campus, April 23.

CAMPUS GIST learnt that the decision of the lecturers to embark on strike is due to non-payment of their earned professional allowances by management of the institution.

Already, the induction ceremony of the faculty which ought to hold April 26, had been cancelled.

Our correspondent reports that academic activities in the faculty had been put on hold since the strike started, and till date, not much has been done by the authority towards ending the industrial action.

A short video clip obtained by CAMPUS GIST, showed the entrance gate of the palace with throngs of students displaying placards with various inscriptions.

According to a reliable source, who is also one of the protesters, the students resolved to hold public protests when efforts to seek the understanding of the university management failed.

The source, who asked for anonymity for fear of being punished by the school, said management had already concluded plans to shut down the faculty after a meeting with the aggrieved lecturers.

His words, “We gathered in the school as early as 9.00am to proceed to the palace. But I don’t know how management got wind of the information, so they ordered policemen to block the main gate obviously in a bid to stop us from leaving campus. They were interrogating students, those going out, checking ID cards to see if they were Pharmacy students or not. So we decided to make use of the Anatomy (back) gate leading to the Teaching Hospital. But, again, school got wind of our plan and the officers left for UBTH main gate. We got wind of their move and called on some shuttle drivers to take us to the palace instead. We were able to maneuver our way out, to the palace.

“But getting there, we met yet another strong resistance. The officers tried to stop us from entering but through dialogue, we were able to buy our way in. We waited for some hours before we were able to establish contact with the Personal Assistant to the Secretary to the Monarch. We were asked to submit some letters, which we did, but demanded to see the Oba. So, we stayed back, even though some persons got tired and left.

“While waiting, at about 3.00pm, we started agitating to get the attention of the Monarch. Though the police (palace security) threatened to use force to eject us from the palace saying we had no rights to be there, we, however, stood our ground. We told them we had rights to be there as Oba’s children, after all ‘uni of BENIN’ is part of his kingdom.

“At about 6pm, the palace chiefs came out from a meeting (with the Oba) to address us. After our discussions, they went back to communicate with the Monarch. The Oba, upon hearing we are students and due to his love for education, invited us into the main palace where he heard our grievances and appeal.

“On our way back to school, we were told that management had threatened to sanction the shuttle drivers that took us to the palace, that they won’t allow them work within the school premises anymore. So the drivers had to stop very far away from the school for fear of being penalized. And we had to find our way back to campus ourselves.

“There were threats from every angle; intimidation and oppression. Police called interrogating some of us, wanting to know those who participated in the palace visit. But we stood our ground, even in the midst of intimidation and oppression. Every Pharmacy student that stayed up till 7pm that we saw the Oba and left the palace will forever remain heroes and heroines in the faculty.”

Asked about the details of their meeting with the Monarch, our source declared, “I may not be able to give the details of the meeting for now because the struggle is still ongoing but at the appropriate time, we will talk.”

A highly placed source, however, revealed that the Monarch promised to intervene in the matter, adding that a meeting had already been fixed between the Oba and the VC.

When contacted, the Dean, Faculty of Pharmacy, Prof. Mike Uhunwangho declined comment. He instead directed our correspondent to speak with the university Spokesman, Osasuyi Michael. But several calls placed to Michael’s phone lines rang out.

However, an official of the institution’s National Association of Pharmacists in Academia (NAPA) called on the management to meet their demands.

“They are already politicizing the whole thing,” he declared.

The ongoing industrial action is not the first in the UNIBEN faculty of Pharmacy. CAMPUS GIST recalls that the faculty had on the 2nd of July, 2018 embarked on a warning strike to drive home their demands over non-payment of their earned allowances.

The protest was, however, suspended after six weeks following an “agreement” between the striking lecturers and management of the university.

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