Tuesday, July 11, 2017 10:14 am
Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, a faith based tertiary institution is currently enmeshed in a controversy over the expulsion of some students over what many called trumped up charges and accusations. Parents of the students expelled are accusing the University authorities, particularly the Vice Chancellor, Prof Dapo Folorunsho Asaju of wrongful accusations and being hell bent in his attempt to destroy the future of their children.
But Prof Asaju, who doubles as the Bishop Theologian of the Anglican Communion in Nigeria, said there is no going back on the expulsion of the students. In an interview with a journalist on the expulsion of the students, the Vice Chancellor insisted that the senate of the university had already taken decisions of the expulsion and the decision is final.
Parents are however kicking that due process, as laid down in the schools “Students Handbook of Information and regulations” was not followed in expelling the students, who are mostly accused of taking hard drugs, which is a criminal offence. Besides, the school was accused of not following its own laws in determining the expulsion of the students.
Gavel International investigations revealed that trouble started for the students in the evening of April 7, 2017 when Prof Asaju visited the hall of residence of the students over a rising angst occasioned by power cut. The students were alleged to have been angered by incessant electricity failure which usually leads to lack of water in the hall. Some students were alleged to have poured water on the Vice Chancellor who reportedly to left in anger.
Four days after this incident, on April 11, 2017 to be precise, the school authorities drew and published the names of 70 students to appear before the university disciplinary committee on the following day April 12, 2107.
The disciplinary committee comprises the Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Dean, Students Affairs, University Legal Officer, Two Students (elected by students fellowship), and the Students Affairs Officer who acts as secretary to the committee while the VC is the chairman. Also in attendance are the Hall Administrators, Deans and Heads of Departments of the affected students, Academic Officer, Chief Security Officer, Guidance and Counselling Officer, and the University Chaplain.
One of the affected students, Tosin Aiyemoniafe, 18, and a 300 level student of the department of Business Administration shared his experience when he appeared before the committee:
“On the evening of April 11, a list of about 70 students was published to appear before the disciplinary committee on April 12, 2017 by 9 a.m. I did not bother to check the list because I never thought my name could be there. It was about 8.45 am when a friend called me and asked why I was not at the Disciplinary committee. I had to attend as instructed; During the interrogation, I was surprised that they wrote an allegation that I was caught smoking Indian hemp on a Wednesday of November, 2016. I was asked to defend the allegation. I simply told them that I have never smoked even cigarette in my life and I was asked to go”.
Asked about the procedure that is usually followed in such circumstances, Aiyemoniafe said: “The customary thing that is done since gained admission into the school is that when a student is caught doing such things, a picture of such student is taken, security officers are called in, he or she would be made to write a statement and the remnants of whatever he or she is smoking would be obtained as evidence; he would asked to complete a misconduct form”.
The University regulation is even stricter. Chapter Three of the University Handbook categorizes offences into two types, misconduct and criminal offences. Misconduct is offences that bother on unruly behavior, indecent behavior, vandalism membership of secret cult, transfer of bed space and several other offences.
However, criminal offences, according to the handbook include fraud, theft, burglary, assault occasioning harm, murder, possession of firearms, arson, rape, and possession and use of hard drugs and drug trafficking. Possession of Indian hemp belonged to this category. It further states that “all criminal cases shall be handed over to the police for necessary action”.
Section 23 of the handbook further makes it clear that “the use of hard drugs which includes Indian hemp, cocaine, heroin, etc is highly prohibited in the university. Section 23(ii) stated thus: “Any student found in the possession or using hard drugs of any kind will be suspended indefinitely and referred for psychiatric treatment. If found guilty, he or she will be expelled from the university and handed over to the police for prosecution”.
In the case of Aiyemoniafe, the school alleged that he was found with Indian hemp in November 2016 but waited till April, when water was poured on the Vice Chancellor, to come up with the accusation, a clear six months interval.
Besides, no picture of the Indian hemp allegedly found on him was taken; he was not handed over to the police, nor suspended according to the rules. He was also not mandated to fill any form. There was no record of the accusations the school made against him and yet, on April 18, 2017, the school published in its website his names and 13 others have been expelled.
Another student, Olanrewaju Segilola also faced the disciplinary committee on charges of throwing water on the VC, and smoking Indian hemp. He however denied the accusations. In his letter of appeal that was never heard before is expulsion, he explained what happened on the fateful day thus: “I would never disrespect any member of staff of this school not to talk of the Vice Chancellor in any way not to even think of throwing water at him. That fateful night, I was with some of my colleagues, we were involved in a heated argument after the end of a football match we had watched together. Apparently, due to our loud voice/noise, the porter had thought that we were fighting and came out to caution us. We were stupid not to adhere to his instructions, and some boys further went ahead to turn off the hall lights and then throw water at the VC. However, I must reiterate that I did not turn off the light neither did I throw any water at the VC, but was only unfortunate to be a residence of the hall where this unscrupulous act was carried out.
On the issue of smoking weed, he said: “I was wrongly accused by one of the Porters assigned to the hall for smoking Indian hemp in the school premises, and I can confidently walk up to him to confirm my innocence of this false allegation. On the day I was allegedly reported to have smoked Indian hemp, I just woke up and went to wash my face in the hall bathroom, and this porter walked passed me, he cannot say he saw me smoking or in possession of Indian hemp. I was therefore surprised when I was accused of smoking Indian hemp when I had only went about my business of washing and cleaning my face. He never caught me with the possession of Indian hemp, and this information can be confirmed from him by the University Board”.
Despite publishing the names of the expelled students on its website, no letter of expulsion was given to the students or their parents. Yet since April, they have not been allowed back to school.
The University regulations also made provision for a right of appeal which the parents said have been denied the students. Section 9(vii) of the regulations states: “The student concern has a right of appeal to council, against the decision of the Disciplinary Committee within two weeks of the receipt of the letter conveying the decision of the committee to him or her”.
In this case, the students and their parents never received any letter. The only information available on their expulsion and other disciplinary action against them was what they read on the university website.
Despite this, some parents wrote to letters of appeal to the university registrar. One of them is Chief Olu Shadrack Aiyemoniafe, father of Tosin. He was so distraught when he learnt that his only son has been expelled from school. Two of his daughters had passed through the same school without any hitch. Tosin is the baby of the house, who had indicated his desire to be a clergyman in the Anglican Communion. As a father, he had approved his son’s choice and was only waiting for him to graduate so he could his priesthood training.
The first thing he did as a father when his son told him of the expulsion is to interrogate him. As security personnel, he “took the boy a state directorate of security service to extract information from him to determine his culpability, but all the result we got so far proved contrary”.
He did not stop there. He took his son two medical laboratories, one private, and the other government to check if he had traces of narcotics in him. Tosin was tested for Methamphetamines, cocaine, Opioids (codein, heroin), Oxyephedrine, Benzodiazepines, and Tetrahydrocanabinoid (cannabis). The results were also negative.
He therefore instructed a lawyer, MrOlajideOnabanjo to write a letter of appeal to the Governing Council of the university. The letter dated May 1, 2017 was never acknowledged.
But Chief Aiyemoniafe and some other parents have decided to stand up for the integrity of their sons as they have decided to pursue the case to a logical conclusion. He is a member of the Anglican Communion and the Baba Ijo of St Paul Anglican Church, Araromi-Ekiti, his hometown.
Mr and Mrs Segilola also wrote a letter of complaint to the VC. It states thus: “I write this letter to express my extreme disappointment in the manner at which my son was expelled by the board and management of ACU. I have expected much more from a prestigious and reputed school of your standard. Unfortunately, I can’t help but submit this letter of complaint hoping for a fast and adequate resolution;
My Son, OlanrewajuSegilola; Matric No: 15S04/024, 300 L Business Administration student of your school was expelled alongside other students, without the school informing the parents about this development neither setting up an investigative panel to properly confirm the allegations against the affected students;
This is totally unacceptable and not what I expect as a parent from this school. AjayiCrowther University has the contact of all parents and regularly informs us of all happenings in the school which includes: payment of school fees, resumption, holidays, and every updates regarding our children in the school, but to my biggest surprise, this was never communicated to us and I was surprised when my son came home to inform me about this;
The allegations against him were not properly investigated, the investigation panel setup to confirm this misconduct did not give the students any chance to speak, instead, they were expelled without giving them any room to defend the allegations. My son was not among the group of guys that threw water at the school’s vice chancellor and I can comfortably beat my chest that he doesn’t smoke Indian hemp, cigarette or any drug whatsoever;
Ajayi Crowther is a Christian missionary school, and even if these allegations were true, we would expect the school authority to put the students to caution, or rehabilitation, inform the parents about this situation before expelling the students from school;
I trust this is not the way you wish to manage the school business and activities nor the kind of letter you wish to receive from parents. I kindly ask you to look into this matter and provide an adequate solution fast”.
When contacted by journalists on the matter, The VC, Prof Ashaju, said that he and any other person in the institution, was not in any position to discuss the issue, as according to him, the issue has been decided by the University Council.He added that once a case has been decided by the University, there is nothing anybody can do about it.
The Professor of Religious Studies, said the University Council has taken its decision and that the decision is final on the case and any other one for that matter.
On the issue of the letter written by the Lawyers to the student, Prof Ashaju said that the student or his parents/minders can go to court over the matter, but the University still stands on it decision.
His words;’’ I am sorry we can’t discuss that issue at all. It (expulsion) is a decision of the University’s Council and once anybody’s case has gone to the Council and the University Council has taken a decision, it is final.Nobody can even discuss the issue here. The affected student can go to court. If they decide to do that, they are welcome to it’’.
Chief Aiyemoniafe summed up the reason why he is fighting for the integrity of his son thus: “By my training, I am well informed enough to know that children can behave differently when they are outside their parents’ environment, and can also pretend to be good at home. My fear as a psychologist is that, if it is true that this boy is actually innocent of this crime and failed to find justice at this age of 18, most especially in a Christian owned school and under a Lord Bishop, it may be very difficult to change his perception as to the trustworthiness of our system of justice administration. Part of the reason why it is difficult to curb crime in our society is the inability to get justice whereby a criminal mindset is developed through trivial issues”.