The crisis rocking National Open University on Nigeria (NOUN) will soon escalate if something urgent is not done to convince the students of their participation in the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) scheme and getting admitted into the Nigerian Law School.
Students of the school and the management have been at loggerheads over their inability to serve or go to law school, a development which has now led to plans by the students to organise a nationwide protest.
Speaking with our correspondent, President, Congress of Noun Students, Abdulrazaq O Hamzat, who had his first degree and currently halfway getting his second degree with NOUN, wondered why it is taking the school’s management so long a time to put things in place.
He argued that something drastic must be done to save the students the headache of being objects of laughter by students from other schools who see NOUN students as second rate students.
“Let me begin by asking a question; is it right to bar some citizens from serving the nation without the basis of law? I think not, but as it stands, graduates of National Open University of Nigeria have been officially barred or excluded from serving our fatherland. This should be a source of concern to all well meaning Nigerians.
“After the end of the civil war, the leadership of the country thought of a way to re-unite the country in an effort to bridge the fracture caused by the civil war, and after much deliberation, the National Youth Service Corps was established.
“According to Section 1 of the NYSC decree, ‘there is hereby established a scheme to be known as the National Youth Service Corps with its aims and objectives’.
“These objectives constitute the reason for establishment of the NYSC. However, it is a surprise that today, the same NYSC which was founded to bridge the ethnic divide, has now resorted to discrimination without basis.
“This is against the principle of the scheme. Going through the NYSC decree, those qualified to participate in the scheme were well spelt out.
“Section 2 of the decree states that: Subject to the provisions of this decree, every Nigerian shall: • if, at the end of the academic year 1972-73 or, as the case may be, at the end of any subsequent academic year, he shall have graduated at any university in Nigeria (ANY UNIVERSITY IN NIGERIA).
“Since this law has not been changed or the decree amended, it is a gross offence and flagrant disobedience of the laws of our land to exclude Open University graduates from the NYSC.”
The students’ leader lamented further: “Here we can see that nothing in this decree indicates that students from Open University are not qualified, it only informed us of the purpose of this scheme which is to build capacity of the Nigerian youths and imbibe the culture of national service, tolerance and accommodation in the country.
“Rather than admit graduates of Open University into the NYSC scheme to serve their fatherland, the National Youth Service Corps governing council without any basis, continue to exclude the first of its kind institution.
“They designate Open University as excluded, and the graduates are given what they call, exclusion certificate to indicate that they have been officially excluded from serving our nation.
“This is grave injustice. Let me note that this exclusion certificate was alien to the NYSC Act. What the act recognizes is exemption certificate, but only some categories of people are qualified for the exemption.
“It is quite disappointing that, after 4 years of academic grinding, plus hard work in an institution with no equal, where you have obtained the best of knowledge under a properly guided system devoid of any form of examination malpractices, what you get is discrimination from some government establishments.
“It is important to note that Open University is a federal university, accredited by the same National Universities Commission which accredited other institutions in the country.
“For no reason should her graduates be sidelined, as this would discourage prospective students from enrolling in the institution,thus defeating the purpose for which it was created.
“We have seen all over the world that graduates of Open Universities are accorded front seat roll, they are seen as people who deserve first class treatment.
“Nigeria shouldn’t ignorantly relegate this noble institution and its distinguished graduates, they cannot be relegated. Many students from this university feel pained when they see other graduates in the youth corps uniform moving about their places of assignment.
“They wish that one day, it would be them in those uniforms, holding their heads high in service to their fatherland, but this dream seems to be under threat, as graduates after graduates suffer the discrimination. I, therefore, call on those in authority to desist from this discrimination, failure of which the students would be forced to drag the NYSC to court for legal redress.
“The president should as a matter of urgency intervene to correct this unjustifiable exclusion of Open University graduates from National Youth Service.”
Speaking also in the same vein, another student of the institution, El Hadji Abdulazeez Salau, stated that he was running a programme at NOUN as well and was not happy about the development.
“We students from the National Open University of Nigeria are about to embark on the first of its kind national struggle to end, once and for all, the unjustifiable discrimination against our distinguished institution.
“This is a pursuit of justice and we are determined to resist any intimidation from any quarters. Our destiny is at stake, we won’t allow anyone jeopardize it.
“As a result of our coming together under the platform of Congress of Noun Students, we are about to make a national statement that indeed, our institution cannot be discriminated against,” he lamented.
Congress of Noun Students is a group of Open University Students from every study centre across the federation.