Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has dragged Ondo state Governor, Rotimi Akeredolu and the management of the state-owned university, Adekunle Ajasin University (AAUA) to court on matters relating to the hike in fees of the institution.
The court case is over "unfair and arbitrary tuition hike, abuse of power, lack of free, prior, and informed consultation as well as a fundamental breach of legitimate expectations of students of the institution."
In the Originating Summons with Suit No: AK/103/18 filed last Friday and seen by SUNSHINE HERALD at the Akure High Court, SERAP argues that: "The power of the Ajasin University and Ondo State government to change policy is constrained by the legal duty to be fair, among other constraints imposed by law. A change of policy which would otherwise be legally unexceptionable may be held unfair by reason of prior action, or inaction, by the authority. There is no overriding public interest in the tuition hike.
"A public authority possesses powers only to use them for public good. This imposes the duty to act fairly and to adopt a procedure which is fair-play in action. The tuition hike by the Ajasin University and Ondo State government amounts to a broken promise and breach of established practice of notice or consultation. The unfairness of the lack of consultation cannot be overridden by any countervailing consideration.
"Therefore, the absence of consultation amounts to an unlawful process of tuition hike by the Defendants.
"Not less than 80 per cent of the students will adversely be affected should the Honourable Court not stop this excessive and unjustified increase in school fees. The University and the Government of Ondo State arbitrarily, abruptly and outrageously increased and without any free, prior and informed consultation, the school fees of students from N35,000 to N180,000 (for fresher); and from N27,000 to N100,000 (for returning students); and N80,000 for final students."
The suit filed on SERAP's behalf by Timothy Adewale and Olaniji Olabinjo also read in part: "The students have the right to free, prior and informed consultation before any change in fees is effected by the Defendants. The hike in school fees is a breach of the students' right to equal protection of the law and access to affordable education.
"A combined reading of the provisions of sections 17(2) (a), 18 and 42 of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as amended) on citizens right to equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law, education and freedom from discrimination, show that the act of Defendants in increasing the fees without recourse to any acceptable procedure has rendered the hike illegal.
"The law is clear that as per section 18(1) of the Constitution to the effect that the Government shall direct its policy towards ensuring that there are equal and adequate educational opportunities at all levels. It is therefore natural to expect that any action to increase school fees by any authority, such authority must take into cognizance the effect of its action on the students' right to education.
"Similarly, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which Nigeria is a state party provides that the Ajasin University and Ondo State authorities shall ensure access to education and make education equally accessible to all, based on capacity, by every appropriate means, and by the progressive introduction of free education.
"The hike in the school fees by the Defendants was never done based on the capacity of the students, nor was it carried out by appropriate means. This arbitrary act of the Defendant has robbed education off the hands of indigent students and majority of those coming from disadvantaged background.
"It is disheartening to realize that the very government and school authorities that should ensure equal and adequate educational opportunities to students are the very ones destroying it by denying the students of their rights by acts of hiking the fees. On the indispensability of education as a fundamental right, Article 17(1) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act stipulates that: 'Every individual shall have the right to education.'
"Any perceived financial hardship faced by the Ajasin University and Ondo State government cannot justify the violations of the students' constitutional guarantees of equal protection and Nigeria's international obligations to ensure equal access to the right to education. The Defendants act of hiking the school fees has infringed on the students' right to education."