Anger, pains and agony have become the lots of thousands of students of the University of Abuja. The students are not bereaved yet happiness and joy have eluded them.
In fact, their pains and anguish are even more excruciating because they may not be responsible for their problems. Most of them are mere victims of circumstances and negligence.
The students cannot understand how the school authorities could compel them to cough out another N58,500 school fees they had presumably paid last year through the cyber cafés endorsed by the school management to collect the cash.
What is even more baffling and disturbing was how the school’s bursary department could authenticate the receipts issued to them by the cyber café with signature of the approving authority only to summersault and compel them to make another payment because, according to the school, they have been defrauded by or they connived with the café operators to defraud the school.
The students recently staged a peaceful demonstration in the school premises to formally notify the authorities of their plight.
Narrating their ordeal, some of the students explained that they had, in accordance with the school management’s directive, paid school fees through the cyber cafés, authenticated the payment with signed receipts in the bursary department only to be denied entry into examination halls until they protested.
The students claimed that they were not aware that some of the receipts issued to them at the cafés and authenticated by the school had an inscription of either PIN or remittal on them, stressing that students numbering over 3,000 holding the receipts with PIN that became the victims of the fraud were ordered by the school management to make another payment.
Although the cyber café operators refused to comment on the issue, since according to them, the case is still with the police, the school management had raised another dimension to the scandal.
They accused the students of conniving with the cyber operators to defraud the school by paying less than the amounts the school management directed them to pay.
A highly distressed student in the department of Administration and Planning who identified himself only as Kayode, expressed concern over the possibility of graduating from the school.
“I paid N57,500 excluding the café’s and what they called bank charges which amounted to N58,700.. But while making the payment, the school did not explain to us that there was certain inscription on the receipt to confirm the genuineness of the payment.
“In the printouts issued to many of us, which served as school fees receipt, were written either ‘remittal’ or ‘PIN’. We did not know then about these specifications until we got to the examination hall when the supervisors threatened to stop us from writting the exam.
“When we demanded for explanation, they told us that our receipts were carrying PIN. They further explained to us that any receipt with PIN means that though the person made payment; it did not actually hit the school account.
“It was when they anticipated breakdown of law and order from the large crowd that they allowed us to take the examination. Even as we wrote the exam, it became very clear to us that we have been defrauded,” he lamented.
Confronted with this situation, Kayode added: “Many of us went back to the Cyber cafes we made the payment to complain only to realise that most of them have closed shop and disappeared. This situation mostly affected the students on Sandwich programme.”
“Left with no option again, we staged peaceful protest to bring our plight to the knowledge of the school authority. Few of the protesters met with the Vice Chancellor to find a solution to the problem. The school authority assured us they will rectify the issue yet after meeting the VC, we heard that the management is insisting on our making another payment.”
For another student who identified himself as Ismaila, his was double jeopardy as he was not only facing the same difficulty of raising the fund to make another payment but life has never been the same since led the peaceful protest.
“It baffles me that the school could claim that we are victims of fraud. They said that we paid into wrong account which does not have the authority of the school portal. Yet, it was the same school management that gave us directive on how to make payment through cyber café.
“The portal we paid into belongs to the school, but we were told that the portal was defrauded. What it means is that we are victims of the carelessness of the school. What it means is that they did not put adequate security measures to check such occurrence.
“From the reconciliation office then, the rough estimate of those that were victims stood around 3,200 students. They told us that they were undergoing the process of rescreening the number. When we were invited to a meeting recently, they told us the figure was less,” Ismaila said.
Life, according to Ismaila, has never been the same for the students considered the ring leaders of the peaceful protest.
“We strongly believe that a cartel comprising certain staff of the school and the cyber café operators are behind the whole fraud. And that was perhaps why some of the students that led the peaceful demonstration are being hunted.
For instance, I had received several threat messages before my house was attacked and personal belongings including my telephones stolen. In fact, every student who played role in the demonstration has one negative story or the other to tell,” he insisted.
School management reacts
Blaming the students for being the architect of their problems, the Information Officer of the school, Garba Waziri, in telephone conversation with the Daily Sun accused the students of conniving with the cyber café operators to defraud the school.
He confirmed that though police has waded into the case by arresting the cyber café operators, the students lack the rectitude to blame the school after getting the reward of their involvement in criminal conspiracy.
“I can confirm to you that there was a time we and the police arrested one cyber café operator who was issuing the students school fees receipts. But all I can tell you is that the police are handling the matter. If it is true that the café operator has refunded some of the money collected, I won’t know because it should be between them and the police.
“It is wrong for the students to claim that it is not their faults because what we discovered with the police was that they connived with the cyber operators to pay paltry amount while they raise false receipt for them. I advise you to contact the police for more detailed update on the issue,” Garba quipped.