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HomeNewsUNIBEN Students Block Major Highway In Protest Over Higher Electricity Tariff

UNIBEN Students Block Major Highway In Protest Over Higher Electricity Tariff

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Soldiers were invited after University of Benin students blocked the Edo-Ore highway on Wednesday as they protested the power outage suffered by the institution’s Ugbowo and Ekhewan campuses.

The university was thrown into darkness following its inability to reach an agreement with the Benin Electricity Distribution Company over perceived contentious electricity billing.

The students decided to stage a protest on Wednesday morning by blocking the outbound route of the Lagos-Benin Expressway.

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Commuters in the Ugbowo axis of the Benin-Lagos Highway suffered for seven hours, as the students barricaded the Main-Gate axis of the road that caused a gridlock stretching several kilometres from both axes of the road.

The students who have been without an elected Students Union Government (SUG) are only two weeks away from their first semester examination.

The BEDC Company Plc had disconnected the school from public power over mounting debts occasioned by the recent hike in electricity tariff.

The electricity bill was said to have jumped from about N80 million to N280 million, forcing the university to resort to power generators and rationalizing power on the two campuses and hostels.

A protesting student, who simply gave his name as John, said the one hour of electricity daily had become largely inadequate and had discouraged studying.

“We only have one hour of electricity every day since this issue started. We are tired of studying in the dark. We need electricity to read and prepare for our exams. The university management needs to take responsibility and fix this issue.” he said

“We will not leave until something is done. We can’t afford to fail our exams because of the university’s negligence,” said Sarah Osaigbovo, a 300 level student of the Ugbowo campus.

“We stay for hours without light, how do they expect us to read well for examinations which are just about two weeks away? Or lecturers are also suffering the same thing. Sometimes when you go to a lecturer’s office, you see him or her sweating and fanning himself or herself, how can they give us the best under that condition?” a 400 level Statistics student said but was not ready to mention his name.

The protest, which began early in the morning around 8am did not stop until 2pm when soldiers drove to the scene to disperse the students who defied the heavy downpour to remain on the road.

The development forced the University Senate into an emergency where it set up a team to dialogue with the students on their complaints.

A statement by the University’s Public Relations Officer, Dr. (Mrs.) Benedicta Ehanire said the Senate commended the Management for the several steps taken so far to ensure the comfort of the students but threatened to shut down the school if their dialogue with students failed.

Part of the statement reads: “While describing the students’ action as unfortunate, the Senate is particularly concerned with the trend whereby the students block the federal highway thus causing hardship to travellers and other commuters.

“In the meantime, some members of the decision making body have been mandated to continue with dialogue with the students on their unrealistic demand for twenty four hours of electricity supply which they enjoyed before the University was disconnected by BEDC as a result of the disputed monthly bill of over 250 million Naira slammed on the Institution by the electricity company.

“Senate also described the two other complaints by the students about high costs of food and transportation as out of the University’s control.

“Moreover, the Senate of the University resolved that if dialogue with the students fails and the protest persists, it will have no other option than to shut down the Institution.”

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