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Protests rocks UNIBEN as students shut down Benin-Ore highway over power outage

Students of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) took to the streets on Wednesday, blocking the busy Benin-Ore Highway to protest weeks of power outage on their campus.

The prolonged power cut has severely impacted their preparation for the upcoming first semester examinations, which are just two weeks away, according to reports by News Agency of Nigeria.

The protest stemmed from a power outage that began after the university and the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) failed to reach an agreement over a contentious electricity bill.

The dispute started when BEDC reportedly increased the institution’s monthly electricity charges by over 200%, raising the bill from approximately N80 million to between N200 million and N280 million. This forced the university to rely on power generators and to ration electricity across its two campuses and hostels.

 What UNIBEN students are saying

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

The protest, which began early in the morning, saw students carrying placards and chanting slogans as they blocked the highway. “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.

According to reports, the protest caused significant disruption to the flow of vehicular movement, leaving many passengers stranded and unable to reach their destinations.

A visibly angry commuter, who refused to disclose his name, said, “I’m supposed to be at work right now, but I’ve been stuck here for hours. I understand the students’ plight, but they need to find a better way to protest.”

Despite the rainfall, the students remained resolute, continuing their demonstration. The protest highlighted the frustration and desperation of the students, who are struggling to balance their academic responsibilities with the lack of essential services.

Dr. Benedicta Ehanire, the Public Relations Officer of the institution, confirmed that a meeting of the university Senate was ongoing to resolve the issue. “The management is aware of the students’ grievances and is working tirelessly to find a lasting solution to the power outage,” she said.

The ongoing protest by UNIBEN students shows the critical need for reliable infrastructure in educational institutions.

The power outage not only disrupts academic activities but also highlights broader issues of governance and service delivery. As the university management and BEDC work towards a resolution, the focus must remain on ensuring that students can continue their education without further hindrance. The outcome of the ongoing Senate meeting will be crucial in determining the next steps and restoring normalcy to the university.

What you should know

Nigerian universities have been under increasing financial strain due to recent hikes in electricity tariffs. The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ilorin, Professor Wahab Egbewole, recently expressed concerns over the institution’s skyrocketing monthly electricity bill, which has surged from N70 million to an unsustainable N230 million.

Similarly, the University of Jos is grappling with a 300% increase in its monthly electricity bill, now at N80 million, with threats of disconnection looming due to unpaid bills. The management of Jos Electricity Distribution (JED) Plc has issued a disconnection threat, exacerbating the university’s financial woes. In response, the university increased student charges, but this measure has proven inadequate.

Earlier, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) approved a hike in electricity rates for consumers categorized under Band A. According to a statement by NERC Vice Chairman Musliu Oseni, the tariff hike will see customers paying N225 per kilowatt hour, up from N66. However, NERC reduced the exchange rate for calculating the current electricity tariff for Band A customers by 16.03%, from N1,463.3/$ to N1,277.8, effective from May to December 2024.

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