A Nigerian university student, Cyprian Igwe, woke up to the news of a 50% increment in payable fees by the school management in May 2023 and planned a protest against it. But this was met with his rustication from the school.

The situation has now taken a legal turn. Here’s all we know about so far:

Who is Cyprian Igwe?

Who is Cyprian Igwe? The UniAbuja Student Suing University for ₦50m

He’s a 400-level undergraduate student in the Sociology department of the University of Abuja. Igwe is also a member of the student union. He caught the attention of the public following his rustication from the university after allegedly inciting fellow students against the school management.

Why was he rusticated?

On April 29, 2023, the university announced the total payable fees for the 2022/2023 session in a Facebook post. And the 50% bump didn’t go down well with Igwe whose fee shot up to ₦89,000 from ₦47,300. He proceeded to express his displeasure with fellow student union executives via an official WhatsApp group. In his message, he called for a meeting to discuss possible solutions to the situation.

Who is Cyprian Igwe? The UniAbuja Student Suing University for ₦50m

Source: ICIR

The university caught wind of Igwe’s WhatsApp message and responded to the call for a protest by issuing a rustication letter dated May 26, 2023, signed by the deputy registrar. Cyprian Igwe, and another student, Olalekan Oladeru, who broadcasted his message on WhatsApp, were accused of circulating “an inciteful press release”, an action “capable of jeopardising the peaceful smooth conduct of academic activities in the university and a breach of the university matriculation oath.”

Igwe told the International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR) that he was brought in for questioning by the school’s security officer, forced to sign the rustication letter and detained for four hours with no access to his mobile phone.

Who is Cyprian Igwe? The UniAbuja Student Suing University for ₦50m

The rustication letter | Source: Twitter (@cyrpianigwe3)

How did Cyprian’s case get media attention?

Cyprian shared a Twitter post on May 26, the same day he was rusticated, which caught the attention of journalists and activists, amongst others. Reputable outlets like TechCabal, International Centre for Investigative Reporting (ICIR)

and Legit.ng have since picked up his story.

There’s been an outpour of support from Nigerians who argue that students should be able to freely express themselves.

What’s the position of the student union president?

The SUG president, Emito Emmanuel Ayandayo, is against the university’s decision and maintains that there’s no evidence to back up the claims levelled against Cyprian Igwe and Oladeru.

He told the ICIR that the rustication letter referenced the incitement of violence, a meeting with members of the SUG, alumni and stakeholders, and a planned protest slated for May 29, which was all false. He said he issued a counter press release stating he never signed Igwe’s announcement, and there was no meeting held to discuss a protest as claimed in the rustication letter.

Ayandayo also said he spoke with the dean of student affairs, Prof Umar Kari, who maintained that there was a mistake in the rustication letter the assistant registrar sent out. Kari said the students should’ve been suspended and not rusticated.

Has Igwe’s status as a student been reinstated?

That same week, the university recalled the initial rustication letter and issued a fresh letter of suspension. The school’s public relations officer (PRO), Dr Habib Yakoob, claimed that the students were suspended contrary to widely circulated reports of rustication.

Is Igwe back in school?

As of June 2023, Igwe, through his lawyer, Tope Temokun, has taken legal action and sued the university at the Federal High Court in Abuja. The respondents include vice chancellor Professor Abdul-Rasheed Na’allah, Yahaya Mohammed (registrar), Alkasim Umar (deputy registrar, academics, CSO Ibrahim Abdullahi Burga and four others.

Igwe is seeking an order reinstating his status as a bonafide student of UniAbuja, an order setting aside his rustication for violating his fundamental rights to a fair hearing and a declaration against his arrest and detention at the intelligence unit of the school on May 26.

In addition, he’s seeking damages to the sum of ₦50 million, for violation of his human rights.

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