The Executive Director of Youth Advocates for Peace, Justice and Empowerment Network (YAPJEN), a human right, good governance and advocacy group, Ambassador Timothy Nwachukwu has criticised the Students Union Government describing it as a conduit pipe for corruption and a breeding ground for looters.
He stated that the Students’ Union government Activities (Control and Regulation) Act of 1989 allows students the freedom to participate in union activities and since the National Union of Nigerian Students was formed in the 1940s, student unions in Nigeria have been a major pressure group.
He stated that the Section 1 (1) and (2) of the Act provides as follows “As from the commencement of this Act, student participation in all union activities shall be voluntary, and confined to individual campuses of universities or institutions of higher learning or any other similar institutions.
Nothing in this Act or any other law shall prevent any Governing Council, Vice-Chancellor or any authority or person in charge of or in control of any university, higher institution or similar institution from making regulations for the purposes of controlling student union activities within aforesaid institutions”.
He noted that “Prior this time, the leadership of the student unions were renowned for challenging government policies on education and other national issues, and they were generally considered credible and that when the military government of Gen. IBB anulled the presidential election won by MKO Abiola in 1993, students leaders resisted the move and struggled to compel the government to restore democracy.
He lamented that unfortunately, the students union leaders tendencies for corrupt practices, has actually transmuted it from its original responsibilities of promoting and protecting the interest of the Nigerian student to that of ‘money making ventures’.
YAPJEN, which is noted for advocacy for probity and accountability, through its Executive Director, alleged that some executives of the student Union Government body had always sought financial assistance from the state government but ended up diverting such funds to their personal use.
De Peoples Advocate regretted that the body has continued to exploit and over burden the students it claims to protect.
It therefore became an established tradition with the body for every tertiary students across the country to pay a mandatory dues whose purpose nobody knows for certain and which has over the years accumulated into hundreds of millions of Naira.
He alleged that the best the unions can do, it seems, is a pretext visitation to politicians in anticipation of “brown envelopes”.
He queried, the purpose of the money and of what role has the unions been to the Nigeria student.
He stated that campaigns are financed dubiously, and election rigging is usual. Embezzlement and corruption are rampant and administration lacks meaningful impact at all levels.
He observed that though Student union leaders are not statutorily paid for their work, however, the unions make a lot of money from student levies, corporate sponsorships, alumni donations and grants from the school management. The union leaders are in charge of these funds, and this is one attraction for aspiring leaders.
He lamented that though the constitution of the student union in many Nigerian schools stipulates that the accounts of the particular union should be audited regularly by the bursar or the auditor whom the school management appoints.
The union also has to make public its budget and expenditure for the session. However, in reality, nobody enforces these rules and union leaders have a lot of room to beat them
Amb. Nwachukwu stated that With the recent revelation of the misappropriation of money donated to the students body and the high rate of mismanagement of the internal generated but unaccountable revenue, it is time that the anti-graft agencies beam their searchlight to investigate the public finances accruing to the students Leadership for effective management.