Delta Governor, Sen. (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa, on Wednesday, said his administration exercised little or no interference in the operations of the state’s tertiary institutions.
Okowa made this known when the leadership of National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) of Delta origin and the National Executive of National Association of Delta State Students (NADESSTU) visited him at Government House, Asaba.
He stated that the institutions enjoyed high levels of autonomy and that decisions on the day-to-day administration of the schools were made by the management, in consultation with their governing councils.
The governor, who was reacting to the COVID-19 levy on students by the institutions, said that the state government was not part of such a decision, but assured that he would find out the true position and address it appropriately.
He said that the relationship between the government and the students’ community in the state had remained strong and would continue to be harnessed to build a Stronger Delta.
“Since your emergence as leaders, the students’ community has remained very peaceful and I am happy you have always fought for the rights of students with decorum.
“I am confident that whatever you have done over the years, was in the best interest of the students and our state.
“It is our prayer that we will continue to meet your demands so that the people you lead do not lose trust in you.
“As leaders, we can dialogue to find solutions to issues instead of taking to protests and demonstrations, because it is much easier to sit down and talk; it is a more decent way and I am happy you have adopted that approach of dialogue.
“With more higher institutions we have in our state, and the more we are able to keep our students community peaceful, the greater peace we will have in our state.
“Our higher institutions are near autonomous and majority of the day-to-day decisions are done at the management level in consultation with their governing councils, and the COVID-19 levy was a decision they took on their own, not from my office.
“We will discuss with them with a view to reducing the levy by the institutions,” the governor stated.
He commended youths who came out to protest over issues of police brutality and harassment, saying that leaders now saw things differently.
“The youths of this nation have been so quiet for so long, but suddenly they have come out with a voice that will shape up the leadership of the country.
“With the outcome of the protests, leaders are more likely to see things differently and I am glad to announce that actions are being taken on three out of the five-point demand by the protesters.
“In just a week plus, a statement has been made for things to be done in the best interest of the nation.
“We are proud of our youths for what they have achieved with the protests. I am happy they called for a greater remuneration for the police to enable them to do their work effectively.
“As we move forward and as actions are being taken by the Police high command, it shows that the government is responding and I call on the youths to allow the government some time to respond to the issues raised.
“As we thank the leadership of the protesting groups for bringing to the fore the issues of police brutality, extortion and harassment, it is a time for all of us to work hard for a greater nation,” he added.
Leader of the delegation and Deputy National Senate President of NANS, Comrade Pedro Chibuzor-Obi, said that they were in the Government House to thank the Governor for the good things he had been doing for the students’ community in the state.
He said that Delta had remained the only state that had continually paid bursary to students since 2015.
“We are here today because you have done so much for us as a father. We appreciate you for what you have done for our dear state and for Nigerian students of Delta origin.
“There is a huge difference between what is happening here in the Delta students’ community and the students’ community in other states. Delta has been so consistent in paying bursary to students since 2015 and we can’t thank you enough,” Obi said.
On his part, National President of NADESSTU, Comrade Godwin Saturday, called on the governor to direct the higher institutions in the state to scrap or reduce the COVID-19 levy on students, saying that it was a huge burden on students and parents, especially in the prevailing economic situation across the country.