Signals picked up by Starr News indicate the recent unrest that engulfed the Bolgatanga Polytechnic over the purchase of a “rickety” 12-seater bus at a bloated Gh¢70,000 is about to take a twist for the worse.
In what is the latest development, more than 300 students are said to have appended their signatures to a strong proposal to have the President of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), Francis Bugase, impeached. The swelling clamour for his removal from office is linked to his alleged claims that he bought the 13-year-old minibus for the SRC at Gh¢66,000 and spent an extra Gh¢4,000 from the students’ dues on some arrangements to bring the vehicle from Kumasi to Bolgatanga, the Upper East regional capital.
A campus demonstration, which originally was scheduled for last Wednesday but authorities at the school managed to overturn at the last minute, also looks set now to rock the school Monday April 24, with an estimated 4,500 students reported to be gearing up for the demo with red bands, black attire and placards. Monday, they affirm, is going to be the beginning of “a serious series of demonstration” they say the school will continue to see until their demands are met. The students, whose public threats to “smash the bus into pieces” are reported to have prompted the parking of the vehicle miles outside the main campus, have also announced their intention to boycott lectures until the bus is returned and their monies refunded.
“Even the exams we are going to write on the 15th of next month, we are likely not to write the exams until this issue is resolved. We asked management to return the vehicle but the recommendation the committee, which was set up to look into the case, rather gave is that the SRC President should pay back 3% of the Gh¢70,000 and the Finance Officer should pay 2% of the amount. It means that the President is paying Gh¢2,100 and the Finance Officer would be paying Gh¢1,400; making it Gh¢3,500; leaving Gh¢66,500. And we don’t know whether they are saying the old bus cost Gh¢66,500,” one of the conveners of the upcoming serial demonstrations, Moses Asooh, told Starr News with a tone of deep frustration.
He added: “They (the committee) also said management should go and register the bus. The same vehicle we say we don’t want, management wants to go and register. At the moment, students are very angry and willing to do anything to make sure their petition is addressed. We say the bus cannot be registered in the name of the SRC. If that is the case, management should go on and register it in the name of management but not SRC. We believe that management has a hand in this. They are [shielding] the guy (the SRC President). It’s going to be a serious demonstration on Monday. We have asked police for security guide.”
SRC President “refuses” to step down
The SRC President, who since the turmoil emerged rarely has spoken to the media on the grounds that he must seek the green light from management first, is said to have declined to step down after hundreds of signatures voted against his continued stay in office.
Whilst it remains unconfirmed yet if he indeed does not recognise the impeachment process initiated against him in the wake of the alleged scandal, the agitated students say they have replaced him with his vice, Isaac Azongo, and have given him up to this Thursday 27th April to hand over the power he is said to have grossly abused.
“The Article 13 of our SRC Constitution states that there should be at least 50 signatures, five from each department, if members want to impeach any executive member of that kind of behaviour. At the moment, we have gotten over 300 signatures and more are willing to sign to impeach Mr. Bugase. We have impeached him. I gave him a letter to that effect, because he’s supposed to be served, but he refused to take the letter, saying nobody can impeach him.
“And what is happening is that the Chief Justice, who is supposed to impeach the guy and swears in the new president, says he won’t do it and says management is supposed to do it. It means management has told the Chief Justice not to do it. We are in talks with the Legal Aid Ghana to come and do the swearing-in for us. We have served letters to our banks, Unibank and ADB, where the SRC has its monies, not to allow the former president access to the SRC accounts anymore,” Mr. Asooh disclosed.
Agitators seek government’s intervention
Whilst the aggrieved students say they have written a warning letter to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) to steer clear of registering the controversial minibus and notified the Bolgatanga High Court on the developments, there have also been impassioned pleas from the agitators on government to intervene.
“We pay school fees; we don’t see anything. How many buildings has management put up here? This school is not poor. If we can roll hard copies of our grievances and push them into the office of the President of this country, we would do it,” Mr. Asooh stressed.
Another student, Ayam Abdulai, told Starr News: “We have reached a point where the Minister of Education must come in. The media and other like-minded agencies must come and investigate what is happening in this school. This issue calls for a national attention. Students are crying. Some of them have to farm to pay their school fees. And we waste their monies on things like this.”
The Rector of the school, Dr. Mba Atinga, made it clear in an interview with Starr News last week management would not crush the rights of students to demonstrate or to impeach any SRC executive member but noted that violence would not be condoned. If Isaac Azongo, who is said to have accepted the new responsibility, duly takes over as the next students’ leader, Francis Bugase, who is also said to have some students backing him on the quiet, would be the first SRC President to be impeached since the school was established in July, 2003.