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Opinions of Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Columnist: Abdulai, Iddrisu

UG tolls: a dubious means to exploit students

The road tolls, illegally and forcibly ‘imposed’ by the authorities of University of Ghana (UG), purposefully targeted students. The authorities of UG claimed that all the monies govt promised to give them last year to cover the loans contracted for the renovation and construction of hostels were never paid. And that the govt had even given them the go ahead to seek funding from other sources. Therefore, some few identifiable people among the leadership of the UG thought it wise to impose tax on students to generate more revenue to pay ‘debts’ of the institute.

But what is the basis for the introduction of road tolls? Common sense tells us that road tolls are introduced to offset a huge debt incurred during the construction and/or maintenance of road. The question is, ‘Did UG incur any huge cost in constructing and/or maintaining any of its roads?’ The answer to this question is NO. Essentially, what the university authorities did was to pour a very thin layer of asphalt on the roads. Interestingly but astonishingly, the roads in question were in exceptionally good conditions except the one leading to TF Hostel. The roads were already well-tarred with fully constructed street gutters and lights. Therefore, the authorities of UG only needlessly painted the roads with the asphalt as a means of legitimatizing their illegal tolls.

The above claim can be justified if a public committee is constituted to investigate the actual construction and the cost UG claimed to have incurred. The amount quoted by the UG as loans contracted and used to needlessly maintain the roads is overbloated. In the first place, who authorized the university to maintain public roads without due approval from parliament and/or the Ministry of Roads and Highway? Ah! Hasn’t the university got any academic project to fund or to undertake? Hmm! Common sense should have directed the university council to use the said loan to construct a modern lecture theatre or hostel.

Whilst the govt is earnestly making every effort to absorb the overbloated cost, the university authorities, barefacedly bold, are still hoping to (re)enforce the toll collection. In the midst of these circumstances, I’ve been wondering why the govt delayed in ordering UG to stop imposing the illegal tax on citizens that already test positive to excessive taxing. The govt is unable to do so probably because of its own huge indebtedness to the university. Even if it is so, is UG the only public university? Thank God the tolls are almost gone. We hope they will never return. By now, the vice-chancellor and his university council should be ashamed of themselves.

Those individuals or groups who ‘destroyed’ some of tollbooths are automatically national heroes in the history of Ghanaians’ struggle to achieve economic liberty. The economic hardships, so extreme as they are now, have even compelled some men of God to be leading their churches to pray for Ghana. Despite all these, the insensitive UG authorities are still disinclined to give up the collection of the road tolls which purposefully targeted students. Students are the prime targets because the public can decide not to use those roads. After all, many of the roads of the university are not linking major communities.

A good reminder to the few persons among the university leadership who are spearheading the unilateral and illegal road tolls is that if many of them were students today, they would have been automatic dropouts because of the extreme poverty in their families. Many of them enjoyed free education and could even protest for continuously been fed on chicken for a week. And with their weak and/or average passes, they got scholarships to study and are now enjoying and then thinking that money is easy to come by.

Again, the public is fed up with unnecessary comparisons. If you choose to be in academia, just be there. Therefore, the few lecturers who simply compare the evil luxury politicians are enjoying to their working conditions and then think they deserve better should consider resigning and joining politics. What the nation can afford is what is given to them to educate us.
Shockingly, the authorities of UG suggested that the govt should amend the act establishing the university to allow them to fully privatize it. Isn’t this an evil thought considering that UG is a national symbol? We the youth of Ghana must rise up if not we’ll have absolutely nothing to tell our children about Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana. Our grandchildren will insult us and our great grandchildren will curse us for wilfully allowing all state property including those that are national symbols by default to be privatized. Most people in authority can no longer be trusted. Let’s rise up! Long live UG as a truly public institute, long live Ghana!

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