1.3 Million Pounds Deal Hits Legon Varsity

Students of University of Ghana, Legon, are outraged about the intention by authorities to install some “Biometric Access Control Gates” at various halls of the University.

The cost of the biometric gates run into several billion of Cedis, where they were procured, who procured them and whether or not the contract went through a competitive procurement processes are also on the lips of students, especially those of Commonwealth Hall.

Each of the biometric gates according to the students is estimated at a whopping 50, 000 Pounds Sterling per a hall, and insiders say the University authorities will need 27 pieces of these gates at 1,3350,000 million Pounds Sterling to complete the project.

The students, who have described the procurement as highly unnecessary and misplaced priority in a petition dated February 26, 2014 and addressed to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, distanced themselves “from anything associated with the gate and its installation”.

Commonwealth Hall, has been earmarked to be the first to be installed ahead of the other halls, but the students there are leading a crusade not to have the specialized gates installed.
According to the students, the first consignment procured by the university was burnt under bizare circumstances and since Prof. Aryeetey claims he suspects “arson”, he has sent the new gates to the porters lodge at Commonwealth so that in case something happens, he will hold them responsible.

They were of the view that Prof. Aryeetey-led administration, should have advised itself prudently using the colossal amount to address the acute water shortage on campus, provide lecture halls or face out the huge infrastructural deficit hampering academic work in the school, instead of indulging in such a frivolous expenditure.

In the petition signed by the Junior Common Room (JCR) President, Seth Asampana, the students of Commonwealth Hall, said among other things that the biometric gates if installed, will be an inconvenience to them and their studies.

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Already, they have organized a peaceful demonstration on campus to register their displeasure about the project and are intensifying their campaign to lobby every student on campus to reject the biometric gates. The organizers of the demonstration, said response among the students have been very impressive and the number of students against the installation is increasing.

According to The Herald’s sources, the University authorities’ primary aim for procuring the “Biometric Access Control Gate” is to control petty thievery and also prevent perching by non-resident students.

However, the students disagree, arguing that “on the objective of checking perching by introducing the biometric gate, we believe the decongestion policy introduced by yourself coupled with the internal mechanisms by the Hall has eradicated perching from Commonwealth Hall, hence we see no need for the introduction of the biometric gate”.

In the eight-point petition which was copied to various heads, including the Pro-Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Dean of Student Affairs and Hall Masters, the students cited examples of such initiatives abroad where during disasters, students found it very difficult to escape thereby, bringing about undesirable outcomes, including deaths.

“Some precedents from the failures of the biometric access control systems in times of emergency in other institutions of higher learning, especially where no alternative exit routes have been provided have led to very undesirable situations”.

“The issue of some university students in the Philippines who sustained various degrees of injuries in their quest to exit an electronic access control gate during an emergency is a few of the incidents to draw lessons from”, the petition pointed.

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The students pointed out their fears saying, “With no other emergency exit route from the hall, we can envisage what will happen if there is an emergency and students have to evacuate the Hall”.

Mr. Asampana confirmed the existence of the petition in an interview with The Herald.

The JCR President, revealed that on December 31, 2013, the University’s management tried to secretly install the Biometric Access Control Gates” at a time most of the students were on vacation, but the few students who were around, raised alarm and the installation was suspended.

Meanwhile, indications are that students of Commonwealth Hall who fear a stampede might occur with the advent of the
Biometric gates, could clash with university authorities or even lynch the installers should there be an attempt to have the specialized gates fixed.

According to Mr. Asampana, the project has been part of the University’s programme for the past three years and revealed that anytime it implementation was raised; past student leaders resisted it and so it was suspended.

He confirmed that as at the time he was speaking to this reporter, the gates had been brought and kept at the “porters lodge” at Commonwealth Hall waiting to be installed.

Asked if they have heard any favourable reply from Prof. Aryeetey since they sent the petition, Mr. Asampana said, nothing has been heard, adding the student body has given the authorities up till the end of this week, to act or they shall advice themselves.

“As stake holders in the development of the University of Ghana and as students, who espouse and share in your world class agenda, we believe the introduction of the biometric access control system on the University of Ghana campus does not address the numerous challenges students face”, the petition said.

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The students told Prof. Aryeetey that “We believe that the resources spent on the procurement of such machines should be used to rather curb and eradicate the rampant water shortages on campus, especially commonwealth Hall”.

“Also these huge sums could be used to fast track the provision of lecture rooms to alleviate congestion in our lecture halls in order to provide a congenial atmosphere to advance academic work”, the students advised him.

They insisted that “the installation of the biometric gate in Commonwealth Hall shall in no way contribute to the advancement of academic work, but will rather create grave inconvenience to students.

“As students who are late for lectures will have to queue to be able to gain access through the biometric gate which in the end will be waste of precious academic time”, the students said, adding “the installation of the biometric gate does not fundamentally address the internal security issues in the Hall”.

“For instance, reported cases of theft in the past, do not have to do with outsiders and certainly the installation of the biometric gate does not in any way mitigate this problem”.

University of Ghana, recently claimed it had procure a loan from an unnamed bank to fix it roads, hence had to levy drivers using it roads to enable it repay the loan, the details of which is not still available to the public. It is unclear if the university, in procuring the doors also took another bank loan.

Meanwhile, Prof. Aryeetey, last week hinted that very soon, there could be a problem with paying salaries, since Government was yet to release subvention to the school.

More to come!