Anger over university's efforts to control road use

A law that allows the authorities of the University of Ghana to prevent people who are not members of the institution from entering its premises has come under attack on several fronts, after a booth was erected at the main entrance to control road use.

The first to challenge the law was Larry Gbevlo-Lartey, the national security coordinator, who ordered security forces to demolish the newly erected toll booth, which was aimed at reducing the number of cars being driven - often fast - through the campus.

Some students have taken the issue to court, to stop the university charging fees for use of the campus road.

Asked to explain his actions on national radio, Gbevlo-Lartey said: "The booth was a security risk because it had caused a pile of traffic on the main road that runs in front the university." He was unperturbed by public outcry. "I would order the demolition again if they put it up."

The problem began when the government decided to upgrade a major road that passes in front of the University of Ghana. During the roadwork, traffic was diverted through the university to connect to other roads.

Unfortunately, after the upgrade was completed, many motorists continued to use the university roads for the sake of convenience.

The university claims that the number of vehicles using its roads increased considerably and this compromised security and the kind of environment needed for academic activities.

Vice-chancellors angry

Gbevlo-Lartey's behaviour angered vice-chancellors of public universities. Their association, Vice-Chancellors Ghana or VCG, asked the government to investigate the demolition and apply sanctions.

In a statement the VCG also urged the government to "take the necessary steps to restore confidence in the security as well as the safety of life and property at all universities, particularly, public universities.

"By so doing, the public would be assured of the conducive environment required for teaching and learning at our institutions of higher learning." The vice-chancellors also said the national security coordinator did not "follow due process as required by law".

Parliament joins in

Before the government could respond, a member of parliament placed a motion before the house to amend parts of the University of Ghana Act of 2010, number 806, which empowers the institution to restrict entry.

Section three says: "Any person who is not a member of the university shall not enter the premises of the university or have access to the facilities of the university without permission of the university." This is the law the university is applying to prevent the use of its roads.

But it seems parliamentarians are divided on the issue.

Chief whip of the ruling National Democratic Congress Alhaji Muntaka Mubarak told the media that the university authorities, by trying to prevent use of their roads, were acting like they were living in their own republic.

Muntaka claimed MPs were misled during consultation to include Section 3 of the act. "It was not meant to give the university authorities the power to prevent the use of its premises, when we met a delegation from the University of Ghana during our consultation with them before the law was passed."

Other MPs have disagreed. A member of the main opposition New Patriotic Party Joe Osei-Owusu made it clear that he did not support Muntaka's move: "If the university is not allowed to regulate the use of its premises, who can?" Osei-Owusu wondered, arguing that the university should not be allowed to become a thoroughfare for all.

Some students have also challenged the university for asking those who own cars to buy stickers in order to be allowed to use their cars on campus. Osei-Owusu said the student complaint was not against the purchase of the stickers but the cost.