ATBU’s Policy Regarding Drug Test for Students

Students returning for the current academic year at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) in Bauchi have received a circular from the university’s management directing them to take a toxicology test, commonly referred to as a drug test. This test checks for drugs or other chemicals in a person’s blood, urine, or saliva.

A report claims that the ATBU administration took action in response to the school’s violent protests by students against the murder of 500-level Geology student Joseph Agabaidu. He was fatally stabbed, according to the authorities, on December 2, 2023, while attempting to recover his girlfriend’s bag from the thieves who had earlier taken it from her.

Angered by his murder, some students started a protest, which turned violent, after the police, who stationed their armoured tankers opposite the school gate, tried to disrupt it fearing that it would lead to the breakdown of law and order, not only in the institution but parts of the state metropolis. However, things escalated out of control when the demonstrating students blocked the university’s entrance and interfered with daily activities.

In an effort to prevent a repeat of the December 4 incident and other acts of lawlessness, the ATBU authorities decided to require returning students to submit to a toxicology test. They reasoned that some of the actions they observed on the part of the students must have been influenced by the rising cases of illicit drugs and related substance abuse in our society.

Meanwhile, sources state that instructors and parents of university students have refused the “compulsory toxicology test,” which the administration had requested the students complete along with a signed copy of the “Oath of Good Character and Compliance,” which was to be turned in when classes resumed. There is also the issue of credibility of the test results and where they can be carried out.

While parents complained of the cost implication of the test, which reportedly ranges from N5,000, to N10,000, depending on the laboratory, the Chairman of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, and the Chairman, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, ATBU, Inuwa Ibrahim and Sulisma Jatau, respectively, said they were not in support of the management’s move because they were not consulted.

The Director, Information and Public Relations Unit of the ATBU, Zailani Bappa, said the decision was for the benefit of the students and very necessary to curb social vices among the over 10,000 students of the institution, adding that “When we give out degrees, we first of all say that a student is found waorthy in character before we say and in learning. So, it is our duty to be like parents for the students.”

No doubt, drug abuse is a menace and responsible for so many acts of violence and destruction in the society and the earlier we address this problem the better for all of us. So, while agreeing with the ATBU management that we need to check the rising cases of illicit drug abuse, its decision seems more reactionary than proactive. Fighting drug abuse is something it cannot do alone. There must be consultation because it requires the buy-in of every stakeholder in the society, including government, parents, community and religious leaders for it to be effectively managed.

We call on the management to note that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees each and every citizen certain freedoms which include academic freedom, and this supersedes its directive. Thus, it must not initiate policies that will deprive students of access to education. There are other actions that the school management can take to reduce, if not totally eliminate, cases of drug abuse.

For instance, they can seek the help of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) to establish presence in the institution, as a starting point. We also call on the management to dialogue with all stakeholders with a view to finding a lasting solution to the problem. We believe the fight against drug abuse requires the involvement of all.

Parents and lecturers should appreciate the level of destruction drug abuse is causing to lives and property in our society and support moves to address it in a legally and socially responsible manner. Children are today killing parents under drug influence, while many have become completely invalid and totally incapable of being useful to themselves and society.

Students should also remember that while they have the right to peaceful protest, the management and other authorities have a responsibility to ensure law and order. We advise that they must shun drugs and never condone violence in advancing their cause.