Call for Solidarity Actions
*We call on trade unions including the staff unions in the polytechnic, civil society organizations, radical student unions, youth organisations and socialists, locally and internationally, to prevail on the management to halt this attack on democratic rights*
On the Wednesday, 11 March 2015, two members of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) were unlawfully arrested by the Polytechnic of Ibadan security officers and handed over to the Nigerian Police at the instance of the Dean of Students' Affairs Unit in connivance with the leadership of the students' union of the institution.
The affected members of the ERC are: Ogundele Michael, Oyo state coordinator of the ERC who also double as the ERC National secretary and Olasumbo Badmus, an HND II Student of the department of Business administration who is the Secretary, the Polytechnic of Ibadan branch of ERC.
The two ERC members were arrested because of a statement which was signed by Sumbo Badmus and issued by the branch at the resumption of the ongoing academic session of the institution. This was considered as one of many means through which the branch hope to propagate its idea and objectives within the polytechnic community with a view to win the best layer of change-seeking students and workers towards it.
This statement painted the gloomy picture of the deplorable nature of the Polytechnic Ibadan owing largely to the problem of poor funding of the education sector by the successive governments in the state. It also urged students to be more active in the day to day running of their union so as to be able to build a union and leadership that can promote and defend the interests and welfare conditions of generality of students as a step towards building a national campaign for adequate and proper funding of the polytechnic education.
Few weeks after the issuance of this statement, precisely on Monday, 16 February 2015, Comrade Sumbo Badmus was served a letter inviting him to a meeting at the Students' Affairs Unit of the institution. This letter failed to state the basis for the invitation.
In spite of this, Comrade Sumbo went ahead to honor the invitation without any knowledge that the so called meeting was a panel set up to interrogate him over the statement issued by the ERC. The panel ridiculously alleged that the statement was capable of inciting students against the school management and the state government. The panel also claimed that the ERC lacks the legitimacy to issue statements since the branch is yet to complete its registration process within the institution.
Based on these erroneous allegation and claim, the panel went ahead to force Comrade Sunbo to sign an undertaking prohibiting further activities of the ERC on campus and also threatened to place him under surveillance. The panel also threatened to invite him before Students' Disciplinary Committee (SDC) should he fail to comply with the undertaking. The height of the anti-democratic decision of the panel was to pronounce the termination of the ERC registration process which was before this time ongoing with the office of the Students' Affairs Unit.
At the receipt of this panel's anti-democratic decision which is reminiscent of the inglorious era of military dictatorship, the Oyo state Chapter of ERC wrote a letter to the office of the Dean of Students' Affairs and copied the students union and workers' unions on the campus. The purpose of this letter was to debunk the allegation that the ERC was inciting students against either the school management or the state government and also to appeal for the reversal of all the anti-democratic decisions taking by the panel based on the said allegation and claim. In this letter, emphasis was laid on the fact there was no portion of the ERC statement in contention that encouraged any act of violence or unpleasant behavior that can make such to be tagged inciting.
Unfortunately, at the point of delivering the copy of the letter meant for the SUG, after a successful delivery of the copies meant for the office of the Dean of Student Affairs Unit and workers unions on campus, Comrade Sumbo was apprehended and taken to the school security post at the instance of the leadership of the Student Union Government (SUG) which declined the receipt of the letter under the claim that they were criticised in the ERC statement earlier deemed inciting by the panel set up by the polytechnic management. Comrade Michael Ogundele, who later went to meet him at the security post, was also arrested at the instance of one Rtd Captain Ayo Vaughan, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the institution, immediately he realized that he was the one who signed the letter written by the Oyo State Chapter of ERC. Subsequently, the Dean of the Student Affairs Unit ordered them to be handed over to the Nigerian Police. Interestingly, on getting to the Sango Police station, the DPO disregarded the management false claim that the ERC statement in contention was inciting. He went on to affirm that there was nothing incriminating in the two write-ups. As a result he ordered the release of the arrested persons.
However, not satisfied with the decision of the Police, the Polytechnic Management went ahead on Friday 14 March, 2015 to issue a fresh letter to comrade Sumbo inviting him to a Students Disciplinary Committee (SDC) slated to hold on 17 March 2015 over an unspecified allegation of gross-misconduct. In responding to this false allegation, ERC through its legal counsel in Oyo State, wrote a letter to the school administration through its Deputy Registrar demanding the detail of the offence that constituted the said allegation of gross misconduct leveled against comrade Sumbo as well as enough time that will enable him to be able to adequately prepare for his defense. Up till the early hours of the day the SDC held its meeting, the Polytechnic authorities failed to respond to the letter even though its receipt was adequately acknowledged.
In the absence of the management response to this letter, Comrade Sumbo went ahead as a sign of respect for constituted authority to appear before the SDC not to make any defense but to urge the panel to comply with the request of the lawyer's letter that he should be furnished with details of the allegation of gross-misconduct leveled against him and given adequate time to prepare a defense for same. The panel was reportedly infuriated by this position and as such asked the security operatives to walk him out of the panel.
Going by this background, it is very important to state that the Polytechnic administration's game plan is to make comrade Sumbo a scapegoat so as to intimidate and create undue fear in the mind of change seeking students of the institution who are increasingly becoming dissatisfied with the state of things on the campus and are seeking for a way out. Many students are also becoming more interested in and attracted to the ERC and its radical ideas which is greatly becoming a big threat to the pro-establishment disposition of both the school administration and the rightwing leadership of the SUG. This is the major reason the polytechnic authorities and the leadership of the SUG went into an alliance to ensure that further activities of ERC on the campus are prohibited. In the last four years, members of ERC have been carrying out different open activities on campus. Aside holding regular meetings, members have organized several activities like tabling (staging of a public stall) in which thousands of leaflets were circulated openly among students and workers. During the last industrial action embarked upon by the members of Academic Staff Union of the Polytechnic (ASUP), the Polytechnic of Ibadan branch, no fewer than six thousand copies of ERC leaflets were produced and circulated within the polytechnic community as a form of lending support and solidarity to the striking workers.
Throughout the period of carrying out all these activities, ERC was at no time challenged with the issue of non-registration. In any case, long before now, the ERC has commenced the process of registration by writing a letter to the office of the students' affairs through which intention to register the ERC was first expressed. Upon the approval of this letter, which means that ERC is being considered for registration, certain requirements needed for the registration were given most of which the ERC has met.. We hold that ordinarily, the registration of organization on campus should not be more than a means through which the school administration compiles the list of legitimate and democratic organizations on campus just for a record purpose.
We hereby call on trade unions including the staff unions in the polytechnic, civil society organizations, radical student unions, youth organisations and socialists locally and internationally to help prevail on the management of the Polytechnic of Ibadan to stop the planned victimization of Olasumbo Badmus, refrain from prohibiting ERC activities on the campus and halt the attacks on democratic rights of students of the institution.
This can be done by organizing activities like solidarity actions and or sending protest letters or messages to the following principal officers of the polytechnic:
The Rector: firstname.lastname@example.org, +2348055300789
The Dean Student Affairs: email@example.com, +2348023262204
The Registrar: firstname.lastname@example.org,
The Chief Security Officer (CSO): +2348055268927
By Michael Ogundele
National Secretary ERC