The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has called for the immediate release of seven (7) secondary school students arrested and detained in prison custody and corrective centres for protesting against Aregbesola’s anti-poor education policies.
The secondary school students, 5 of whom are juveniles, were arrested after they protested last week on February 4, 2016 in Ile-Ife against the decision of the state government to stop the payment of their West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) fees. The state government excuse was that they failed mock examinations.
Reacting to this, the ERC argued that it is the poor condition of education in the state that makes it difficult for students to pass examinations. In the group’s opinion therefore, it is wrong for the state government to criminalize the victims of its failure to provide enabling atmosphere for quality education in the state.
The arrested students are: Ayodele Michael (18), Adeleke Sodiq (18), Adisa Sefiu (16), Adebisi Jamiu (16), Olatunji Segun (16), Ayoh Festus (16) and Chioma Anuoluwapo (16). The presiding Magistrate of the Osogbo magistrate court, Olusola Aluko, during the arraignment on Tuesday ordered the accused persons to be remanded in prison pending a formal bail application by their Counsel.
In a statement sent to the media on Thursday 11 February 2016 and signed by the group’s National Coordinator and Secretary, comrades Hassan Taiwo Soweto and Michael Ogundele respectively, the ERC described the arrest and detention of juveniles “as a new low in Governor Aregbesola’s repression of dissent views”.
“Before now, the state government had visited similar repressive attacks on trade unionists, academic staff striking for their rights as well as civil societies and socialist activists in the State. Feeling the dead weight of its own increasing unpopularity as a result of its mismanagement of state resources which has led to the current situation of indebtedness and cash crunch in the state, the Aregbesola government has turned to a despotic government lashing out at everyone who dare question its anti-poor policies. From using state boys and DSS operatives to harass civil society activists, lecturers, medical doctors and workers striking for their rights, Aregbesola government has now attained new lows that even the worst military regime in Nigeria’s history could not attain. Young people, barely 18, and minors are now the latest victims of Aregbesola’s machinery of repression. Instead of keeping them in school, Governor Aregbesola has locked them in prison where they would be educated in all sorts of vices. Every day they spend in prison custody is an indictment on Governor Aregbesola and a sore in our collective conscience as a people”.
The ERC pointed out that while it does not approve of violence which reportedly occurred during the students’ protest in Ile-Ife, it feels strongly that more harm would be done to society when children who should be in school are locked up in jail. No matter the excuses, the overriding consideration should be whether or not these children were right to have protested against a decision that would have negative consequence for their future.
“From putting computer tablets in the hands of school children just a few years ago, Aregbesola’s government has degenerated to such a level that it now put handcuffs around their wrists. If anyone should be in jail, it is the anti-poor politicians and particularly officials of the Osun State government whose mismanagement of the state’s resources is responsible for the situation where welfare programmes like payment of WASSCE fees that children from poor working families used to enjoy are now being withdrawn under different guises.” - The group added.
The group also called on the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the Trade Union Congress (TUC), civil society organizations and the Nigerian working masses to publicly condemn the state government and demand the immediate and unconditional release of the seven (7) students in detention.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael OgundeleNational Coordinator (07033697259) National Secretary