ERC CALLS FOR COORDINATED AND UNITED ACTION
Over the past three weeks, students have risen up on several campuses to protest against fees, poor welfare conditions etc. These protests have occurred in UNILAG, BSU, UNIPORT, AAUA, Ogun State College of Health Tech and now UI. At least 3 of these campuses have been closed while two students were, reportedly, shot dead by police in UNIPORT.
In a latest development, the University of Ibadan (UI) was shut on Tuesday 26 April 2016 after students protested against poor electricity supply and the suspension of a student for participating in a protest a semester ago.
In a certain way, this growing uprising is beginning to have the feature of a nationwide movement. As soon as one campus is closed, another seems to pick up the gauntlet. In many ways, the issues against which students are angry are similar. The connecting dot is that the socio-economic crisis ravaging the country under the Buhari government is impacting negatively on students as working class parents are getting poorer and unable to meet the rising cost of education. Also the fuel scarcity and national electricity crisis is further worsening the already terrible conditions of living and study on campuses. This is also combined with the corruption of the management of higher institutions who in their bid to cut cost ration electricity supply even when it is available from the DISCOs and also limit the use of generator to provide relief at period of power outage. Unfortunately, the Buhari capitalist government has no real solutions to any of these problems.
What is missing however is a coordinated response and a plan to unite this uprising into a nationwide movement that can begin to challenge the terrible conditions of living on campuses and the rising cost of education, linking this with a demand for increase funding for public education. A golden opportunity to do this was missed on Saturday April 16 2016 when the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) held its pre-convention at the University of Jos (UNIJOS). Not a single resolution was passed in favour of NANS organizing actions in solidarity with students in UNILAG and UNIPORT both of which had been shut at the time. In the glorious days of NANS, the pre-convention would have been used to declare solidarity actions, more so, that two students were shot dead at UNIPORT. By now, a nationwide lecture boycott would be raging on campuses in solidarity with UNILAG, UNIPORT, AAUA and BSU such that the authorities of UNILAG would not have had the temerity to go on to dissolve the Students Union as it has now done. Unfortunately this was not done.
If students in individual campuses are left to fight alone and get closed down, very soon no tertiary institution would be left opened. More so, all the issues causing the recent protests are similar from campus to campus. This means there is a concrete basis for us to unite the protests into a united nationwide movement. As the saying goes, there is strength in numbers.
On this basis, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls for the following actions which students’ activists and union leaders can work towards in their respective areas to begin to build the uprising breaking out into a nationwide movement that can win demands:
(1) The ERC calls on students unions and activists to turn the forthcoming May Day celebration into a day of protest to kick against the closure of campuses and demand that all students’ demands against fees and for improved welfare conditions must be met. The May Day is workers day celebration. It is a day of the oppressed and it is not in doubt that workers and students are being oppressed! Students Unions, JCCs and students activists should mobilize to May Day venues to march alongside workers with their placards demanding that the government intervenes in the crises on the campuses with a view to meeting all the demands.
(2) Most of the students’ protests and campus closures have occurred in the South west. We therefore call for an emergency congress of the NANS Zone D to discuss how the students’ movement in the zone should respond to the crisis. This congress should be used to bring together all students unions and organizations within the zone with a view to discuss and agree to a plan of action.
(3) Also the NANS Zone D and unions should begin to mount pressure on the national leadership of NANS to call a similar congress to allow for a discussion of a plan for a nationwide action.
(4) For a one-day lecture boycott and mass protest to solidarize with students in UNILAG, UI, UNIPORT, AAUA, BSU etc and demand adequate funding of education.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
ERC National Coordinator
ERC National Secretary