The authorities of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) have commenced a vicious agenda to victimize over 22 students leaders for their roles in the students protest of April 6 and 7, 2016. Some of these students have already been invited to appear before a Senate Disciplinary Panel over sundry allegations of misdemeanor.
The 48-hour protest was called by the University of Lagos Students Union (ULSU) last April over complaints of inadequate electricity and water supply to hostels and academic areas and the high cost of living on campus.
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on the University authorities to desist from following this ruinous path of victimizing a few leaders over a protest in which thousands of students participated in livid anger over the deterioration of their living and studying conditions. As examples of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and other crisis-ridden academic institutions show, this sort of vindictive “slash and burn” approach will further worsen the crisis as it will completely break down whatever relationship still exist between the administration and the students community. Without a healthy relationship between the students populace and the administration, the stage is set for a recurring decimal of conflict.
We therefore demand a halt to the on-going disciplinary process especially because it violates all known principles of natural justice. For instance, prior to their invitation to the Senate Disciplinary panel on recent students protest, there is no evidence that any of the union leaders and activists were invited to a fact-finding panel. This omission shows that this process is merely a witch hunt to go after perceived enemies of the authorities amongst students.
We equally demand a halt to all other actions, many of which are plainly illegal, that the University has taken since April 28 to impose an atmosphere of fear and trepidation on campus and diminish the democratic rights of students. Some of these actions include forcing students and their parents to sign an indemnity and undertaken form as a condition for re-opening of the University in May, ban on students gathering, suspension of the Students Union, ejection of union leaders from their official accommodation days to examination.
Despite efforts by University officials to blackmail the last April’s protest by claiming that union leaders had other motive, the reality is that issues of poor welfare conditions and high cost of living were the uppermost in the minds of the thousands of students that trooped out on April 6 and 7. Unfortunately, none of these demands has been met till this very day. Electricity and water supply in hostel and academic areas are still inadequate, costs of basic items are still beyond the means of poor students while the University has failed to provide answers to enquiries as to the whereabouts of the two additional generators the University is meant to have. Instead, the university is more interested in going after students leaders and their union.
Especially for a University that barely more than a year ago had taken the salutary step of restoring students unionism after a decade of proscription, this unfolding situation is not only unacceptable, it will also have far-reaching implication for the image of the University. Unless the authorities desist, further attacks on the students populace and their right to independent unionism will only portray the administration of the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Rahman Bello as an intolerant one.
We call on all students to prepare to defend their affected leaders. We also call on civil society organizations and staff unions in the university to openly condemn the planned attacks on the democratic rights of the affected students and be prepared to organize solidarity actions.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Michael Ogundele
National Coordinator (07033697259) National Secretary