Courage and Determination must now be matched with a clear plan to take the Struggle Forward
YNA (Omomeewa) – Coordinater, ERC Lagos State Chapter
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) Lagos State Chapter joined a protest march on Monday 6 March 2017 organized by the #SaveUNILAG Coalition to demand the unconditional reinstatement of the 11 rusticated students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and the restoration of independent students union among other demands.
They were rusticated for their participation in a students’ protest in April last year over poor welfare, epileptic power and water supply, conditions, high cost of food and other basic needs on campus etc.
Other demands of the March 6 protest are immediate halt to all victimization especially the 40 PhD students invited to a panel for questioning recent hike in their accommodation fees, improved students welfare, reversal of hike in Post Graduate accommodation fees, proper funding of education and democratization of decision making organs in academic institutions to involve elected representatives of students and staff.
About 30 members and allies of the ERC joined the protest. The protest, about a hundred strong, was organized by the Save UNILAG coalition which compromises the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), SAYASI, ANSA, NANS JCC Lagos and other groups. Many activists joined the protest in solidarity from schools within Lagos and surrounding states like Osun, Ogun and Edo States. The protest march kicked off from the Labour house Yaba.
Unfortunately because of the climate of fear on the campus as a result of the vicious clampdown on democratic rights by the school authority, UNILAG students are afraid to express their minds and therefore could not join the protest. In the aftermath of the protest last April, students were forced to sign indemnity forms with the veiled threat that this could be used against them in the event they are found involved in any activity considered by the University management as against its interests.
From labour house protesters marched down to Unilag gate with solidarity songs. Prior getting to Unilag several contingents of armed police had barricaded the road leading to University at about 60 meters distance before the gate. Two police vans were stationed to cut off the road while the armed police stayed behind the vehicles prepared to prevent the protesters from getting any further. Instead of turning back, protesters set up a human barricade in front of the police vehicles and engaged the police in agitations. Just at that point, a heavy rain started and lasted for about four hours. Yet the protesters, drenched in the heavy rain, did not budge from the barricade.
This courage and determination demonstrated by the protesters eventually forced the police to begin to look for a way out to ease the standoff. Eventually, the Area Commander of the police had to come down to address the leaders of the protest. He agreed to our demand which was to make a principal officer of the University to come out to listen to the demands of the protesters. The Dean of Students Affairs (DSA) of the University came down to listen to the demands.
The Secretary of the Coalition, Sanyaolu Juwon and the NANS JCC Lagos chairman Samson Moses presented protesters’ demands to the hearing of the DSA. In his reaction, the DSA noted that our demands were taken and we should be rest assured that he would deliver the message appropriately to the right quarters. In rounding up the presentation, ERC National Coordinator H.T Soweto emphasized to the DSA that this would not be the end of the protest and that more actions would be taken in the coming weeks unless and until the University meets the demands of the protesters.
Various Broadcasting media stations were there to cover the protests. Notable ones are SilverBird Television, Galaxy TV, TVC, Core TV, Punch newspaper, Sahara Reporters etc.
After this protest, there is an urgent need for a meeting of the coalition to review the strength and weaknesses of the action with a view to mapping out activities to build the campaign further.