The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemns in strong terms the unlawful arrest and subsequent remand in prison custody of Adeyeye Femi and 12 other student activists. The 13 students were arrested by heavily armed Policemen on Friday March 31, 2017 around the premises of University of Lagos on their way to show their displeasure at the suspension of a visually-impaired student and to demand the reinstatement of all suspended student activists
The 13 student activists were taken into custody at Kirikiri prison on Saturday, 1st April 2017 on the order of the Special Offenses Mobile Court Oshodi where they were arraigned by the police on completely false charges.
We demand their immediate release and that all charges against them, which are clearly trumped-up, must be dropped. We also call on members of the staff unions like ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT in the education sector, to prevail on the University of Lagos (UNILAG) management to immediately reinstate all the activists under victimization and recognize the rights of students to organize in a Students’ Union.
The students were arraigned on the false accusation of disorderly conduct at Television Continental (TVC) where they had gone to press home the demand for the reinstatement of rusticated student activists including a visually challenged student who was the latest victim. This accusation has been publicly denied by the management of TVC. According to the rejoinder by the TVC, the students only came to their premises to condemn the suspension/rustication of student activists and call for their recall. Besides, the television revealed that they did not lodge complaint to the police alleging any disruption or destruction of properties at TVC when the students visited the station. Despite this clarification and denial of its claim by the TVC management, the police through the Lagos State Commissioner of Police (CP) has continued to lie brazenly to justify the actions of its operatives
The background to this illegal arrest and detention is the repression of students’ activists at the University of Lagos for leading students’ protests in April 2016 against poor welfare conditions, bed-bug infested mattresses and high cost of food and basic needs on campus. 11 students’ activists were rusticated last year over the protest. Now the number has increased to 13 with the rustication on Thursday 30th March 2017 of Ochuba Chichebe and Lawrence Success, a visually impaired student.
We wish to make clear that the University of Lagos (UNILAG) management is complicit in this illegal arrest and detention carried out by the police because this is not the first time the UNILAG management had employed the services of the police to disperse peaceful protests and repress those campaigning against victimization of students’ activists.
We also call for the immediate removal of the Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Fatai Owoseni for turning the police, a public institution funded by tax payers’ money, into private thugs of the management of the University of Lagos.
Clearly, all the actions of the police since the campaign for the recall of victimized students and restoration of banned students union commenced in UNILAG show there is a criminal conspiracy between the University of Lagos authorities and the Commissioner of police to continue to deploy the police as private thugs of UNILAG to harass students and put down dissent view.
We also call for the disbandment of the special offenses mobile courts which are kangaroo courts set up by the Lagos state government to fast-track its agenda of using the judiciary to repress poor people, artisans and traders all in order to raise the Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) of the state.
The arbitrary employment of the judicial system to stifle the constitutional rights of students to protest, rally and hold dissenting opinions is condemnable. The 13 students were brought before a Magistrate at a mobile court specially created for Traffic offence. Aside the fact that there are serious questions over the capacity of the mobile court to adjudicate over this matter, there is no justification for exposing 13 young, vibrant youths to the cruel experience of prison.
We demand that the UNILAG authorities put an end to its growing vindictive actions. The Nigerian Police must stop the ingratiating service of deploying state’s forces against student activists who are only making legitimate demands for improvement in their conditions and an end to vindictive suspension/rustication of students.
We reiterate our demands for the (1) immediate and unconditional release of 13 unjustly detained student activists, (2) unconditional recall of all victimized student activists, (3) restoration of banned students union and respect for democratic rights of students and education workers, (4) removal of Fatai Owoseni as Lagos CP for turning the police into the private thugs of the UNILAG management, (5) end to the atmosphere of repression and fear imposed on the campus, (6) improved academic and welfare conditions as well as (7) democratic management of the university through the involvement of elected representatives of students and staff in all decision-making organs.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto
ERC National Secretary