The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly condemns the rustication of students’ union leaders at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) for their role in leading fellow students to protest on April 6 and 7, 2016 against the deplorable welfare situation, epileptic power and water supply and high cost of living on campus.
In a communique made available to BlackBox Nigeria by the National Coordinator of the body, Michael Ogundele, the Education activists called on UNILAG students not to take this attack on their democratic rights lying low. The right to peacefully protest is a fundamental human right. When this is taken away, then students would be no more than slaves. Therefore students should rise up in mass protest and demonstration to demand the immediate and unconditional recall of their rusticated leaders and lifting of the suspension placed on Students Union activities since the April protest.
The President, Mohammed Olaniyan and the Speaker, Adeonipekun Adeyanju of the University of Lagos Students’ Union (ULSU) along with several other activists were rusticated for between two (2) and four (4) semesters each. This is on the heels of the suspension of Union activities, ban of meetings and gatherings and other attacks on the democratic rights of students since April 2016.
No doubt, the rustication is an attempt by the authorities to claw back the right to students’ unionism which UNILAG students just won back less than 2 years ago after a decade of proscription. In carrying out the rustication, the University relied heavily on contrived and concocted allegations, many of which that had no bearing to the triple issues of poor welfare conditions, epileptic power/water supply and high cost of living for which the mass of Unilag students trooped out in protest on April 6 and 7, 2016. Against this background, we call on students to reject the rustication with protests, boycotts and demonstrations.
As far as we are concerned, all of the steps taken to violate students’ democratic rights since the April 6 and 7 protest only go to portray the Prof. Rahman Bello-led management of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) as an intolerant and despotic authority.
By rusticating students’ leaders for demanding better welfare conditions, UNILAG is sending a clear message that it considers students as no more than slaves who must not dare to speak up when oppressed and exploited. At this rate, and if the authorities are not challenged, very soon students would lose all fundamental rights accorded by the 1999 constitution (As amended). And where students are successfully enslaved, very soon workers would lose their own freedom as well. This is why the silence of the staff unions in the face of the creeping dictatorship of the UNILAG authorities is dangerous because once the authorities are able to cow students; they could visit similar attacks on academic and non-academic staff anytime they demand their rights.
We therefore call on ASUU, SSANU, NASU and NAAT to speak up in condemnation of the rustication of the students union leaders. As experience has shown, it is the collective mobilization and uprising of students supported by workers that can reverse this despotic situation developing at the University of Lagos.