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23 October 2017
We in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) strongly condemn the suspension of 4 students activists and leaders of the students' union of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, over students' protest against power outage and poor living and learning conditions. This latest suspension brings to 8 the total number of students activists that have so far been victimized in the last few months.
One of those suspended is Omole Ibukun (aka IBK). He is the National Secretary of the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) – an organization committed to struggles for improved funding of education and democratic management of schools.
We hereby demand immediate and unconditional reinstatement of Omole Ibukun - the National Secretary of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Jacob Tosin - Vice President of Students Union, Oluwalade Babatunde - Chairman Students' Transport Management Committee and Udeh John, who were suspended for joining other students to protest deleterious conditions on the campus of the university. We also demand the recall of the 4 post-graduate students earlier suspended for peacefully protesting against extension of their programme and increment in fees. We call for a halt to further victimization and attacks on students democratic rights. Freedom of expression and assembly are inalienable rights.
We appeal to the Governing Council and the visitor to the University to call Prof. Ogunmodede to order. This is a Vice Chancellor that has not spent up to 6 months in office and he has already suspended a total of 8 students (4 undergraduate and 4 post graduate) for peacefully protesting against anti-student policies. We also urge the mass of OAU students, staff unions in the university, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), trade unions and all Nigerians who hold fundamental rights to freedom of thought and speech in high esteem to support the demand for immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the suspended students and improved conditions of learning and living in the university.
We reiterate our position in the ERC that victimizing students' activists – who raise concerns over the degeneration of academic infrastructures, quality of learning and mismanagement of University funds - is despotic and an assault on the right to freedom of speech and assembly.
Until the protest of students on 6th October (almost a week after reopening of the university), the University was in complete darkness due to power outage, making healthy living and learning on a campus characterized by overcrowded lecture rooms and hostels impossible. It is crucial to note that coupled with the power outage is an embarrassing situation of bed-bug infested hostels, which these students formally complained about before vacation, and still resumed into same few weeks ago.
We therefore received with shock the news that while implementing the congressional resolution of the students' union for a lecture boycott over abject conditions of learning and living, some activists were hounded, indiscriminately beaten and hurled into police custody at Moore, Ile-Ife by security personnel of the University on the order of the Vice-Chancellor. The detained students, some of whom became victims of the new suspension order were released due to the intervention of a lawyer employed by the leadership of the Students' Union for that purpose.
The suspension of Omole Ibukun, Jacob Tosin, Udeh John and Oluwalade Babatunde in connection to this matter was unjustifiable and carried out in violation of the principle of natural justice. This is so because none of the victimized students was queried or invited to any panel of the varsity for the purpose of responding to the allegations levied against them by the University management. The university has hinged their suspension on a so-called Police investigation. However, the only shred of justification for the suspension becomes spurious given the fact that none of the victimized students were (or have been contacted) by police authorities concerning any investigation.
We have no doubt that the current suspension is no more than a ploy to dissuade students from raising concerns over their deleterious conditions of learning and living, and which is in sync with the despotic style of the previous substantive Vice-Chancellor who resorted to victimization of activists when questioned over the management of billions of Naira released to the university by the federal government between 2014 and 2016. The intention of the management, beyond the trump-up charges adduced as offenses, becomes apparent given the fact that some students of the University's post-graduate college were similarly suspended after protesting against policies of the university they considered inimical to their interests.
We in the ERC reiterate that the suspension of students as response to their demands for improved conditions on campus is unacceptable in a democratic society, especially in a University where students are supposed to be encouraged to think and speak critically.