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31 October 2017
Four (4) students' leaders and activists of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) have been placed on indefinite suspension by the management over a peaceful protest that held on the campus on Friday October 6th, 2017. The action was sequel to the resolution of a Congress of the Students' Union on poor welfare conditions, especially the power outage that greeted students upon resumption. Those suspended are: Omole Ibukun, member of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) – CWI Nigeria – and National Secretary of Education Rights Campaign (ERC), Jacob Tosin, Vice President of Students Union, Oluwalade Babatunde, Chairman Students' Transport Management Committee and Udeh John. (see earlier report: OAU: SUSPENSION OF STUDENTS' LEADERS FOR PARTICIPATING IN PEACEFUL PROTEST)
These students have committed no crime by joining other students in protest against the poor welfare conditions, including an embarrassing situation of bed-bug infested hostels. Therefore, we urge the mass of students, staff unions, trade unions and activists to join in demanding their immediate and unconditional reinstatement and improvement in learning and general welfare conditions on campus.
According to the letter of suspension titled "Suspension from the University Pending Police investigations of Criminal Activities", the management alleged that the October 6, 2017 students' protest for the restoration of power supply and improvement in other conditions of learning and living disrupted activities on campus, and that the students forcefully released their colleagues who were hurled into Police detention for joining the protest by University's security personnel acting on the instruction of the Vice-Chancellor.
It should be noted that this protest was sequel to the resolution of Congress of the Students' Union, after the University authorities ignored the complaints made by the students (before embarking on semester break in September, 2017) over the breeding of bedbugs in their hostels and erratic supply of electricity and water. The resolution of the Students' Union Congress to protest deleterious conditions on campus was supported by students en masse. On the day of the protest, 6 October 2017, several hundreds of students trooped out in response to the congressional resolution.
Characteristically, the immediate response of the university was the deployment of personnel of the University's security unit to repress the protest by assaulting prominent students' activists, who were beaten indiscriminately and hurled into detention at the Divisional Police Station, Moore, Ile Ife. The police without concerns for the injuries already sustained by these students detained these students without as much as listening to them.
If not for the timely intervention of the leadership of the Union that employed the service of a lawyer, the detained students would have continued to languish in detention where the police joined in beating them to stupor. It is noteworthy that management of the institution waited until the protest before power was restored after students resumed into darkness six days earlier.
There is clearly a conspiracy between the University management and police authorities to victimize the activists. The management, in the suspension letter, hinged its action on a purported Police investigation of the suspended students. Till this moment, none of the suspended students has been notified by police authority of any ongoing investigation. Similarly, the suspension was issued without as much as giving the victims a platform to defend themselves of the allegation levied against them. The method of reporting students to Police, and going ahead to suspend them in the name of "Police investigation", was typical of the previous Vice-Chancellor who resorted to such means when questioned over his disbursement of university funds.
For a Vice-Chancellor that is just about four months old in office, the suspension of four undergraduates over peaceful protests coming shortly after the suspension of four postgraduate students who protested against an exploitative fee policy of the university shows that the new management is not fundamentally different from his predecessors.
Meanwhile, for Omole Ibukun, DSM member and National Secretary of the Education Rights Campaign, this is not his first suspension. His first suspension was also in this same autocratic manner just over a year ago, until a political and legal struggle of students forced the suspension to be reversed. In that last suspension, he was suspended over a Facebook post he did not write. This time around he was suspended for a protest he was not around to participate in. This shows that this victimization is all about a University management agenda to smash all possible sources of opposition to its anti-poor policies.
We call on the mass of students, the students union, staff unions on the campus, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), civil society, trade unions, socialists and human rights organisations and the general public to support the demand for the immediate and unconditional reinstatement of the unjustly suspended students as well as improvement in living learning and working conditions in the university. We call for solidarity actions including writing of protest letter, calls or text message to the following principal officers of the university: