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26 March 2018
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers' Rights (CDWR), Osun State Chapter, strongly condemns the arrest, arraignment and remand of five (5) students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife by the management of the institution led by Prof. Eyitayo Ogunbodede, over flimsy reasons. Five students, namely Oyedeji Samsom, Gbenga Oloniniran, Adeniji John, Olajide Ademola and Jimoh Oladipupo, all of whom were arrested on Wednesday 21st February 2018 over issues of accommodation on campus. The students were subsequently arraigned and remanded in Ile-Ife Prisons on Thursday 22nd February, 2018. We call for the immediate release of these students and the frivolous charges against dropped.
The students were met with this brutal attack because they decided to stay on campus for various academic reasons, including undertaking their projects, Industrial Training and Teaching Practice, among others. The management, in a manner reminiscent of dark days of military absolutism, mobilized not just the school notorious security outfit, otherwise called Crackers, but also armed policemen into the hostels to destroy property, physically assault students and arrest students.
The management premised these brutal actions that should not be found in a university environment, on a very inconsiderate and scientifically-illogical Hostel Policy that seeks to reduce the number of students in hostels to four students per room. It is agreed that hostels across campuses are currently overcrowded, inadequate and of poor standards due to government's chronic underfunding of education, and mismanagement of the meagre funds allocated to the institutions by the wasteful authorities. We also agree that four or less students should be in the hostels and the hostels must be made comfortable for students. However, we disagree with a policy that seeks to make students the scapegoat of the irresponsibility of the government and the university authorities.
While the management is quick to introduce and implement a stringent Hostel Policy that seeks to send thousands of students out of hostels, the same management did not deem it fit to mobilize resources to build new hostels, as most of the hostels on campus are dilapidated and inadequate. Rather, the management wants to push most of the students to town where accommodation is not only very costly, but disorganized, poorly equipped and insecure. Many students have missed lectures, tests, and other important academic assignments due to the fact that they are staying outside campus. There have also been reported security lapses due to students staying outside the campus.
We expect that the management, as expected in an academic environment, would have provided viable alternatives especially building of new hostels on campus, while also giving students time to adapt to new policy. On the contrary, the management, within few weeks of announcing the policy, started throwing students and their properties out. Even in the outside society, it is illegal for landlord to forcefully evict tenants without first obtaining the judicial clearance. Worse still, many of the student, who are currently on break, will come back to have their properties destroyed and stolen. This is indeed a shameful conduct on the part of the university management.
However, this shameful, wicked and brutal action of the OAU management is not new under Prof. Ogunbodede-led management. Less than three months into office, the new vice chancellor rusticated eight (8) students, including four postgraduate students, for defending the rights of students. The four postgraduate students were rusticated late last year for leading peaceful protest of postgraduate students against exploitation and unwarranted elongation of their academic activities. Also, on 7th October, 2017, four students including Omole Ibukun, Oluwalade Babatunde and Jacob Tosin, were rusticated for participating in peaceful protest of students over power outage and water shortage for two weeks. In fact, ten students were arrested and detained at Moore Police Station in Ile-Ife. Yet, none of the demands of the students have been met. While five (5) students have been recalled through obnoxious conditions, three other students Omole Ibukun, Oluwalade Babatunde and Jacob Tosin are still under rustication, despite public outcry.
Prior to this time, the management had proscribed student union on the campus because the students had the gut to impeach union president and secretary, who used to be the lackeys of the management. Currently, there is no students' union in OAU. In a bid to effect the proscription of the students' union, the university management sealed up the student union building and in the process brutalized many students, most of whom were passing by the building. The men of the notorious security unit, Crackers, led by the Dean of the Students' Affair, unleashed terror, including using lethal instruments like sledge hammers, on students.
Also, just few weeks ago, the management of the institution instigated the arrest, detention and arraignment of chairman of Non-Academic Staff Union (NASU), OAU branch, for leading workers' picket of offices, during the just-ended national strike of the non-academic unions.
All this shows that the current management has unprecedented contempt for dissent views and constitutionally-guaranteed rights to peaceful assembly and expression. We expect that university should be a place where ideas will compete, and where dissent views are welcome. We do not expect the university management to turn the institution into a place where dummies, who cannot demand their rights, are bred. Interestingly, most of the issues that led to victimization of students and staff and attack on their rights, are products of irresponsibility of the university management and the government, for instance, welfare conditions on campus.
We call on Prof. Eyitayo Ogunbodede-led management to end this culture of repression and high-handedness in the university. We call on well-meaning public including staff unions on campus, labour unions, students' movement and the pro-democracy groups across the country to condemn these dictatorial tendencies of the OAU authorities, as we demand:
1. Immediate release of all remanded students in Ile-Ife Prisons. We demand that the trumped up charges against them be dropped immediately.
2. Immediate halt to the ill-conceived Hostel Policy of the management. We demand that the management concentrate on building new and adequate hostels and refurbish existing ones to meet the need of the students.
3. Immediate recall of victimized OAU students including Omole Ibukun, Oluwalade Babatunde and Jacob Tosin
4. Immediate restoration of the students' union and end to management's interference in student union activities
5. End to the culture of victimization and repression on OAU campus and other campuses across the country
6. Massive funding of the education sector by the government. Furthermore, we demand democratic management of our schools and the education sector to include elected representatives of students and workers. We also demand public probe of the financial activities of various administrations in our ivory towers and educational institutions.