Students from different tertiary institutions yesterday stormed the University of Lagos (UNILAG) over the rustication of 11 students of the school.
The mass protest was held under the platform of “Save UNILAG Coalition” comprising the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), the Alliance of Nigerian Students against Neoliberal Attacks (ANSWER), the Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED) Students Union Government (SUG), Education Rights Campaign (ERC), the Students and Youth Activist Support Initiative (SYASI), United Action for Democracy UAD, the Nigeria University Education Students Association (NUESA) and a host of other civil societies.
Yesterday’s early downpour did not deter the protesters.
Two of them were injured as the Sabo Police Division attempted to stop them from entering the school.
A protester, Seyi Daniels, said the police tried to stop the students with teargas and guns.
“Stopping students’ right is giving our nation false hope. Management has locked the school gate because of the protest. Students and commuters are stranded,” he said.
Lagos police command’s spokesman, Olarinde Famous-Cole, an Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP), said they were not aware of any protest.
The Save Unilag Coalition Secretary, Juwon Sanyaolu, said the rusticated students were only expressing their feelings about the condition of the university hostel.
Sangolu said: “Between April 6 and 8 last year, UNILAG students protested bad welfare condition on the campus. Even a chicken cannot survive in that school hostel for a week and yet you put human beings there. You stock 20 of them despite paying N26,000 for accommodation fee in a rat hole you call a hostel. That was the condition these students protested against. Instead of listening to the demands of these students, they rusticated 11 of them and subsequently disbanded the students’ union. We cannot continue to run a university like a prison camp and expect a meaningful development. Therefore these students who are not criminals should be reinstated with immediate effect.
“Today, the condition of living is quite abysmal. It has not changed. The students are not protesting not because they are not in support, but because the management has forced them to signed an indemnity form. The form contains pages, paragraphs that do not only violate humanity but violate the constitution. On this note, we say the management should reverse the obnoxious policies and restore immediately a better condition of living in the university.
He added: “The management increased the accommodation fee of post-graduate students from N60,000 to N120,000. The students wrote a letter, demanding a review of the increment. The next thing the management did was to ask about 40 students to face a disciplinary panel. The government is not even paying the N18,000 minimum wage; they are owing our parents salaries, commodities are high, families can hardly boast of two square meal per day and yet you are increasing fee under this biting recession, how thoughtless can that be? You want to victimise them with a vindictive panel instead of reasoning with their demands. The panel that was set up should be disbanded. Our students should be granted freedom of speech.”
National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) Lagos chapter chairman Moses Adewale said the students union should be given freedom to operate.
“The management has chosen not to make these students valuable for themselves and their families. The condition of the students in the school is unfavourable. The students are being treated like kids forgetting that a tertiary institution is made up of adolescents and youths. The institution is beyond going to the classroom to receive lecture. Our students need to be socially involved. Having a union has nothing to do with politics. It is supposed to fight for the rights of our students. How could the UNILAG management just believe that they have the constituted authority to dissolve the union?”
Head of ERC, Lagos State University (LASU) chapter, Dhikrullahi Aasim Akorede, said: “We are here to fight against any form of victimisation in the educational sector. Our concern is that why should the management rusticate a student based on the article he wrote on social media. If at all they want justice to reign, they should sue him to court. That is an infringement on the right to expression. We are demanding they reinstate Femi Adeyeye and the 10 others. We were in the rain all through to make our demand. Two of our members were arrested because the victims of the struggle requested that we follow them in.”
Addressing the students, the Dean of Students Affairs Prof Ademola Adeleke said he would take their petition to the school management.
UNILAG Deputy Registrar, Information Unit, Mr Toyin Adebule, said “This is to inform the general public that the University of Lagos students are not protesting. The gathering outside the university gate consists of rusticated students and allies. They have challenged the university in court and the case has been struck out. Let me assure you that lectures are ongoing without any form of disruption.”