Once again, Repression in Nigerian Universities - Appeal for Solidarity

The regime headed by Olusegun Obasanjo in Nigeria prides itself at being "democratic". Recently it was involved in passing judgement on the electoral process in Zimbabwe. But behind the democratic façade hides the same old despotic regime of the military that governed Nigeria for many years in the past. At the University of Ilorin, a leading student activist, Tosin Akinrogunde, has been expelled for protesting against the sacking of teachers who were involved in a strike in 2001. During his long history of student union activity he has been expelled several times, and in 1999 was also arrested and imprisoned for five weeks. This case will go to court and will incur legal costs, so we appeal for donations.

The regime headed by Olusegun Obasanjo in Nigeria prides itself at being "democratic". Recently it was involved in passing judgement on the electoral process in Zimbabwe. But behind the democratic façade hides the same old despotic regime of the military that governed Nigeria for many years in the past.

What is now happening at the University of Ilorin is a clear example of this. Last year 49 lecturers were sacked for having taken part in strike action. There case is still pending. At the Faculty of Health Sciences a student leader, Tosin Akinrogunde, has been taking up the issue of the lecturers sacked in that Faculty. Because of this he has now been expelled from the University. This shows quite clearly that Nigeria still has a long way to go before genuine democratic rights are guaranteed. University lecturers are sacked for going on strike. Then students who show solidarity with these sacked lecturers are themselves expelled.

These same students were arrested back in 1999 and kept in prison for five weeks under terrible conditions. During their detention they were severely beaten. However, the courts later discharged the case and the students were reinstated. Now the University of Ilorin authorities are taking up the charges of 1999 in order to expel Tosin Akinrogunde. This is clearly an excuse to cover up for the real reason for his expulsion: the fact that he had the audacity to express support for the sacked lecturers.

The full details of this case are listed below in an appeal we have received from these Nigerian students.

We appeal to all our supporters to do the following:

1. Send protest letters and e-mails to the President of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), demanding that the expelled student Tosin Akinrogunde, be reinstated, and that the final statement of results of Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina be released (see details below). In your protest letters you should specifically mention the vice-chancellor Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, who has been leading this attack on the lecturers and the students. You should also demand the reinstatement of the 49 sacked lecturers.

2. Send any copies of your messages to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. so that the students in Nigeria can be made aware of the campaign.

3. As this case is now going to court the students will need financial help to cover legal costs. So any amount of money, however big or small, will help. So you should send any contributions to:

Donations can be made online with a credit card here: Nigeria Legal Defence Campaign and cheques made payable to the "Nigerian Legal Defence Fund" should be sent to:

Nigeria Legal Defence Campaign
PO Box 6977
London N1 3JN

Payments can also be made into our special account with the Girobank. The account name is: Nigerian Legal Defence Fund. The account number is: 38 332 3282 (Girobank).

 

Unilorin Anti-Victimization Campaign

Victimization galore at the University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria

In recent time, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, has been in the news for the victimization of members of Academic staff Union of Universities (ASUU). 49 lecturers have been sacked since May 2001, for their participation in the ASUU nationwide strike action between April and June 2001.

However, a clear pattern of the victimization process is now emerging with the recent repression of student activists on that campus known to be opposed to the dictatorial policies of the University administration led by Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem. And this is particularly exemplified in the case of Tosin Akinrogunde, Lanre Akinola, Rasheedat Adesina and other witch-hunted activists on campus.

1. The case of Tosin Akinrogunde

Tosin Akinrogunde is a 600 level medical student of University of Ilorin. Recently, he was expelled from the University for offences allegedly committed on May 10, 1999. Tosin Akinrogunde has been a victim of perpetual political repression and victimization with catalogues of arrest by the state, detention, suspension, rustication and expulsion in the past particularly under the leadership of the incumbent vice-chancellor, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem.

Though the Unilorin administration, according to the letter of expulsion dated March 25, 2002, claimed to have expelled Tosin for offences allegedly committed on May 10, 1999 or thereabouts, the real motive for the recent expulsion is because of his perceived radical stance on the present stalemate/crisis in the Faculty of Health Sciences occasioned by the sacking of some lecturers in the said faculty who participated in the ASUU nationwide strike between April and June 2001.

We know as a fact that the stalemate in the said faculty among others is already causing restiveness among the students concerned with the potential of escalating to a major protest in the near future. Suffice to say that a political figure of Tosin needs to be eliminated to prevent the public from knowing the truth.

This is more so when facts abound that there is no moral and legal basis for the expulsion order. The offences allegedly committed as stated in the letter of expulsion are:

(i) That you, Mr. Tosin Olamigoke Akinrogunde 92/032181 of Faculty of Health Sciences acting in concert with others now at large sometime 10th May, 1999 or thereabout, forced your ways into the main campus of the university where you mobilized some students against the University authorities to protest the payment of newly introduced school fees and levies by the University contrary to your matriculation pledge.

(ii) That you and your collaborators damaged the main gate of the University main campus contrary to regulation 3(iv) of the Students' Handbook of Information and Regulations.

These same allegations were, however, the subject of a criminal trial at the Ilorin Magistrate Court between May 1999 and November 2000 based on an earlier complaint by the same university administration to the Kwara State Police Command, Ilorin. At the end of the trial, Tosin and 11 other activists of the National Association of Nigeria Students (NANS) were discharged.

The gist of the incident that led to the arrest of the NANS activists was that there was an astronomical increment in school fees in May 1999, which subsequently led to the mass protest of students, and subsequent intervention by the NANS. On May 10, 1999, NANS delegates from other universities came to Unilorin to intervene in the matter. They held discussions with the students and also with the representatives of the university administration. Surprisingly, after their discussion with the university representatives, on their way out of town they were ambushed by university security officers and policemen, along Unity Road, Ilorin, wherein seven of them were subsequently arrested, brutalised and detained.

Following the arrest, on May 11, 1999, Tosin Akinrogunde and three others were at the office of the Dean, Student Affairs to ask for the dean's intervention towards releasing the detained students. Unexpectedly, while waiting for the arrival of the dean, University security officers in their hundreds pounced on Tosin and three others. They were arrested and subsequently handed over to police without any explanation. They were later charged to court on May 13, 1999, for criminal conspiracy, trespass, inciting disturbance, mischief and resisting arrest. All the student activists pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Notwithstanding that these offences were ordinarily bailable, the presiding magistrate, I. B. Garba, refused them bail and ordered that they should be detained in Ilorin Prison. They were later released on bail after spending 36 days in prison. However, after several adjournments of the case, on November 23, 2000, the case was terminated and Tosin Akinrogunde and 11 others were subsequently discharged.

It is therefore illegal and unconstitutional for the Unilorin administration to expel Tosin Akinrogunde on the same charges, which a court of competent jurisdiction has found him not guilty. In spite of the fact that when Tosin appeared before Student Disciplinary Committee (SDC) on January 30, 2002, he made available to the committee evidence that he had been earlier discharged by a court of law for the same offences, the Unilorin administration still pronounced him guilty and consequently expelled him.

However, it is important to note that while Tosin was in prison, the university acting under the guise that a criminal matter was pending against Tosin, suspended him indefinitely from the university. The suspension order was later quashed by the Federal High Court, Ilorin on August 20, 1999.

Incidentally, many months after the criminal matter had been dislodged at the Magistrate's Court, Ilorin, and Tosin and 11 others had been subsequently discharged, the university administration's appeal, against the ruling of Federal High Court, Ilorin, at the Court of Appeal, Ilorin, was upheld. It is noteworthy, however, that the Court of Appeal ruled on June 18, 2001, that Tosin, like any other student charged with a criminal offence, can be suspended pending his clearance by the trial magistrate court.

Meanwhile, the present action of the university administration expelling Tosin Akinrogunde from the university after having been cleared and discharged by the trial magistrate court runs contrary even to the ruling of the appeal court which previously seemed to be in favour of the university. Going by the aforementioned ruling of the appeal court, the university administration cannot try to punish Tosin for the same allegations that he had been discharged of by the trial magistrate court.

From the aforementioned, it is unjust, immoral and vindictive on the part of university administration to have expelled Tosin at this point in time with only few weeks to the conclusion of his academic programme at the medical school. As earlier mentioned, the expulsion at this point in time of Tosin from the University is the peak of victimization of both staff and students by the dictatorial, recalcitrant, vindictive and corrupt Unilorin administration led by the vice-chancellor, Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, who presently enjoys the backing of the university's Governing Council and President Olusegun Obasanjo, with active support and collaboration.

2. The case of Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina

The final statement of results of Lanre Akinola and Rasheedat Adesina, who finished their academic programmes in the 1997/98 and 1998/99 academic sessions respectively, are being withheld based on their alleged involvement in the students' protest of June 1998.

In September 2001, acting on an earlier petition by the duo on their withheld results, the federal government's Committee on Politically Victimized and Rusticated Students and Staff, headed by Special Adviser to President Obasanjo on Education, Chief S. K. Babalola, intervened; and the University administration “pardoned” the aforementioned activists. However, recent developments point to the contrary. It is clear that the university administration was not sincere with the pardon but only pronounced it as a deceit to prevent a potential students' protest on the matter.

Instead of releasing their final statement of results in the spirit of the letter of pardon, the university administration recently directed that all examinations they took after their invitations to the university's Student Disciplinary Committee (SDC) over the May/June 1998 student protests should be invalidated.

It should be noted that the issue of their invitations to the SDC based on the report of Professor Musibau Akanji's Senate Committee on student protests of May/June 1998 became a matter for adjudication at the Federal High Court, Ilorin, from October 29, 1998 to September 2, 1999. The earlier-mentioned report including their invitation to SDC was found to be inconsistent with the rule of natural justice and their fundamental human rights to fair hearing. The report was subsequently declared ultra vires and annulled in its entirety.

As mentioned above, Lanre Akinola, with Rasheedat Adesina, was never placed on suspension, rustication or expulsion throughout his days at the University of Ilorin including the period after his invitation to SDC to the time he took the examination in contention. The vice-chancellor affirmed this when he stated in his letter dated June 11, 2001, with reference number VCO/131.S.1, addressed to the Chairman, Committee on Politically Victimized and Rusticated Students and Staff that: “At present Mr. Akinola is neither rusticated nor expelled.” Thus, they took the said examination as bonafide students of the University. Hence, there is no moral or legal justification for the continual travails of the duo.

Conclusion

Thus, it is obvious from the above-mentioned cases, including the pending matter of victimized Unilorin lecturers, that concerted efforts are required by all rightful thinking individuals and justice lovers to reverse the present dictatorial and unjust actions of Unilorin authorities.

To this extent, pressure should be put on the federal government to call to order Unilorin authorities in the interest of justice, fair play and peace on the university campuses.

Akinrinde K. Z.
Campaign Coordinator