OAU ADMINISTRATION MOVE TO VITIMISE STUDENT ACTIVISTS FOR DEMANDING RESTORATION OF STUDENTS’ UNION
Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU)
OAU ADMINISTRATION MOVE TO VICTIMISE STUDENT ACTIVISTS FOR DEMANDING RESTORATION OF STUDENTS’ UNION
- STUDENTS MUST RESIST THIS NEW VICTIMISATION ATTEMPT
- OAU MANAGEMENT MUST WITHDRAW ALL ALLEGATIONS AGAINST THEM AND DISSOLVE THE VINDICTIVE DISCIPLINARY PANEL!
- APRIL 12 CONGRESS MUST HOLD AS SCHEDULED!
The OAU administration has again showed it is diametrically opposed to the democratic and constitutional rights of students to associate. Immediately after a political symposium organized on Wednesday 3rd of April 2013 by the Transition Committee formed by the university management, the management started dispatching letters to about 15 student activists including 3 members of the ERC inviting them to appear before a disciplinary panel over some frivolous allegations. Considering the massive attendance at the symposium and the bold resolution of the students to mobilise for a congress on April 12 with a view to using this to kickstart the electioneering process into a union by setting up an electoral commission at the congress, it is then not unexpected that the university is coming with this despotic and draconian measure to ensure that the proposed congress is not held and the union remains proscribed.
We in the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) condemn this undemocratic action of the management, and we call for the immediate withdrawal of charges against the student activists. We also maintain that the April 12 congress must hold as scheduled to form the electoral and elections petition committees as proposed!
At a symposium organized by the students’ union Transition Committee (SUTC), students unanimously resolved that a congress be held on April 12 with the agenda of forming an electoral and elections petition committee. To show the determination of students to have their union back, an ad-hoc committee was set up to ensure the congress is properly mobilised for and held.
It was obviously this decision that made the university to hastily form a disciplinary panel to intimidate and victimize student activists who have been spearheading the struggle for union restoration. To show its blatant disregard for the rule of law, the university even invited some activists directly to disciplinary panel without any previous query. Even those that had been previously queried were asked to attend a panel within less than 24 hours of the service of the query on them – an obvious attempt to deny them their constitutional right to seek legal advice and representation. Clearly, it has been revealed from the start what is to be expected from this vindictive panel – another fictitious report and wanton victimization.
The allegations to be defended by these students are obviously frivolous and cooked-up. As far back as January 4, 2013, 12 OAU student activists were queried on frivolous and cooked-up grounds of “chasing students (30,000 students) away from lecture halls”, and “attending an ERC organized symposium which is not registered with the university management”. Two students out of the OAU 12 were even additionally alleged of “breaking into floor ‘O’ of the Senate Building (this is a location heavily guarded by university security) and “beat security man on duty”. However, the victimisation plan is even now extended to activists outside this original queried 12 so as to ensure that the coast is for once cleared for the management to continually ban the union. Other set of student activists are now invited to this disciplinary panel under such grounds as “participating in a candle light procession organized for Hugo Chavez by the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM)” and “attending a meeting of the DSM”. What a University administration?
It is not at all sheer coincidence that the university is assiduously interested in ‘discipline’ at a period when its appointed SUTC signaled a green light on union restoration by agreeing to organize a congress for the immediate formation of electoral committee.
Firstly, the allegations preferred against individuals are mostly untrue from their obvious illogicalities. Obviously, nothing judicious or fair will come out from this panel if it continues- it will eventually mean suspension or expulsion for the student activists whose only crime is their consistent demand for the Students Union to be restored so that the mass of students can democratically organise their own affairs and collectively fight for their rights.
The question of what is to be gained by the management is too explicit to be asked; of course, the management will continually ban the union and attempt to cow radical students with the threat of victimisation. For the three years the management has banned the union, students have continued to pay a compulsory N100 each for union dues. Of course, the administration has made over N9 million in 3 years from this avenue without having to remit it to any union or students. This may also explain why the administration will do anything to put the union in continual proscription given the simple fact that a restored union will mean an end to the unaccountable N3 million drained yearly. Contrary to this, we in the ERC believe that the rights of students to a students’ union should not be trampled upon out of selfish interest and material gains.
For us in ERC, we condemn in clear terms all the vicious anti-democratic measure of the OAU administration aimed at preventing students from having their union back. OAU students must now at this point in time tenaciously continue on not only holding the April 12 congress, but they must also form electoral committee there and immediately conduct union elections. Similarly, the congress should also warn the administration of massive actions, including lecture boycotts and mass protest if the allegations against the student activists are not immediately withdrawn. In the same vein, parents, academic staffs and non-academic staffs, alumni and peace loving Nigeria must call the OAU administration to rational order, and also demand that the disciplinary panel be immediately dissolved. In conclusion, the ERC OAU branch supports the cause of the OAU students and we pledge our continual solidarity with them in the struggle for union restoration.