UNILAG ANTI-FEE HIKE PROTEST: RELEASE ARRESTED STUDENTS
RELEASE GIWA TOPNOTCH, FEMI ADEYEYE, PHILIP OLATINWO AND AYODELE ADUWO!
PROTEST IS A RIGHT; HALT THE CLAMPDOWN ON DEMOCRATIC RIGHTS NOW!
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) calls on the Lagos State Commissioner of Police to immediately and unconditionally release comrades Giwa Topnotch (the Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students -NANS), Femi Adeyeye, Philip Olatinwo and Ayodele Aduwo. The activists on Wednesday 6 September 2023 joined students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in a peaceful protest against the University’s decision to hike fees when a team of gun-wielding policemen swooped on them. We demand their immediate release now and a halt to attacks on democratic rights.
The police should be reminded that protest is a right guaranteed by the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Right. Also, the Supreme Court pronouncement on the case of All Nigeria Peoples Party & Ors. v. Inspector General of Police (2006) CHR 181 has already settled the controversy over whether or not police permit is required for a protest. Therefore, this arrest is a violation of the arrested activists’ fundamental human rights. We hereby demand that the Nigerian Police retrace their step from this path of illegality and violation of the law by releasing the activists immediately and unconditionally.
We stand by the protest over which the activists were arrested. The protest was over the decision of the University of Lagos authorities to increase payable fees of students from N19, 000 to as much N190, 250, depending on the course of study. Despite the rejection of the hike by the mass of UNILAG students many of whom come from poor working class background and therefore cannot afford the soaring cost of education, the University authorities have continued to insist on the hike.
Today’s protest was called precisely because the UNILAG authorities had rebuffed all other efforts to try to resolve the issue without protest or demonstration. For instance, a team of students’ representatives led by comrade Giwa Topnotch, the Public Relations Officer of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) met with the Vice Chancellor and her team on August 2, 2023 where the fee hike was discussed and students’ representatives presented their arguments against it. Unable to controvert students’ arguments, the Vice Chancellor appealed for time to consult with other members of the management team and that she would reconvene the meeting to give feedback to the students’ representatives. Alas, the University’s Vice Chancellor has refused to reconvene the meeting afterwards in a sign of blatant and unilateral withdrawal from negotiation. Instead, the University has continued to send messages to students with a view to intimidate them to pay the fees even though their representatives are still in discussion with the authorities.
As far as we are concerned, the funding of public education remains the primary duty and responsibility of the government, and not poor parents. Considering the current cost of living crisis, many cannot afford the hiked fees. This means several students are on the verge of dropping out unless the University authorities reverse the fees. Although the management claims to have made provision for indigent students, the truth is that this is inadequate and cannot really go round the thousands of students who will be faced with the option of abandoning their studies as a result of the hike.
We hereby reiterate the demand for reversal of the hiked fees in UNILAG as well as all fee hikes across the country. We demand proper funding of public education and democratic management of schools. Even with present economic climate, Nigeria is rich enough to ensure improved funding of public education up to the point of provision of free education at all levels. The only obstacle to this is capitalism and corruption and this is why the ERC calls for the building of a mass movement to begin to fight back against all anti-poor policies and a mass workers political alternative to take power, smash capitalism and enthrone a Socialist Nigeria.
Deputy National Coordinator
Adaramoye Michael Lenin
National Mobilization Officer