Saturday, 25 August 2007

Attacks on Nigerian Students Union

23 August 2007

OAU CRISIS
ATTACKS ON UNION GETS FIERCER
Akinola Saburi (President, Students' Union) Arrested, Union Proscribed!
"Students' unionism in the University had been proscribed until further notice. In its place…the University had approved the constitution of a STUDENTS' TRANSITION COMMITTEES that would be made up of the leadership of students' associations at the departmental and faculty levels" (emphasis ours).

"Students who had been indicted for various cases of misdemeanour had, however, been banned from the halls of residence. … …any of such students who had rooms allocated to him previously should consider such revoked"

"…Ogunruku warned returning students against "squatting" stressing that the practice had been banned. Students found harbouring squatters, the registrar added, would forfeit their allocations."

(Extracts of a Press Release published in Tuesday 21st, August, 2007 issue of The Punch newspaper revealing what fate awaits OAU students and Union leaders upon resumption by August 26, 2007)

If there has ever been such period in our history, the past ten months have, indeed, been very trying for the Students' Union, activists and generality of students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife. The reason is the avalanche of vicious attacks, frame ups and victimization launched by the management of the Institution against the right of students to independent unionism. In an earlier outcry titled "OBAFEMI AWOLOWO UNIVERSITY CRISIS: After Banning of the Students Union, Authorities Set to Victimize Student Leaders; Appeal for Solidarity Protest Letters" (http://www.socialistnigeria.org/page.php?article=1233) we had explained the background of the crisis as rooted in the defeat of the efforts of the Vice Chancellor Prof. Faborode-led management to impose their lackeys into the leadership of students by interfering in the Students' Union elections. How the mass of students defeated this move and voted massively for the left bloc constituted by the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria) and other organisations. Ever since, the University Management had resolved to use any means necessary to crush the OAU Students' Union.

We also pointed out how the management had, in search of any excuse to pick on the Union, refused to grant students' legitimate demand for observance of the regulations of the statute of the University that, before examinations, a week devoid of lectures and other academic activities must be set aside for students to revise for examinations. When students protested peacefully against this arbitrariness, the management closed down the campus on February 28, 2007. Then, a month after the closure, members of Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) struck nationally for three months over refusal of the Federal government to fulfil some agreements reached in 2001 on staff welfare, reinstatement of 44 victimized lecturers in Unilorin and better funding of education. Four months after, when ASUU had called off their strike action, the campus was opened for the Harmatan Semester examination.

The current crisis where the President of the Students' Union has been unjustly and illegally detained at Ilesha and other union leaders declared wanted is an offshoot of these earlier attacks. During the period of the closure, the management had declared the Students' Union banned while attempts were made to victimize about seven Union leaders, three of whom are members of Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria). This was effectively resisted by a Court order of the Federal High Court in Osogbo, which granted the seven Union leaders an injunction putting on hold the undemocratic disciplinary panel set up by the management to witch hunt them. Also, the President of the Students' Union, Akinola Saburi, who had been earlier expelled from the University after the Students' Union elections, approached the court of law during the closure and was also granted leave to exercise his fundamental human rights which includes right to free movement, association and expression without harassment. On the basis of this court order, Akinola Saburi came to onto campus after re-opening to take charge of his official responsibility as the head of the Union.

However, the Management felt intimidated by the popular and enthusiastic welcome he received from the mass of students and they therefore swore to get him out of campus at all cost. They themselves understood the implication of his coming and the enthusiastic welcome he received as a bold rejection of the ban of the Union. After repeated attempts to kidnap him on campus with the aid of the University rag-tag fascist force tagged "Crackers" (a security team comprising members of local militias of community where the University is situated) were defeated by the mass of students, Akinola Saburi was eventually ambushed and arrested on 31st, July 2007 by men of the State Security Service(SSS) at the premises of the Federal High Court, Osogbo where he had gone to file some applications for the pursuit of his legal case against his unjust dismissal.

In order to give quasi-legal justifications for this arrest, which totally contravene the earlier order of a Federal High Court, Osogbo in Saburi, was arraigned before a Magistrate Court (a lower court) the next morning (1st, August 2007) on a 10-count charge. It must be noted that in Nigeria, as in all nations claiming democracy, the Constitution clearly specifies ways and manners the law can be enforced without violating people's fundamental human rights. These are eloquently stated in sections 35 and 36 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. However, in gross violations of these sections of the constitution, Akinola Saburi was arraigned without being informed of the details of the allegations against him nor was he allowed to contact his lawyers. Instead, a certain lawyer was arranged to stand in his defence without his consent. Not surprisingly therefore, the court did not find it difficult to remand him in Ilesha Prisons and adjourn his case till October 19, 2007 when he would have spent a total of three months in detention.

In response, the Union has, at every opportunity, declared Akinola Saburi's arrest and detention as illegal, unconstitutional and unjust. We have rejected the composition of a "Student Transition Committee" as illegal and null and void. We have also demanded the management to hands off our Union and to stop the victimization of Union activists. To allow the general public to know the truth of the crisis, the Union has kick started a press campaign with press conferences and protest visits to media houses.

However, we appeal for political support from all student unions and organizations, progressive organizations, CWI sections, Trade Unions and working class platforms all over the world. The Students' Union of Obafemi Awolowo University is only being victimized for its radical stance against the neo-liberal anti-poor policies of successive Nigerian governments on education and the economy as a whole. We appeal to organizations, in Nigeria and beyond Nigeria, who are ready to participate in the struggle to save OAU Students' Union from these attacks to send the protest letter below. Outside Nigeria, there could be protests outside Nigerian embassies and activities help to raise awareness through leaflets, posters, Union bulletins, symposia etc about the events happening here among students in your country. The aim and focus is to show to the Nigerian capitalist government and the anti-poor governments of all countries that unity exist among all oppressed people of the world and that no matter the distance that separate us, we shall collectively fight to win the struggle for a society where education will be free and functional and people's needs will form the basis of governance.

In the opinion of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), such a society for the millions and not the millionaires is only possible if the workers and the mass of poor people take over the running of society and form a "workers' and peasants' government". It is only this kind of government of the poor that can, through socialist plan of production and democratic ownership of the commanding heights of the economy, channel the enormous resources of the society for the welfare of the poor.

H.T Soweto, Secretary, Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), OAU branch.

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PROTEST LETTER
Copy and send this protest letters to the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) at registra@oauife.edu.ng, the Vice-Chancellor – mfaborode@yahoo.co.uk & mfaborod@oauife.edu.ng and the Federal Ministry of Education at ehquiries@fme.gov.ng and te@fme.ng. Note copies of all protest letters sent should be made available to the Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria) at dsmcentre@hotmail.com

HANDS OFF INDEPENDENT UNIONISM
Release Akinola Saburi
We have been informed about the proscription of the Students' Union of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) by the management of the University led by the Vice Chancellor Prof. Michael Faborode and the composition of a Student Representative Committee as a replacement for the Union. We have also heard about the unlawful arrest and detention of the President of the Students' Union, Akinola Saburi, the takeover of the Students' Union Building and the victimization of several union leaders.

May we clearly state it that the above actions individually and collectively taken by the management is an affront on the democratic rights of students to association and expression as eloquently provided for in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, African Charter on Human Rights and the 1948 United Nations Declaration of Human Rights (UNDHR). It must be stressed that the management and even the government have no lawful right to proscribe or suspend a Union. Thus, the alleged proscription of the Union and the Student Transition Committee are illegal.

We decry the arrest and continuous detention of Akinola Saburi who we insist has committed no crime. We regard the 10-count charges preferred against him as unfounded, unsubstantiable, wild and inconsistent. We also regard the whole process as a mockery of the judiciary for the magistrate court to have remanded Akinola Saburi in contravention of an order of the Federal High Court empowering Akinola Saburi to exercise his fundamental human rights without harassments.

We therefore call for immediate reversal of all illegal and draconian actions taken against the Union as well as a halt to victimization of Union activists.

Thank You

1 comment:

Dave Marlow said...

It's easy to discount the growing labor movement in Africa because of its lack of developed industry but clearly the revolutionary fire is burning bright there also. Nigeria is in a difficult position, both politically and demographically. I imagine that examples like this of union suppression are not uncommon to the region, though I confess I know very little.

Thanks for the link to DSM.