Nigeria: Student activist murdered

At around 4.30 a.m. on Saturday, 10th July, an armed gang made up of members of pro-authority secret cults drawn from several tertiary institutions invaded the campus of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, on a surprise mission whose aim was the elimination of radical student activists in the school.

At the end of their operation, which lasted for almost an hour, five students were shot dead while several others were critically injured. On Monday, the death toll rose to seven when two of the injured victims died in hospital.

Among those killed on Saturday were George Iwilade (secretary-general of the students’ union) and Tunde Oke (a 21-year old student activist and member of Democratic Socialist Movement, DSM, the Nigerian section of CWI). Lanre Adeleke (president of the students’ union and leading member of DSM) was shot at and only narrowly missed assassination by escaping through the kitchenette located at the back of his room.

The assassins invaded the campus while most students were asleep and headed for the rooms of those considered as militant activists.They shouted the names of these activists, bragging that they have been paid to kill them. Both George and Tunde were murdered while sleeping. The gangsters also boasted that their mission is to demystify the militant tradition of students’ unionism in OAU (which has made it extremely difficult for these murderous gangs to gain a foothold in the school).

Our leading comrades in the DSM branch in the school were their prime targets. Our secretariat on campus where many comrades used to sleep due to shortage of accommodation was one of the rooms invaded. But fortunately the comrades had been alerted a few minutes before the hoodlums stormed the room. Otherwise the death toll would have been much higher.

The incident has thrown the school into a turmoil. There has been a total boycott of lectures since Monday and several congress (mass) meetings have been held all with massive attendance by students. A sum of about N15,000 has been raised at this meetings by the students’ union to fund the struggle against the cultists.

There has also been a massive hunt for the gang members by students and so far three of them have been apprehended. The entire movement is being led by our comrades. The university vice-chancellor (VC) and other principal officials have gone into hiding out of fear for the anger and wrath of the students. There is a very strong suspicion that the attack is sponsored by the VC. In fact one of the arrested cultists have confessed that the VC is their sponsor and his confession is on tape.

The students’ union and the university authorities have been at loggerheads for the past four years over the latter’s refusal to reinstate ten expelled student activists (including four comrades) and attempts to hike school fees which the union have always resisted. The incident has been the most prominent issue in the press since Sunday.

There is massive sympathy for the students while many are outraged by the conduct of the university authorities. We have embarked on an offensive against the authorities. When we received the news on Sunday, about twenty student comrades staged a protest to three TV stations and The Punch newspaper in Lagos. The protest was reported in all the evening news bulletins of the TV stations. On Monday, two comrades discussed the incident and the phenomenon of campus cults in two phone-in programmes on two FM stations also in Lagos. A press statement we issued on Monday was used in at least three national newspapers on Tuesday. And this morning, on Wednesday, SS was on an hour live TV programme also on the same issue. We are planning to bring out leaflets and posters.

We are demanding the removal of the VC, the arrest and trial of the assassins and their sponsors, the establishment of an independent panel of inquiry, democratic management of the school system by elected representatives of students and staff, the right to independent unions, the reinstatement of expelled student activists, improved welfare facilities, and free and high quality education at all level. If necessary we will send more written reports in the next few days.

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July 1999