Nigeria: Suspension of student activists in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile — Ife, Nigeria

The authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, Nigeria, on Tuesday, 27th May 2003, suspended four student activists of the university for one session for leading mass protests against increments in school fees.

Appeal for International Solidarity

Suspension of student activists in Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile – Ife, Nigeria

The activists, who have been suspended for one academic session are Akinwumi Olawoyin (president of the students’ union), Ekundayo Fadugba (public relations officer of the students’ union), Hassan Abass (speaker of the students’ union parliament), and Olugbenga Adewale,a leading student activist. Ekundayo Fadugba is a key member of the OAU branch of Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Nigerian affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).

Though a statement signed by the university’s registrar, Mrs. Bola Iluyomade, claimed that "a group of students led by the president of the students union, Mr. Akinwumi Olawoyin attempted to violently disrupt the screening procedure for fresh students", the real reason for the suspension was because they are organising resistance to newly charged fees introduced by the university. On Monday, 26th May and Tuesday, 27th May, there were mass protests by students against the increment in school fees.

More activists may still be victimised as the authorities also said in their statement that "when others are identified, they will be subjected to appropriate disciplinary procedure."

The new fees are outrageous and have provoked opposition from students and parents alike. Fresh students are to pay N7,590 (USD 59) compared to N590 paid last year while returning students are to pay about N2,590 compared to N590 paid last year. Some post-graduate students are to pay as much as N120,000. Accommodation fees have been hiked from N90 to about N2,000 per bed space. Many students could be forced to withdraw from school. The new fees are part of the neo-liberal education commercialisation policy of the government which has made nearly all public universities to introduce hefty fees.

The suspension of the activists was an blatant act of gross injustice. No formal charges were preferred against them and they were not given any opportunity to defend themselves.

The authorities of OAU have an unenviable record of victimising student activists. In 1994, about 16 student activists, many of them DSM members, were rusticated by the authorities because of their roles in the struggles against military rule in Nigeria at the time. Many of them were not reinstated back to school until 2001. In 1999 reactionary right wing cult members, backed by the authorities, murdered five OAU student activists, including Yemi Iwilade the general secretary of the students union and Tunde Oke, a DSM member.

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) calls for international solidarity from student groups, trade unions, socialist organisations human rights groups and individuals in support of these victimised activists. Letters of protests should be forwarded to:

  • The Vice Chancellor,
    Obafemi Awolowo University,
  • The Minister of Education,
    Federal Ministry of Education,
    FCT, Abuja,
  • Copies to:

The letters should demand:

  • immediate recall of the suspended student activists
  • an end to victimisation of student activists in the university
  • an end to hike in school fees and commercialisation of education

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May 2003