Nigeria: Day of action protest march in Osogbo

Saburi’s bail denied in court

As part of the ongoing international campaign to free the detained student leaders from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) and Education Rights Campaign (ERC) organised a protest march in Osogbo, the Osun State capital city, on Tuesday October 23, 2007.

Saburi Akinola, President of the OAU Students Union; Dairo Olatunde, the PRO Students Union’s PRO and Taiwo Hassan, the ERC’s National Coordinator, are being held on a series of charges including conspiracy to murder and the attempted murder of the OAU’s then Vice-Chancellor in 2004.

Participating in the protest were members of the Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM), the Education Rights Campaign (ERC), student activists and leaders from Obafemi Awolowo University, Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, and Osun State College of Technology, Esaoke along with some members of the Labour Party and Joint Action Forum.

The protest march started after the Osun High Court sitting where the bail application for Akinola Saburi was heard. Saburi has been incarcerated at Ilesha prison since August 1 after his arrest on July 31 at a court premises where he had gone to file a legal application against his expulsion from the university.

Security men in court

Before the court commenced proper, barrister Lekan Alabi, the lawyer representing the victimized Student Union leader, raised an objection to the presence of men from the notorious State Security Service (SSS). SSS personnel were both inside the court room and surrounding the court building apparently looking for other suspended OAU Student Union who the OAU Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Michael Faborode, wanted arrested.

Saburi’s lawyer argued that the judge should stop further arrests of student activists within the court premises. The judge however ordered that the men of the SSS should not arrest students who have come to show solidarity with their detained student leaders, but also stated that he has no power to stop any arrest, most especially if the student has a case to answer with the SSS or other security agencies.

As Saburi’s bail application was about to be heard, the State lawyer opposed it on the basis that the bail application did not meet the required procedure laid down by the Osun State Law and on that basis the judge did not have the power to hear the application. Countering the position of the State, Alabi argued that the procedural instances pointed to by the counsel to the state only apply to civil matters and not criminal matters as spelt out by the Osun State Judicial Act.

Bail refused

The argument went on for over an hour after which the trial judge adjourned the hearing to November 12, 2007 in order to give a ruling on the State’s objection and then, if the State’s position was rejected, to go ahead and hear Saburi’s bail application. This means that Subari will spend at least another two and a half weeks in jail.

It was obvious that the lawyer for the State went all out to stall the bail application with the aim to further keep the Student Union leader in prison. In fact, he spent about 50 minutes arguing legal technicalities without citing any authority to back his claims. The bitter irony is that the State’s lawyer claimed to be defending legal procedure while representing a State government that is internationally recognised as having blatantly stolen last April’s elections.

Procession round the town

After the court sitting, the procession took off from the court premises and moved round the town before ending at the Correspondence Chapel of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Osogbo. In the course of the march ERC leaflets were distributed to residents, workers, youths etc. The demands of the march as contained in leaflets, posters and speeches included the immediate and unconditional release of the three detained student leaders, immediate and unconditional recall of politically victimised student leaders, hands off the OAU Students’ Union, improved learning and living conditions on campus, proper funding of education, etc

At the Correspondence Chapel, the Secretary of the Education Right Campaign (ERC), Comrade Bosah Chinedu and the Secretary of the Osun State Joint Campus Committee (JCC), Ebby, were interviewed by the Osun State Broadcasting Corporation (OSBC), the state TV station. Subsequently a joint press conference was addressed by the Bosah Chinedu, Ebby and the Registrar of the OAU Students’ Union.

The protest march has been reported by the OSBC and a picture of protest was in the following day’s (October 24) edition of the Punch, a widely read national newspaper. It is not impossible that some other media organizations have also reported the march which was a major event in Osogbo on Tuesday.

Struggle continues to free the students

After the press conference, the protesting students agreed to use the Osun State JCC structure to mount pressure on the NANS Zone D leadership to call a meeting of the student body to debate the next line of action in the struggle to the release of the detained three student leaders along with the reinstatement of the 13 suspended students and 1 expelled student.

Students from Obafemi Awolowo University who were present held a separate meeting where it was resolved to sustain the mobilization of students through distribution of leaflets and posting of posters on campus and its environs with the aim of rallying overwhelming support of the students to press home their demands. This plan was agreed even though it could attract at the risk of being arrested by the illegal campus security outfit called “Crackers” that is run by the University management.

It should be recalled that a similar protest march around media houses in Lagos by ERC and OAU students took place last week. Most media organizations, both print and electronic, including the Guardian, the Nation, Punch, Channels Television, Minaj Broadcasting International, etc reported the action.

We continue to ask that internationally urgent protest letters be sent to:

Please send copies of all protests to:

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October 2007