Further reports of international solidarity picket and new plan
The three socialist Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) student leaders are still being held on politically manipulated charges of attempted murder (see previous articles and reports). Two of them Taiwo Hassan Soweto and Olatunde Dairo will appear in court on Friday 9 November to hear their plea for bail.
The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights in Nigeria is asking for international supporters to bombard the Nigerian Embassies or High Commissions with phone calls the day before – the 8 November – to insist that they and Saburi Akande Akinola be freed and that all charges be dropped. Responses can be reported to us here and to the campaign in Nigeria: firstname.lastname@example.org and we can give them publicity. You could also contact your local media to give publicity to the case and to the way embassy staff react to protests.
Below are reports of three more protest pickets – in Athens, Moscow and Tel Aviv.
Free the students campaign, next steps
Letter of protest signed by more than 60 organisations
Handed in at Athens embassy
Twenty people participated in the picket of the Nigerian embassy in Athens, on October 30 in protest against the frame-up of the three Nigerian student activists, leaders of the OAU students’ union. The picket was called by the Greek section of Youth Against Racism in Europe (YRE) and “Xekinima” (Greek section of CWI). Amongst those participating in the picket were Nigerian immigrants living in Greece.
The Chargé d’Affaires of the Nigerian embassy, Mr. Dule, agreed to meet us in his office. In the delegation was Mr. Timothy Abdul, an activist for migrants’ rights, and one of the best known victims of the worst ever racist attack that took place in Greece nine years ago.
Mr. Dule asked for the actual charges that the three Nigerian students are facing, where else pickets were being organised as part of this international solidarity campaign and how come so many Greek organisations and individuals are backing this campaign.
At the end he promised to forward the protest letters to the appropriate authorities back in Nigeria.
We handed in a protest letter from
- 4 Social Organisations (one of them the Greek Social Forum)
- 6 Political Parties (amongst them SYNASPISMOS –Left Coalition, a party represented in the Greek parliament)
- 14 Trade Unionists (amongst them representatives from the TUC, Public Sector Workers’ Confederation, Teachers’ Confederation, National Union of Workers in Public Hospitals)
- 12 Youth Organisations and University Student Leaders (from Athens, Thessalonica, Volos).
- 31 Immigrants’ Organisations and Communities based in Greece.
Finally, we have informed the officers of the Nigerian embassy that this international solidarity campaign will continue until the OAU Three are released and the charges that have been made are withdrawn.
Timothy Abdul, Happiness Godwin, Anthony Magbailo, Kenneth Onyia, Sunny Ohilebo, Ashare Yeboah
A protest was held on 23 October in front of the Nigerian embassy in Tel Aviv. We had placards and a megaphone.
A letter of protest was given to the staff, who took a few pictures of the comrades. We also reported the names of the three arrested students by phone and sent the letter by fax to the addresses given for the authorities in Nigeria. We hope the messages got through!
Our protest was small and short, but now we are planning to print materials of the DSM and hand them over to Nigerian immigrant workers in Israel. They have an association in south Tel-Aviv.
On 27 October, members of the Russian organisation, “Sotsialisticheskoe soprotivleniye”, held a picket outside the Nigerian embassy in Little Nikitskaya Street, Moscow.
This was part of a coordinated world-wide protest demanding the release of Saburi Akande Akinola, Taiwo Hassan Soweto and Olatunde Dairo, student leaders at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife in Nigeria.
With the Nigerian Embassy being located in a quiet backstreet of Moscow, it does not usually see many passers by, particularly on a Saturday morning. But, although our picket was modest in size, it was also attended by police and Russian FSB agents. So on this day the street was quite busy!
Notwithstanding the fact that all the legal permissions necessary for holding such a picket had been obtained in advance, the police officer in charge tried to insist that participants had to read and sign a statement agreeing not to breach the ‘Law on Extremism’. Quite how our placards and our banner could be in breach of this law was not explained, so we refused to sign. Reluctantly he then allowed us to continue.
Within minutes, three men came out of the embassy to take photographs. We, of course, returned the compliment – photographing them photographing us! They then came over, introducing themselves as embassy staff and asked us to explain why we were organising the picket and to explain who the student leaders were. They returned to the embassy and came back ten minutes later with a larger delegation, including the ambassador and his translator.
Very politely the ambassador thanked us for coming and asked us to explain the reason for our picket, who the students were, how we knew them and from where we had got information. Having politely listened to what we had to say, he then went on to explain that we must have been misinformed because, “Nigeria is a completely free and democratic country” in which there is no repression of political activists, “Oh, except for some in the Delta region where the situation is very tense”!
In reply we assured him that we were very concerned for our comrades from the Democratic Socialist Movement, now in prison on false charges including conspiracy to murder, that our information was very accurate as it had been obtained directly from our sister organisation in Nigeria and that we could not agree that Nigeria was a free and democratic country, any more than Russia is. We assured him we would continue to campaign for the release of our comrades. We told him that in fact we would be meeting representatives of the DSM in Europe in December and wanted the release of their members.
In leaving, the ambassador asked his staff to take notes of our demands and even asked to “borrow” our placards “for a minute” so that they could be photocopied. We would like to think that our “Free Saburi Akande Akinola!” placard has now been photocopied and is prominently displayed inside the embassy. But, in case it isn’t, we will continue our protests until the release of our comrades.