Nigeria: State’s delaying tactics block imprisoned students’ release

OAU students discussing next steps

The attempt to get the two arrested Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM–CWI Nigeria) student comrades from university, OAU, released from jail was supposed to come up yesterday, Wednesday, 14 November, at the Magistrates Court in Osogbo, Osun state, but their case was not heard.

Saburi Akanda Akinola, Taiwo Hassan Soweto and Olatunde Dairo – all leaders of the Students’ Union in Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria – are held on trumped-up charges of ‘conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder’ of the OAU Vice Chancellor (See previous articles on this site).

In the morning of 14 November, the court actually resumed for the hearing but the State counsel requested that matters to be stood down until 1.30pm, and this was granted by the magistrate. But the magistrate did not come back to court at the stipulated time; the student lawyers were only told by the staff that the matter had been adjourned to Monday 19 November.

Earlier, before the State counsel requested the temporary adjournment yesterday, the magistrate had called for the bail application of Taiwo Hassan Soweto to be moved for hearing before he would give ruling on the applications of the two comrades. On Friday 9 November, it was only bail application of Olatunde Dairo (Barry Blacky) that came up for hearing, and its ruling was fixed for yesterday, 14 November.

No official reason was given for the adjournment. It is, however, clear that arbitrariness is one of the state’s underhand tactics to keep the detained students in prison. The action of the magistrate has further made mockery of Yar’Adua government’s “rule of law”. Treasury looters would have got bail without any problem, but it is easier to find a needle in a haystack than for working class activists and working people to get justice in today’s Nigeria.

Local protest action in support of detained students

The legal action to free the student activists has been supported by local political activities. About 40 students from different higher educational institutions in Southwest Nigeria and Education Rights Campaign activists were in court with placards calling for the unconditional and immediate release of the incarcerated student leaders.

Later on 15 November 15a well-mobilised congress (public meeting) of students is taking place at OAU, in Ile-Ife. The congress is expected to arrive at some political actions including possibly a lecture boycott to press home their demands which include immediate and unconditional release of the three detained students, recall of 14 student activists expelled or suspended from the university, hands off the Students’ Union, improved living and learning condition, etc. As usual, the university authorities have already stationed three-truck loads of armed mobile police to repress the student meeting and any other possible political action on the campus.

With the adjournment of Barry Blacky and Soweto case to next Monday, it means that the bail application of all the three imprisoned OAU student leaders will come up the same day, though at different courts, in Osogbo. OAU Students’ Union president Saburi is at Osun State High Court, while Barry Blacky and Soweto will be at the magistrates’ court.

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November 2007