Nigeria: Detained student activists freed!

But battle not yet over

Two of the detained student leaders of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife were released from prison late yesterday (February 21) after their bail conditions had been met earlier in the day. Olatunde Dairo, the Public Relations Officer of the Students’ Union, and Taiwo Hassan Soweto, Coordinator of the Education Rights Campaign, both members of the Democratic Socialist Movement, had been arrested and held in prison since October 11, 2007.

However, it is not yet ‘uhuru’ (a complete triumph) as the President of the Students’ Union, Akinola Saburi, is still in detention. The hearing on the variation of the stringent bail conditions granted him in November 30, could not take place on the scheduled February 12 due to the then judicial workers’ strike! His lawyers stated that a new date would be picked next week for the hearing. Saburi has been arrested and detained since July 31, 2007.

The student leaders were incarcerated for leading students in struggle for improved leaving and learning conditions and the right to independent unionism.

While the conditional freedom for Soweto and Dairo calls for celebration, we cannot rest on our oars until the "last man standing", Saburi, is released and all the trumped-up charges are dropped.

It will be recalled that the comrades had been earlier granted bail on December 14, but the condition was too stringent to be met. They were asked to produce senior lecturers from their departments as sureties. No lecturer could have stuck his or her neck out as surety, for fear of being victimised by the despotic management of the university! The lawyers, who are also DSM members, therefore, applied for variation of the bail conditions.

It should be also recalled that the struggle to free the detained student leaders has witnessed a series of protests locally and internationally. The Magistrate himself had once, at a court session, mentioned reading the reports of the protests in newspapers and on the Internet.

We therefore thank all comrades and sections of the Committee for a Workers’ International as well as other individuals and groups that intervened in the campaign for their release materially and through a series of protests. We also appreciate the letters sent to them in prison which helped keep up their morale.

We demand the immediate release of Saburi, dropping of all the trumped-up charges and reinstatement of all the 14 politically victimised student leaders who have been unjustly suspended from the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife.

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February 2008