Nigeria: Police forcefully disperse youth and students’ rally commemorating the 1976 Soweto massacre in Lagos

Release the arrested activists Now!

The Democratic Socialist Movement (DSM) condemns the arrest of activists and education campaigners by the police today in front of Yaba College of Technology, Lagos, where they had gathered to take off a peaceful protest march organized by the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) to press home demand for proper funding of education and against victimisation of student and staff activists. We demand their immediate and unconditional release.

Those arrested and detained at Area C Police Command, Iponri, Surulere, Lagos are Taiwo Hassan Soweto, National Coordinator, ERC; Chinedu Bosah, National Secretary ERC; Debo Adeniran, Coordinator, Campaign against Corrupt Leaders (CACOL); and Oye Hassan, former PRO NANS Zone D. Chinedu Bosah and Taiwo Hassan are also members of the DSM.

Today, 16 June, was chosen for the Day of Action by ERC because of its historic importance in the struggle of students and youths for the liberation of South Africa. It will be recalled that on 16 June, 1976 some students were massacred in SouthWesternTown (Soweto) by the then apartheid regime.

The protest march had taken off peacefully with students from Yaba Tech, UNILAG, LASU and various institutions within Lagos State circulating leaflets to motorists and passers-by and singing solidarity songs when the armed policemen, which came in about ten vans, including the special police outfit named Rapid Response Squad, originally created to combat armed robbery, forcibly dispersed the peaceful protest before arresting 4 of the protesters. More than any other instance, police acts of impunity and repression of workers and youths fighting government’s unpopular policies has once again exposed Yar’Adua’s regime’s alleged respect for due process and rule of law as deception.

Before the rally was forcibly dispersed, Soweto and Chinedu had in their respective speeches restated the ERC’s demands for better funding of education and an end to victimization of students and staff activists. They also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of the 27 soldiers unjustly sentenced to life imprisonment for embarking on peaceful protest over their lawful salaries and allowances that had been embezzled by some military officers, and an immediate end to attack by JTF on the harmless residents of the Niger Deltan communities.

We call on the labour and pro-masses’ organisations to condemn this brutal attack on the fundamental rights of the detained activists and demand their immediate and unconditional release. These youth and student activists must not be isolated by the rest of the mass movement.

We demand that police authorities stop further attacks on the rights of these activists and release them immediately and unconditionally. However, should the police believe that a peaceful campaign for better educational opportunities for the children of the working class and the poor is a crime, then, we demand that these arrested activists be charged in court within 24 hours as stipulated by Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution.

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