The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has just received the terrible news that protesting secondary pupils in Kogi State were shot by Police led by the State Commissioner of Police. When the smoke cleared, one of the protesters whose name we are yet to confirm was left dead, many were injured while many more were arrested and are still detained. The pupils were protesting state government’s insensitivity to the welfare conditions of teachers in the State which has led the teachers to embark on series of strikes thereby disrupting academic activities.
From available reports, Police opened fire without provocation on thousands of pupils from Bishop Crowder Memorial Secondary School, Government Science Secondary School, Bishop Delis Secondary School, Moslem Community Secondary School and Government Day Secondary School at the gate of the Kogi State government secretariat where they had gone to peacefully air their grievances to the governor. The pupils conducted themselves peacefully despite initial police harassment with tear gas in order to undermine the protest and organized themselves for the march to the governor’s office where they felt their grievances would be resolved. Instead they were welcomed with a hail of bullet which left one of them dead and rather than being remorseful for killing little children, the State commissioner of police threatened on air while speaking to journalist that “we will be more brutal if they protest again”. The students have every right to protest after the teachers embarked on another strike action having been denied 4 months of academic exercise this year because the state government has refused to implement the TSS (improve welfare package) as agreed. However, this is the second time in less than one year the state government will be reneging on agreement reached. It is brazen that the Governor Idris Ibrahim keep junketing about and wasting tax payers’ money while children that are supposed to be in school are idling away.
The ERC condemns the Kogi State government and the Police for brutalizing protesting children. We consider the killing of protesting children the height of insensitivity and sadism of the Nigerian ruling and its security agencies – the Nigerian Police. To us, this killing is reminiscent of the June 16 massacre of protesting pupils in South Western Town (SOWETO) of South Africa in 1976. It is a descent into barbarism and orgy of state-sponsored violence against the legitimate rights of the people especially children to protest the neo-liberal and anti-poor policies of government at all levels which they perceive to be inimical to their future. We therefore place the responsibility for this violence on the Kogi state government and call for the immediate removal of Governor Idris Ibrahim and his immediate trial on murder charges in a court of competent jurisdiction.
We call for the immediate sack, arrest and trial of the State Commissioner of Police who supervised the killing and participated in brutalizing the protesting students. We require an immediate trial of the State police Commissioner for murder because of his unprofessional conduct and his threat on live T.V that more of the students will be brutally dealt with should they embark on protest again. The ERC was shocked that after the killing, the state Commissioner of Police could utter this statement and we are convinced that his conducts portrays a sadistic love for killing not just of adult, but innocent young children. This individual, prototypes of whom abound in the top command of the police and military is dangerous in a civilized society. He must be immediately sacked and tried for murder alongside his paymaster- the Governor of Kogi State.
We also call for the immediate release of all the children who are currently under detention and immediate treatment of all those injured and adequate compensation to all the victims by the State government.
We demand that the State must with immediate effect meet the demands of the teachers in the State which provoked the strike action that forced the pupils to embark on protest. The over 10, 000 teachers who have been wrongfully dismissed, retrenched, retired or sacked must be immediately reabsorbed without loss of pay. Also we call for the immediate revocation of the deal signed by government with Messrs Sally Tibbot (the contracting firm handling the ongoing screening which subjected civil servants in the state to untold hardship and humiliation since the commencement of the exercise). To us, the practice of contracting out the staff audit to the private firms and consortiums is anti-poor because it is meant to sack and witch-hunt workers as a means to enrich government, officials, politicians and rich businessmen.
We conclude by declaring our solidarity for Kogi secondary school pupils, victimized teachers and workers in the State. The significance of the Kogi protest is that class solidarity of oppressed students, youths and workers is developing across the nook and cranny of the country to challenge the neo-liberal policies of the Yar’ Adua government on education. This is why the prominent demands on the lips of the protesting pupils in kogi were that the demands of their teachers must be met. We encourage this class solidarity and urge all workers, students and youths to unite to fight for basic education rights and for adequate education funding as well as against all neo-liberal policies of the government at all levels.
We call on all Nigerian students to emulate the pupils in Kogi State by giving support to the demands of ASUU, SSANU and NASU. If young children could recognize that the reason for their teachers’ strike is government insensitivity, then it should not be hard for adult students in the Universities to understand the same.
However, we in the ERC have decided to follow the example laid down for us by young pupils of Kogi State by calling Nigerian students out in protest and demonstrations starting from Monday August 10, 2009 at the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Secretariat to call on federal government to meet the demands of ASUU, SSANU and NASU so that students can resume. We shall immortalize the pupil killed in Kogi State by trigger happy policemen by dedicating our August 10 protest to his memory and to the valour of all secondary school pupils in Kogi State who are fighting for a free and functional education.
Hassan Taiwo Soweto Chinedu Bosah
National Coordinator National Secretary