The Save UNILAG Coalition has declared its readiness to continue the struggle to have the 13 students rusticated by the University of Lagos (UNILAG) reinstated. The group also promised to oppose university authorities over the grim conditions on campus. The promises were made in a statement issued by the group on Friday. Signed by Comrade Sanyaolu Juwon, Secretary to the coalition, the statement thanked Nigerian students and members of the public, who supported its agitation to secure freedom for 13 students detained and charged to court for demanding explanations on the rustication of some students by the UNILAG authorities. The rustication was a punishment for their participation in a 2015 protest against the deplorable conditions of university accommodation.
“We commend the relentless resolve of all civil society and left-leaning groups, which lent their voices against the unlawful trend of the recklessness of the Nigeria Police Force and the increasing rate of impunity of the Professor Rahaman Bello-led UNILAG management. The struggle for the immediate and unconditional release of the 13 students has shown the immeasurable strength in the unbreakable unity of the Nigerian students. It has also rendered as unfounded, the spurious claims that Nigerian students are neither ready to fight nor capable of defying even the political whims of the state and all its apparatuses of cohesion,” the coalition stated.
The group added that the success of its agitation also revealed that the Lagos State Police Command, led by Mr. Fatai Owoseni, Commissioner of Police, has been converted to an arm of the UNILAG management and by implication and influential people in the society. It similarly said that the judiciary exists for the rich.
Despite its success, the Save UNILAG Coalition called on Nigerian students not to lose sight of the major objective of its struggle.
“While our colleagues may have been unconditionally relieved of all baseless charges against them, the basic demands of the struggle remain unattended to. With the lingering rustication of 13 student activists of UNILAG, conditions of living on the campus have not ceased to be appalling, independent students’ unionism remains stifled on the campus even as the university continues to be run like a slave camp under the administration of Professor Rahaman Bello,” the group fumed.
While delighted with the promise of the Lagos State to intervene in the matter and ensure the reinstatement of the 13 rusticated students, the group said it would continue to push on until all its demands are met.
“This commitment was made on 5 April during the protest of students at the Lagos State House of Assembly. While we await the promised intervention of the Lagos State government, the Save UNILAG Coalition is prepared to continue to engage the UNILAG management through relentless mass actions and other legitimate means within its disposal until our demands are unconditionally acceded to,” said the coalition.
It flayed the silence of university staff unions such as the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in the face of despotism in tertiary institutions.
“The rustication of 11 UNILAG students has now lingered for about 10 months. Not a single statement has been issued by any staff union despite the addition of two other students, including a visually impaired student.
“Sincerely, this silence is very dangerous even to the staff unions because the real aim of the government is to launch severe attacks on the education sector as a whole. This is especially more evident with the insignificant paltry sum allocated to the education sector and the arbitrary deductions of salaries of education workers,” said the Save UNILAG Coalition. The grand scheme of the government, it alleged, is to rob students of access to education, good living conditions and right to protest oppression. Students, counseled the group, must be ready to undertake resistance against the Federal Government.
“The clampdown on radical student unionism and tradition of dissidence on campuses is nothing but a vanguard to the imminence of many anti-poor policies that would very soon hit very hard on our tertiary institutions if the traditional days of united struggle and solidarity between students and staff unions are not restored,” the coalition reasoned.