The TakeitBack Movement has called on the management of the Madonna University, Rivers State, to immediately withdraw all charges made against six of its students and a lecturer from the Federal High Court, Awka.

Madonna, the first private University in Nigeria and the first Catholic University in Nigeria, had in February arrested the students and the lecturer for making a Facebook post revealing the inhumane treatment of students in the university.

One of the posts by the students on Facebook reads, “Good lecturers are scarce. Madonna University administration should be nice to our lecturers or a good number of them will resign.”

The students had since been detained at the Awka prison as the university management had reportedly perfected move to keep them in detention for a long period.

It was gathered that the IPO had declined to recognise the sureties earlier produced by relations of the detained students, apparently acting on ‘instructions from above’.

Also, the presiding judge, Justice Babatunde Quadri, was absent in court at the last adjourned date when the bail application of the 11-count charge preferred against them was to be heard.

The prosecutor, Mr A. N. Obo, said the publications on the social media were injurious to the image of the proprietor and the institution and stated that the offences are punishable under sections 27 (1) (b) and 24 (1) (b) of the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015.

The university management also ordered the arrest of Chidi Ilogebe, Vice President of National Association Nigerian Students, who was attempting to organise a protest to picket the school.

After his arrest, he said, “I was called by someone who said he wanted to see me yesterday (Monday). Because I was very busy I couldn’t meet up with him till around after 11:00 p.m. On meeting him in De Angelo Hotel, I was surrounded by some men from the IGP tactical squad.

“They said they came to arrest me following a petition. I read the petition and it was from the lawyer of Madonna University.

“I followed them and currently (Tuesday morning), we are on our way to Abuja. I will keep you posted.”

Reacting, Sanyaolu Juwon, National Coordinator of TakeitBack movement, said the arrest and continuous detention is against Section 39 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He said, “We are forced to make this demand for the release of the incarcerated persons, as it is obvious they haven't done anything that warrants subjecting them to such inhumane treatment.  

“If anything, these individuals according to publicly available records have only exhibited there right to free speech as provided by Section 39 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

“May we also remind the University that the aim of education isn't to graduate uncritical zombies but to produce critically and independent minded individuals; people who are trained to inquire and effect necessary change, where and when necessary. And in inquiry lies disagreements which yet again is the basis for development. 

“The kind of bright future we envisage for our country does not permit running an important institution, such as the university like a slave camp. Neither does it allow the treatment of students and staffs like prisoners, prisoners by the way also have rights that must be respected.

“It is to this end, that we appeal that the University allow civility prevail over profit driven ego. We request once again that the University drops all charges against the incarcerated persons; provide adequate security for the lives of students and staff; respect right to free speech; improved welfare for staff and students and allow the thrive of independent Unionism for students and staff.” 

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