The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) has vociferously demanded the release of student protesters arrested during the University of Lagos (UNILAG) fee hike demonstrations today.
The ERC has called upon Lagos State Commissioner of Police, CP Idowu Owohunwa, to release the detained activists, emphasizing the importance of preserving democratic rights.
The arrested individuals, identified as Comrades Giwa Topnotch, Femi Adeyeye, Philip Olatinwo, and Ayodele Aduwo, were taken into custody by the Nigerian Police Lagos State Command during a peaceful protest against the fee increase.
The students had joined UNILAG peers to express their discontent with the university’s decision to raise fees when they were allegedly confronted by armed policemen.
In a joint statement signed by Isaac Ogunjimi, Deputy National Coordinator, and Adaramoye Michael Lenin, National Mobilization Officer, ERC insisted on the immediate release of the detainees and a cessation of attacks on democratic rights.
The statement titled “Protest Is a Right; Halt The Clampdown On Democratic Rights Now” underscored the constitutional right to protest and cited legal precedents that invalidated the need for police permits to demonstrate.
“We stand by the protest over which the activists were arrested,” the statement declared. “The protest was over the decision of the University of Lagos authorities to increase the payable fees of students from N19,000 to as much as N190,250, depending on the course of study.”
ERC reiterated that the protest was an inevitable recourse after all other attempts to address the fee hike without demonstrations were ignored by UNILAG authorities.
Despite a meeting between student representatives and the Vice-Chancellor on August 2, 2023, where arguments against the fee increase were presented, the university failed to reconvene and discuss the matter further.
The ERC contended that the funding of public education should remain the government’s primary responsibility, not burdening impoverished parents. With the current cost of living crisis, many students could be forced to drop out unless the fee hike is reversed.
The ERC concluded its statement by reiterating its demand for the rollback of fees not only at UNILAG but also in other institutions across the nation. They called for increased funding of public education and the democratic management of schools.
Additionally, they urged the formation of a mass movement to combat anti-poor policies and proposed a mass workers’ political alternative to dismantle capitalism and establish a Socialist Nigeria.