Two protesters were arrested by the police on Wednesday at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) junction while protesting against an increase in tuition fees at the institution.
The two activists arrested by police officers have been identified as Femi Adeyeye and Philip Olatinwo.
The students are protesting the decision of the university to increase the payable fees of students from N26,000 and about N76,000 to between N120,750 and N240,250 depending on the courses of study and levels.
Following their arrest, the officers put them in a police van popularly called Black Maria stationed in the area.
But the arrested protesters, Mr Adeyeye Mr Olatinwo urged the protesters to continue and not panic.
“This is not a time to panic at all. We are here in the van and we are assuring you that this is just the beginning of the struggle,” he said in a video he posted on the X platform inside the police van.
The police also fired tear gas at the protesters to disperse them.
Before they began the protest, there was a heavy presence of security operatives including officers of the State Security Service (SSS), the police and the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) at the institution’s main gate.
Call for release
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC), in a statement by its Deputy National Coordinator, Isaac Ogunjimi, called on the commissioner of police to “immediately and unconditionally release the protesters.”
According to the group, three, and not two protesters were arrested by the police. The group named the third person as Ayodele Aduwo.
“The activists on Wednesday 6 September 2023 joined students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) in a peaceful protest against the University’s decision to hike fees when a team of gun-wielding policemen swooped on them,” the statement reads.
“We demand their immediate release now and a halt to attacks on democratic rights.
“The police should be reminded that protest is a right guaranteed by the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as well as the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights. Also, the Supreme Court pronouncement on the case of All Nigeria Peoples Party & Ors. v. Inspector General of Police (2006) CHR 181 has already settled the controversy over whether or not a police permit is required for a protest.”
The education rights group said the arrest was illegal and a violation of their rights.
“Despite the rejection of the hike by the mass of UNILAG students, many of whom come from poor working-class backgrounds and therefore cannot afford the soaring cost of education, the University authorities have continued to insist on the hike,” the group said.
Mr Ogunjimi further said that it is the responsibility of the government to fund education.
“As far as we are concerned, the funding of public education remains the primary duty and responsibility of the government and not poor parents. Considering the current cost of living crisis, many cannot afford the hiked fees,” he said.
“This means several students are on the verge of dropping out unless the university authorities reverse the fees.”