By Victor Chijioke
Armed policemen arrested and fired tear gas at students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) who took to the streets on Tuesday to protest the school’s fee hike.
Recall that on July 21, 2023, the university announced the hike in fees, from 16, 000 and 21, 000 respectively for students studying courses without labs and students in courses with labs to as high as 190, 000 for returning students, and even more for new students.
The policemen, drawn from many formations in Lagos, took over the gate of the university, preventing the protesting students and others from entering the campus.
The policemen came in over 20 vehicles and were joined by the university’s security personnel and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC.
Admission seekers, who wanted to get into the campus for the screening process, and other visitors, were turned back by security men, who locked the gate.
After the protesting students were dispersed by the policemen, who fired teargas canisters at them and arrested some of them, they later regrouped and moved towards the gate.
The policemen prevented them from getting closer to the gate, cordoning off the area with their presence in large numbers.
Speaking on behalf of the students, the President-elect of the Faculty of Education Students Association, Balogun Ibrahim, accused the Area Commander, whose name he gave as ACP Ayodeji A, of ordering his men to shoot at them and also arresting some of their colleagues.
He gave the names of the arrested students as including Femi Adeyeye and Philip Olatinwo, vowing that the students would continue to lay siege to the campus until they were released.
Balogun said: “When the new fee regime was announced, we met with the management of the university led by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Folasade Ogunsola, and she said she would call us back for another meeting. That was on August 2, 2023. To date, nothing has been heard from her end. Instead of the reduction in the fees that we are expecting, the management only said they are giving us the opportunity to pay the fees twice.”
Many students may drop out if the situation is not redressed,” he stressed. “We are also not happy with the Police Area Commander here who ordered his men to shoot at us and also arrested two of our colleagues. We are demanding the immediate release of those guys.”
Our correspondent present at the protest gathered that the number of those arrested were more than two. The arrested protesters included Giwa Temitope, National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) PRO, Ayodele Aduwo, and 5 others.
According to Femi Adeyeye, convener of the Students Solidarity Group Against Fee Hike and one of the arrested, six of the nine persons arrested were NANS executives. All were, however, released some hours later.
The NANS PRO, Giwa Temitope, in concert with other protest leaders, called off the protest on the day, issuing a 48-hour ultimatum for the reversal of the fee hike, after which students will be back for another protest.
As at the time of filing this report, our correspondent’s efforts to reach the university’s Dean of Student Affairs via text to learn the university’s take on the incident has proven futile.