The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), has issued a 24-hour ultimatum to prison authorities to release the 13 students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), currently remanded at the Kirikiri Maximum Security Prison in Lagos.
The student body, in a statement on Monday, threatened to invade the prison and “relocate its headquarters” if the government fails to accede to its demand within the stipulated time.
“After a painstaking review of the circumstances surrounding the draconian ruling, we have resolved to demand and hereby demand the unconditional release of these students within 24 hours,” Chinonso Obasi, the NANS president told journalists, according to a statement he released.
“Consequently, we make bold to state that if at the expiration of our 24 hours ultimatum, these innocent students are not released without strings, we shall relocate the Headquarters of NANS to Kirikiri in solidarity with our members.
“We also hope that the authorities would use the opportunity of the 24 hours ultimatum to either expand the facilities of Kirikiri prison or release our colleagues, as they can see we are serious and determined by offering them a fair choice.”
The police last Saturday charged the students before a Special Offences Mobile Court for “riotous invasion” of TVC, a television station, as well as the main campus of the University of Lagos and disrupting normal activities.
The accused include Femi Adeyeye (who is currently rusticated for four semesters for criticising the University of Lagos management on social media), Tony Aina, Kodri Yaya, Asimi Oladime, Ismahim Olalekan, Segun Okesola, Abdulazeez Soneye, Idris Abogunloko, and Muyiwa Olaniyi.
The rest are Toheed Oladimeji, Joseph Akanni, Lukumon Olusegun, and Abiodun Agbeniyi
They are standing trial before P.E Nwaka, a chief magistrate, on two counts of unlawful invasion and disruption of activities.
The students pleaded not guilty to the charges.
On Sunday, TVC refuted the police claims that the students invaded their station, insisting that they had come to protest the rustication of a student by the university management.
The TV station said the students’ protest was “peaceful and they left our premises peacefully.”
It was learnt that the students were protesting the rustication of a visually-impaired student, Lawrence Success, for criticising the school’s management.
The police arrested the students on Friday and charged them to a mobile court on Saturday.
The magistrate ordered their remand at Kirikiri Prison until April 6 when their bail application will be determined.
NANS criticised the magistrate’s decision to clamp the students into a prison facility for one week.
“Being first time offenders, the Magistrate, if ever he was once a University student, would have handed down a stern warning and demand of good behaviour instead of sending them to prison for whatever reasons,” said Mr. Obasi.
“In saner climes, what the Magistrate should have done was to certify that the suspects are bonafide students and release them to their school authorities or student leaders. But rather than factor in the extenuating circumstances of their protest, the Magistrate apparently in a hurry to please some hidden forces, decided to blunt the proper socialization of 13 Nigerian leaders of tomorrow.”