Vice Chancellor at University in Ife (Nigeria) Directly Involved in Murder of Student Activists

This is an update we have received on the conditions faced by student activists in Nigeria.  See below for more details.

Readers of this site will be aware of the terrible events that took place in July at the University of Ife in Nigeria, when an armed cultist group (neo-fascists) known as the Black Axe attacked the student union leadership during the night. Five students were killed. Previous to that a group of eleven students were arrested and badly beaten at the University of Ilorin. They were released after 35 days. New dramatic revelations have been made about the events at Ife. Below we publish a report we received from Nigeria on 14th December. (for more info on the July attacks read: Student Union activists killed in Nigeria by neo-fascist death squad: Eyewitness Account)

Nigeria, December 15th, 1999

Dear comrades,

The situation in Ife has taken a dramatic turn. Under pressure from the students the Obasanjo regime has been compelled to set up another panel of inquiry into the July 10 secret cult attack on Ife campus. This was as a result of the massive movement that developed in the aftermath of the killings. The regime also feared losing credibility in the face of the new movement.

The previous panel of inquiry had lost credibility. The result s of its findings (if any) are yet to be published.

The students forced the 'new panel' to hold their deliberations in the open at the main university theatre. The revelations at the panel fully confirm that the university administration under Omole, the Vice Chancellor at the time of the killings, was involved in the planning and execution of the July 10 hit.

But there are more shocking revelations. Omole himself was present at the panel and his statements confirm that he organised the action. His chief intelligence officer confirmed that Omole had ordered the assassination of five leading student union activists (among those who had been previously suspended and expelled) back in 1997. Fortunately his hired thugs were not able to carry out this order

He also revealed that Omole knows the kingpins who carried out the July 10 attack, Kato and Efosa. And that he had these elements arrested some years ago, only for them to be released without trial. Omole then instructed Kato to be report to him directly.

The revelations of the university intelligence officer along with the lies of Omole are what broke the camel's back. However, the State is yet to arrest Omole, nor have the police ever invited him for questioning since July.

In order to unravel all the truth an independent working class inquiry into the incidence is necessary with Trade Union and student union representatives taking part. So long as the inquiry is in the hands of the regime we can have no confidence that the whole truth will come out and that justice will be done.

The expelled students have still not been re-instated. So the struggle for reinstatement continues.

All this shows that although there is a so-called civilian government in power now the system in Nigeria can in no way be described as a "democracy". The military chiefs are still operating behind the scenes.

The new regime, had initially given indications that all measures should be taken to avoid confrontation with the students. This is not because they had seen the light and become "democrats", but because they understood that the situation in Nigeria is very explosive. There is extreme anger among the working class and enormous potential for struggle. The incoming regime understood that to provoke a major student movement could be the spark that would set off a bigger of movement of the working class. The experience of Indonesia obviously had an effect on their thinking.

In spite of this various university authorities have been refusing to bend to this line of thinking. Back in May you will recall that we published material on the arrest of student activists at the University of Ilorin. These were released after 35 days incarceration in the terrible conditions that exist in Nigerian prisons.

Among these there were students who had been expelled. The students successfully challenged this decision in the courts. But the University authorities have refused to obey the court decision! A campaign is now being mounted to force the university authorities to abide by the court order.

Recently a student rally was held at Ilorin under the banner of the Campaign Against Victimisation of Student Unionism. There was a good turn out and this clearly showed the authorities that it was only a matter of time before a bigger movement takes place around the demands for a genuine and independent Student Union.

To avoid this, three weeks ago, the University of Ilorin authorities lifted the ban on the union and called for the election of an electoral commission on a faculty basis. the students voted for representatives into the electoral commission. This is a major step forward. High on the demands of the students is the demand for early elections.

The students want the elections to be completed before the end of the year.

The events at Ilorin and Ife show that there is a developing process of student radicalisation. The authorities instinct is to try and hold back the movement. The killings at Ife and the previous arrests at Ilorin confirm this. But every time the pressure from below builds up and the authorities are forced to make concessions. The students will not stop until the authorities concede on the demand for genuine independent student unionism and the re-instatement of all suspended and expelled students.

We will keep you updated as events unfold.

Yours in solidarity,

Nigerian Legal Defence Campaign
Campaign for a Workers and Youth Alternative (Nigeria)
PO Box 6977,
London N1 3JN,
Great Britain.