Mobile Court yesterday freed the 13 University of Lagos (Unilag) students it ordered detained in Kirikiri prisons last Saturday.
The Lagos State Environment and Special Offences Enforcement Unit (Task Force) court sitting in Oshodi freed them at the instance of their lawyer, Mr Monday Ubani.
The students, including a rusticated 400-level student, Olorunfemi Adeyeye, of the department of Building were remanded by the court following their arraignment for alleged riotous “invasion” of Television Continental (TVC).
The students were brought to court in a convoy of police vehicle. They arrived into the waiting hands of their colleagues who milled round the vehicle in which the court sat.
They sang songs including “solidarity forever, we shall always fight for our right”. They carried placards with inscriptions such as, “Why are corrupt politicians free, while students are behind bars”, “Release Adeyeye Femi and 12 others now”, “Recall all victimised students in UNILAG now”, “For improved welfare conditions for students” and “Drop all charges release them now”.
There was jubilation when the students were released around 9:30am. They hugged one another, jumped and danced round the entrance of the task force office in Oshodi. One of the freed students shouted “Six days in Kirikiri was not a joke”.
Ubani said the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case as it was not a traffic and environmental offence.
“The boys were not granted bail for a matter that can be bailed. Government has realised their mistake and agreed that the matter should not proceed. The boys have been discharged and acquitted on the grounds that no offence was committed,” he said.
Ubani urged Unilag to learn to manage students, saying the institution is an intellectual ground, where students have the right to ask questions.
National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) President Comrade Aruna Kadiri described the students’ arrest as unfortunate.
Save Unilag Coalition secretary Sanyaolu Juwon demanded the reinstatement of the students.
“We want the restoration of independent students unionism on campus and a new living condition,” he said.
Adeyeye said they went to TVC for a media campaign to bring an end to the persistent victimisation of students.
He said they were charged with “breach of peace”.
“The prosecutor said we should be remanded in prison for three weeks. But the magistrate reduced it to April 6, with no bail.”
He called on Unilag to reverse their rustication, saying: “The foundation of the protests, which led to their resuscitation was based on different issues, including, “no light, no water, hike in prices of commodities and hostel accommodation for post-graduate students from N60,000 to N125,000,” he said.
A visually-impaired Political Science student, Lawrence Umezinwa, who was also rusticated, said he was not taken to prison because of his condition. He claimed that he was beaten because he insisted on following his colleagues to detention.