Two protesters were apprehended by police on Wednesday at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) junction during a demonstration against a significant tuition fee increase at the institution.
The two individuals taken into custody by police officers have been identified as Femi Adeyeye and Philip Olatinwo.
Benjamin Hundeyin, the police spokesperson in the state, confirmed the arrests, although he stated that he did not possess information regarding their identities.
UNILAG had recently announced a substantial hike in tuition fees, raising them from N26,000 to between N120,750 and N240,250, depending on the courses of study and levels, causing outrage among students.
Following their arrest, the protesters were loaded into a police van colloquially referred to as a “Black Maria” stationed in the area.
However, the detained activists, Adeyeye and Olatinwo, urged their fellow protesters not to panic. Adeyeye posted a video message on the X platform from inside the police van, declaring, “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.”
Police forces also employed tear gas to disperse the protesters during the demonstration.
Before the protest commenced, 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 university’s main gate.
In response to the arrests, the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) issued a statement, calling on the commissioner of police to “immediately and unconditionally release the protesters.” The ERC alleged that three protesters had been detained, naming the third individual as Ayodele Aduwo.
The ERC statement read, “The activists on Wednesday, 6th 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. We demand their immediate release now and a halt to attacks on democratic rights.”
The education rights group deemed the arrests illegal and a violation of the protesters’ 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 stated.
Isaac Ogunjimi, Deputy National Coordinator of the ERC, emphasised that it is the government’s responsibility to fund education, saying, “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. This means several students are on the verge of dropping out unless the university authorities reverse the fees.”