Human Right lawyer Abdul Mahmud says students concerned about poor learning environment in their campuses should familiarise themselves with Chapter 4 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution.
The lawyer said this in a series of tweets on his official twitter handle in reaction to the rustication of Ifemosu Micheal Adewale by the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) over an open letter written to the Vice Chancellor.
Condemning the pervasive threat to free speech and freedom of expression in Nigerian campuses, provided students with a few strategies to beat the scourge.
See his tweets below…
Going through the convos on my tweet – thread on the authoritarianism of varsities’ administrators, I realized how pervasive the threat to free speech and freedom of expression has become in our campuses. Here, a few strategies to beat the scourge.
1) If you’re concerned about poor learning environment in your campus- no light, water, security, overcrowded lecture rooms, etc – write a petition to the Dean, Students Affairs. If you’ve SUG, copy the president1a) Detail your concerns and cite examples of the concerns. Be polite in your letter. Ensure your petition is stamped “received”. Snap a picture of your petition;
2) If your campus is wholly owned by FGN, and no action is taken on your petition, do another letter- FoI – to the Dean requesting information on steps the institution has taken in respect of your petition. As a student who pays tuition & hall fees
The institution has the responsibility to deliver quality service to you under the Act establishing the varsity
3) Find time, go online and download two documents- Act establishing the varsity and Freedom of Information Act. You’ll need them. Also download the Supreme Court judgment of Garba v Unimaid
4) If no action is taken by the varsity, you can tweet or facebook your experiences. It is within your power under the Freedom of Expression provision of S. 39 CFRN 1999
5) Familiarize yourself with Chapter 4 of the Constitution 1999, particularly this: S. 39. (1) “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of expression, including freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference”
6) If you’re cited by the varsity, and notice of disciplinary hearing is served on you, immediately get in touch with a lawyer. Though, a lawyer can’t enter appearance for you at that stage
7) Though a stubborn human rights lawyer can force his way and insist on defending your rights. Here’s a small story…
In 1997, Activist Adelakun was summoned by the authorities to appear before a panel in Ago-Iwoye. He briefed the SW Office of the Civil Liberties Organization in Ijebu-Ode
I swung into action and filed a motion at the High Court Ijebu-Ode and sought an exparte order stopping the hearing pending the determination of the substantive suit. It came before late Justice Osipide, the erudite judge from Erunwon
He granted the order asking all parties to return to the status quo ante – the positions they were before the summon was served on my client
I served the order on the Registrar of the varsity. Recognizing we were under the military and knowing the attitudes of VCs to orders, I wrote the university to warn it of the danger of holding the hearing
It however proceeded to hold the disciplinary hearing. I stormed the varsity with my appurtenances of detention, if I was arrested by the SSS or Police. Adelakun was a popular students activist. He mobilized Ago Iwoye
I appeared at the hearing, chaired by the DVC Admin, with the current ASUU President as a member. He was sympathetic to our course as a young lecturer. Arguments ensued on whether or not I had a right of appearance
The varsity lawyer, one Somekun insisted it was an internal varsity matter. I told the panel that it was a quasi administrative hearing with powers of discipline and that my client had right of lawyer of his choice under the unsuspended section of CFRN 1979
During my feisty presentation I tendered the order of the court to the hearing and told the members they were in breach of the order of a competent court. I threatened to file contempt proceedings against them.
The DVC hurriedly adjourned the hearing. We came out to the embrace of thousand of Students who were dancing and singing outside. A few days later, the varsity approached for settlement. I asked it to withdraw the summon as a condition
It did. I withdrew our motion. Activist Adelakun is today a Canon of one of the churches in the Southwest.
8) Where a lawyer can’t appear for you, be courageous to attend the hearing. Some varieties are smart. They ensure they get the procedures right. Don’t dodge. Go. Present your case diligently to the hearing, with your petition and FoI letter as evidence
9) Show the hearing that the poor condition of learning is a violation of your right: “S.34 (1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person” – CFRN 1999
Be diligent, polite, and fearless. Show how the poor condition of learning violates your dignity as tution fee-paying student. Let them go ahead and expel you, they’ll see fire in court!
10) They’ll see fire in court as Federal Polytechnic Ilaro saw at the Federal High Court, Abeokuta in 1997 even with late Rotimi Williams SAN leading 5 lawyers as its lawyer.