Students of the University of Lagos (UNILAG) protesting change of name of the university to Moshood Abiola University (MAUL) clashed with the police on Friday. Police threw tear gas canisters at the students and a female student slumped unconscious.
The Tribune reports that there was chaos in Akoka and environs on Friday morning as students of the University of Lagos engaged the police in street fight. The students gathered at about 10 a.m., and marched out of their campus to protest the change of the university's name, but police officers forcefully dispersed the protest.
According to The Tribune, the students had planned to undertake a protest march to Murtala Mohammed International Airport. Vanguard reports that while the students proceeded along Yaba road, local hoodlums known as "area boys" took advantage of the situation to set up road blocks and began extorting money from motorists. Police say they were forced to intervene to stop the situation from escalating.
Vanguard reports that the police forcefully drove the students down Yaba road back to the gates of the University of Lagos campus using tear gas canisters. The students responded with barrages of bottle and rock missiles.
According to Vanguard, a student who was part of the protest, said: “As we were planning to go out for protest this morning, our leaders told us to converge at the school gate and not to cause trouble. Suddenly, the policemen that had been following us since Tuesday when we started the peaceful protest divided into two groups. One of the groups that left suddenly came back with canisters of tear gas and fired them into the air. That was how one of the female students fell unconscious. While we were trying to revive her, the police kept shooting the gas into the air with tear gas launchers but we managed to take her to the school clinic.”
Punch reports that the female student was Miss Funmi Ayodele, 22, of the English Department. Ayodele was in a stable condition when Punch reporter visited the university medical center. There was no record of death at the hospital connected with the protest.
The Punch reports that a spokesman said that the police had no intention of shooting teargas at the students, but that circumstances forced them to fire a few canisters in the air to prevent breakdown of order. He said: "The Senate of UNILAG had ordered us in writing to stay at the university gate so that the protest would not go out of hand. They said we should not let the students protest at the university entrance. We’ve been here since Tuesday. But today, the students decided to take it to the extreme. They blocked the Herbert Macaulay Way. We had to go there to disperse them."
Vanguard reports that the Commissioner of Police in charge of operations in Lagos State, Tunde Sobulo, denied the story that the female student slumped from the effect of tear gas. He said: “Some students started leaving the campus to Herbert Macauley road, blocking the road and started collecting money from motorists. These were the people we pursued to the university gate. On sighting us, the students... started throwing stones at us. The lady they alleged we beat was coming behind when she slumped... we have a responsibility to protect lives and properties of the people in the community... many of them [the protesters] are not genuine students of this institution..."
Tribune reports that a spokesman for the students and former Public Relations Officer for the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), Mr. Usman Oloyede, confirmed that a female student and a male student fell unconscious during the clash.
The students later gathered at the university gate and staged protest musicals. Tribune reports that Dokun, a student, explained: “Ordinarily, we are not supposed to turn the gate to a theater of entertainment, but the presence of the police has stopped us from walking on the streets. We have chased them away. This is our new base; any attempt by them to move closer will be met with stiff opposition. We don’t want to see policemen here.”
According to Tribune, President Jonathan Good luck had only acted on the suggestion of his think-tank to name UNILAG after late multimillionaire and politician Moshood Abiola. According to The Tribune, the president was baffled at the student protests because the move was part of a plan reportedly designed to reach out to the southwest of the country and address allegations of political marginalization at the federal level of government.
Groups from the southwest had reportedly met with the president on various occasions to complain about the alleged marginalization of the southwest and remind him that the west voted for him massively at the last general election. According to The Tribune, the president has been loud in repeating to his visitors, following the outbreak of protests, that he had only good intentions and that renaming the University of Lagos after Moshood Abiola was intended to recognize the role he played in the 1990s in promoting democracy in the country. The president said that this was only a first step toward addressing the west's complaints.
Following allegations that some politicians were involved in mobilizing the students for the protest, State Security Services (SSS) agents have started investigations. The Tribune reports that a source said: “The service has gathered that some politicians heavily mobilized some students on Tuesday and that the protests by the students was politically motivated. There is the fear that any popular move by the Federal Government may start to give the ruling party a positive image ahead of 2015, especially in the South West. Any student found to have allowed himself or herself to be used, will face serious sanctions."