Nigerian murder protests

June 14, 1996

Nigerian student leaders declared a day of mourning this week for Kudirat Abiola, the murdered senior wife of the detained opposition leader, and other detained and assassinated pro-democracy activists.

Temitope Ajeigbe, an official of the National Association of Nigerian students, an umbrella for all university students, declared June 12, the anniversary of the 1993 elections, a black day. On behalf of his executive he directed all members of Nigerian student organisations to dress in black and march to Campus Square on Lagos island.

"Abiola and other pro-democracy activists including political detainees should be freed immediately and June 12 should be observed as a national mourning day for the detained and assassinated activists," he declared.

Twenty-four hours after Mrs Abiola died in a hail of bullets, students at the University of Ibadan were involved in massive street demonstrations against the killing and there were protests during her funeral in Lagos.

Students from Lagos State University, the Federal University of Lagos and the college of technology thronged to witness the burial and jeered representatives of the military government sent to convey a message of condolence on behalf of ruler General Abacha.

The students carried their protests right into where 15 ambassadors including the ambassadors of the United Kingdom, the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Italy and South Africa, were seated for the burial ceremony.

"Nigerians are in chains. We are being systematically eliminated and we call on the international community to help and save us," declared Femi Ayeladola, the representative of the students.

Responding on behalf of the diplomatic corps, Walter Carrington, of the US, promised to pass the messages to their home governments.

Immediately the coffin arrived the students carried it around the compound for a few minutes. After Mrs Abiola's body was lowered into the grave they took the empty casket and went into the city chanting anti-government songs.

Later there was a violent clash between students and the police who used tear-gas to disperse the crowd and the police eventually succeeded in snatching the coffin.

In Ibadan several hundred students chanting anti-military songs succeeded in mobilising school students into joining the protestors in a march on the seat of the Oyo state government.

"Our main objective is to deliver a protest letter to Sani Abacha, the head of state, through Eke Nwosu, Oyo's state administrator," said Segun Olalewe, student union president.

Among other demands the students wanted to call for Mr Abiola's release so that the presidential claimant could head a government of national unity, a return of the military junta to the barracks, and justice for the killers.

But on the way to deliver the protest, they met police who threw tear-gas into their midst, forcing them to disperse. As they were marching back to the campus Colonel Nwosu ordered the arrest of some students, including Mr Olalewe.

He promised they would be tried in the courts for a breach of the peace. Some students injured by tear-gas are receiving treatment in clinics and hospitals and Colonel Nwosu ordered the closure of the university, giving the students three hours to leave the campus.

To avoid harassment and arrest they all complied and the university remains shut indefinitely.

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