The Federal Government, yesterday, said that protesting members of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, who blocked the Lagos-Ibadan expressway violated the country’s law.
Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola stated this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the weekly Federal Executive Council, FEC, meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Council Chamber, Presidential Villa, Abuja.
According to him, the constitution, as amended, recognizes and protects citizens’ right to public protests but does not empower any Nigerian to “inflict pain and inconvenience on other people.”
The minister’s explanation came on the heels of the report that the protest caused a gridlock on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, leaving motorists and passengers stranded.
The protest took place just after the Sagamu interchange section of the expressway, towards Lagos.
The protesting students carried placards with different inscriptions, chanting solidarity songs as they lamented the strike by Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, that has kept them at home for seven months.
They vowed to lay siege to the major highway and others to drive home their demand to end the strike.
But fielding question from journalists on the recurrent gridlock on the uncompleted sections of the highway, Fashola appealed for more patience from Nigerians, saying there was no alternative route in the already built-up areas.
He said: “Once again, I apologize and empathize with commuters who need that place to get on with their lives.
‘’It’s the place we left to the last really because it’s the most built-up area, the last six kilometres into Lagos; very densely populated and occupied. There’s very little room for alternative routes for people. So, you just have to bear with us.
“I also heard that some aggrieved students, under the aegis of NANS, are going to the road to protest. My respectful view is that is not helpful at all to the citizens.
“The right to protest is a very well-protected right in our constitution, but it does not include the right to inflict pain and inconvenience on other people. And so, whilst the protests can go on, they should refrain from blocking the road in order to do their protests. That in itself is a violation of law.”
However, The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) has asked the management of the University of Benin to withdraw the degree certificate it issued to the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola (SAN).
NANS spokesperson, Giwa Yisa Temitope, said the minister’s statement showed that he is enmeshed in a big contradiction in terms of what the law says.
The students’ movement called on the leadership of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to start the process of withdrawing Fashola’s law degree.
The statement read, “He tries to trivialize a very important issue by watering down the law. Aside from the clear nature of the letters of Section 2 of the constitution on fundamental human rights, Fashola should tell us how a protest is embedded in the right to “inflict pain and inconvenience on other people?”
“As far as NANS is concerned, Fashola has long shown that he does not understand the laws of Nigeria. Same person who heralds a SANship to his name went ahead to attempt to destroy evidence on the very crucial Lekki massacre. Nigerian youths do not respect Fashola and his fake ideals anymore.
“The best is for the minister to go and make restitutions with the Buhari government to pay ASUU now rather than appeal for a suspension of the protest we have begun.
“If Fashola continues to tongue-attack our protests, we would start preparing to prevent another attack on our movement. We know that the same Fashola has started contacting government agents and thugs to attack us. We want to put it on notice that should anything happen to our students in any part of the country, we will hold Minister Fashola responsible.
“However, we call on ASUU UNIBEN to start the process of withdrawing Fashola’s Law degree. Just as we reiterate our demand for a meeting with ASUU leadership soon. We need constructive synergy to win this struggle.
“Finally, we apologize to all our parents and friends who have been affected by these protests. We appeal that we are condemned to act bow as the education of Nigeria at all levels is at stake. And as you know, a nation that fails to care about education is planning to pay heavily for the consequences of mass ignorance. Victory is certain!
“And, we also state that there is already a taskforce in place to enforce compliance which is headed by a former VP of the association, Ojo Raymond Olumide. So, there shall be no going back and we shall continue this struggle.”