A team of policemen on Thursday dispersed protesting members of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) at the Ministry of Education, Federal Secretariat, Abuja.
The policemen manhandled a cameraman working for the African Independent Television (AIT), and smashed his camera. NANS President, Mr Tijani Shehu, and no fewer than five other students, were arrested.
The students had gathered at the entrance of the ministry, protesting the recent sack of vice-chancellors of 13 Federal Universities.
The students carried placards with inscriptions: “ASUU Break the Silence Against this Injustice;’’ “Sack of VCs, an Attempt to Cripple our Citadels;” “Say No to Injustice,’’ among others.
They argued that the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, erred in the appointment of new vice-chancellors, which they said was a usurpation of the duties of universities governing councils.
“On February 12, 2016, the Federal Government, without due recourse to the governing councils of 12 Federal Universities and the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN), removed their vice-chancellors without any clear statement as to what their offences might have been.
“What is the reason for the sacking of the four vice-chancellors of Federal Universities and that of NOUN before the expiration of their tenures?
“We request that the Federal Government, should in the interest of due process, reverse its decision and reinstate the illegally sacked vice-chancellors,’’ Shehu said.
The NANS president said that the association duly notified all relevant agencies including the Minister of Education of its protest and wondered why the minister could not come to address them. He accused the Academic Staff Union of Nigerian Students (ASUU) of complicity in the sack of the vice-chancellors as it had been silent on the issue.
However, trouble started brewing when the students smashed the windscreen of a sports utility vehicle with registration number FG 23 A31, belonging the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs as it drove by.
The students chanted angrily, threatening to force their way into the ministry, if Adamu did not come out and address them.
All entreaties by the policemen for the students to retreat, were resisted, resulting in the firing of tear gas at them.
At this point, journalists, bystanders and the protesting students scampered for safety while the policemen made arrests.
Adamu recently announced the appointment of new vice-chancellors for 12 Federal Universities and NOUN.
When contacted for comments on the development, the Public Relations Officer, FCT Police Command, said he had yet to be briefed on the issue.