A pressure group, the Fund Education Coalition, has condemned the unprovoked harassment of peaceful protesters by personnel of the Nigerian Army.
SaharaReporters earlier reported how soldiers harassed and shot at students who were protesting against the ongoing strike action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in Akure.
The students were on Akure-Ilesa highway, protesting against the ASUU strike when the soldiers invaded the area and started shooting indiscriminately after which they vandalised the equipment of the protesting students.
Reacting in a statement issued by Babatimehin Asiwaju, the Fund Education Coalition on Tuesday condemned the action of the Nigerian Army, warning that it may provoke a mass movement to totally shut down all economic activities in the country.
The group which described the development as ‘disturbing’ said soldiers, by virtue of the law only have business with defending the territorial integrity of the country.
It, however, encouraged students to remain resolute in the struggle for a better Nigeria as it urged the government to ensure there is no repeat of harassment in the state and in other parts of the country.
The statement reads: “Our attention has been brought to a report circulating online wherein personnel of the Nigerian army could be seen harassing and shooting sporadically in a bid to disperse peaceful protesting students in Ondo state today.
“The protesters who are a coalition of all students in Ondo state can be seen scampering for safety while some in the process sustained injuries.
“For us at Fund Education Coalition, we find this disturbing and particularly appalling that soldiers who by virtue of the law only have business with defending the territorial integrity of the country and are barred from operating in the civil arena, are seen brutalising aggrieved students who were simply demonstrating their civil rights to freedom of assembly.
“We totally condemn this act and warn the state government to immediately swing into action and ensure there is no repeat of this ugly menace.
“We clearly understand the language with which the government, the principal element using the armed men to physically brutalise students – is speaking to Nigerian students.
“It is a message of ‘do your worst’. It is indeed the language of a bully. However, we are not a punching bag that does retain jabs without retaliation, we will surely respond in the language they understand – Mass movement to totally shut down all economic activities in the country.
“To the dogged Nigerian students in Ondo state and all across the country, who have stood their ground against the 94 days shutdown of universities, we rain a flood of solidarity greetings on you and urge that we remain indefatigable in the #EndASUUStrike struggle.
“This is a fight to finish and indeed a duty history has imposed on us that we must not avoid, no matter the consequences. Solidarity.”
ASUU had on February 14, announced a warning strike which was prolonged a month after, to allow the government to meet all of its demands. A 12-week extension was announced on May 9.
The academics are seeking improved welfare, revitalisation of public universities and academic autonomy among other demands.
One bone of contention for the lecturers is the non-payment of university revitalisation funds, which amounts to about N1.1 trillion.
But the Nigerian Government has said it doesn’t have the money to pay such an amount, citing low oil prices during the Muhammadu Buhari administration.