By Chijioke Okoronkwo
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) on Thursday in Abuja said it was pleased with the unconditional release of 13 students of University of Lagos(UNILAG) from detention at the Kirikiri Maximum Prison.
A statement by NANS said the students were released before the expiration of 24-hour ultimatum given to a Special Offences Mobile Court in Lagos by NANS to free them.
The statement signed by NANS President, Mr Chinonso Obasi, said the release of the students averted a major crisis.
A Special Offences Mobile Court had on April 1 remanded the 13 UNILAG students in Kirikiri Prisons, pending their bail application.
They were accused of engaging in unlawful invasion of Television Continental in Lagos.
The students were arraigned on a two-count charge of unlawful invasion and disruption of activities and all pleaded not guilty to the two-count charge.
The students’ body had on Monday issued a 24-hour ultimatum for their release failure of which the students would stage a protest at the prison.
“Our joy stems mainly from the fact that the gesture from the special court averted what would have undoubtedly sparked off a major students’ unrest in the country.
‘’We were greatly pained that such a harsh punishment could be handed to long-suffering students at a time of immense socio-economic challenges.
“Even though the current leadership of NANS believes in the superior logic of dialogue instead of violence as basis of settling disputes, we saw the backdoor incarceration of the 13 students, whether rusticated or not, as an affront against Nigerian students.
“It was therefore with pain that we started mobilising to carry out our threat of relocating to the Kirikikiri Prison.
Obasi commended the Magistrate of the Special Offences Mobile Court for the wisdom and circumspection displayed in the matter.
He urged the police authorities to always treat university undergraduates with care and caution, knowing the treacherous economic and social conditions they go through.
According to him, students are amenable to moral suasion and show of understanding in resolving disputes.
“Attempts to deny students their right of free speech or treat their peaceful protest against high handed policies usually lead to needless violence and destruction of property.
‘’Such protest, in the end, takes heavy tolls on the economy with students nearing greater brunt,
“We use this opportunity to also call on the Federal Government to take issues of students welfare serious, including infrastructural decay, poor social amenities in various campuses, ’’ Obasi said in the statement.