Nigeria Table of Contents
Students were a perpetual source of dissent. During the 1970s, the National Union of Nigerian Students (NUNS), a government-sanctioned federation of all student unions in Nigeria and of Nigerian students abroad, actively opposed government policies on several issues, including students' rights and educational conditions. In April 1978, NUNS instigated or participated in nationwide campus protests against increased university fees, during which police and army units killed or seriously wounded at least twenty students. The FMG responded by closing three universities indefinitely, by banning NUNS, and by appointing a commission of inquiry, after which several senior university officials and students were dismissed.
The next major round of violent student demonstrations occurred in May 1986, when police killed more than a dozen Ahmadu Bello University students protesting disciplinary action against student leaders observing "Ali Must Go" Day (referring to the minister of education), in memory of students killed in the 1978 demonstration. Disorders spread rapidly to other campuses across the country. The government imposed a national ban on demonstrations and closed nine of Nigeria's fifteen universities, which were not reopened until July. The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), founded in 1980 to replace the banned NUNS and itself theoretically banned as a result of the May 1986 riots, called for dismissals of government, university, and police officials. Its call was supported by the NLC. After a commission of inquiry, the government accepted some recommendations for removals but dissolved all student unions for the remainder of the academic year. NANS, however, rejected the commission's findings and, in May 1987, five universities were closed in connection with campus incidents involving remembrances of the anniversary of Ahmadu Bello University student slayings the year before.
In February 1988, the government closed Ahmadu Bello University and the University of Nigeria campuses at Nsukka and Enugu and narrowly averted a NANS-supported nationwide student strike by rescinding a decision to try nine Nsukka students for arson and property damage. Two months later, five universities were shut down after student riots in Jos to protest a 3-percent rise in gasoline prices, during which several persons, including two police offices died. Between May and July 1989, student riots in several southern states again led to closure of several universities and a secondary school and forced Babangida to cancel an official visit to France. Student rioters in Benin City, joined by townspeople, burned vehicles, government buildings, and two prisons from which about 600 inmates escaped; the riot was put down by police and army units two days later. Rioting soon spread to Ibadan and Lagos, where soldiers again were called in to restore order; to Obafemi Awolowo University School of Agriculture's Akure campus near Ibadan, where about seventy students were arrested; and to the College of Agriculture in Yande, near Loko, in Benue State. The government closed six schools until March 1990 but permitted them to reopen on October 30 after requiring returning students to sign a formal pledge of good behavior. To deter further student unrest, in early 1990 the AFRC issued Decree Number 47. It imposed a five-year jail term and/or a N50,000 fine on any student found guilty of organizing or participating in demonstrations, set up special tribunals to try offenders, and again banned the NANS.
Data as of June 1991