On May 6, 2019, Akwa Ibom State University (AKSU) suspended Nkanang Joy Ufot, a second year performing arts student, in apparent retaliation for expression on social media criticizing the university administration on social media.
On May 4, Ufot reportedly posted the following message on Facebook: “AKSU what is happening? A dry cleaners shop was robbed last night along college road…” Ufot’s post reportedly referred to the alleged lack of security on campus and a rise in cult violence. Just a few days prior, on May 2, an AKSU student was shot and killed on campus by suspected cult members. In response to a comment on Ufot’s Facebook post that called for a campus protest over the lack of security, Ufot reportedly responded in a comment “No… we don’t want to spoil the schools image… foolish vc.”
On May 6, during a meeting with university officials including the Dean of Student Affairs, the Chief Security Officer, the Department of Performing Arts Head, and the Students Union President, Ufot reportedly acknowledged that she had called the Vice Chancellor foolish in her Facebook comment. The officials reportedly informed her that she was dismissed from the university. A suspension letter signed by the University Registrar and the Secretary to the Senate states that the Vice Chancellor directed Ufot’s suspension for “this act of gross misconduct which constitutes a breach of matriculation oath.” University officials reported that Ufot would remain suspended and denied entry to campus until the completion of the investigation.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about disciplinary actions against a student in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the right to freedom of expression — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a party. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.