SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: June 18, 2020

Attack Types: Imprisonment | Prosecution

Institution(s):Various Institutions

Region & Country:Western Africa | Nigeria

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On June 18, 2020, police reportedly arrested students from various universities in Katsina during a protest over security concerns.

In the past year, armed bandits and gangs have reportedly killed hundreds of people and robbed and kidnapped dozens in the northwestern state of Katsina. These have included a June 9 incident, in which roughly 150 armed individuals reportedly opened fire on residents, looted shops, and stole cattle in six communities in Katsina, killing fifty-seven people. 

Students from various universities reportedly held a nonviolent protest on June 18, marching through the streets of the city of Katsina, decrying the killings and insecurity brought about by the crime wave, alleging that the government has failed to protect its citizens, and calling for the resignation of President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Aminu Bello Masari. Police reportedly confronted the protesters, arrested at least twenty, and brought them to the Central Police Station. The students reportedly face charges of “inciting disturbance” and “breach of peace.”

As of this report, it is unclear if the students remain in police custody while awaiting trial.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest of students in apparent retaliation for the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is expressly protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, to which Nigeria is a party. State authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting expressive activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions intended to restrict student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.