On November 4, 2020, Ignatius Ajuru University of Education’s administration suspended two students, Chibuzor Remmy and Sunday Idongesit Okpokpo, for nonviolent social media activity.
In two separate posts to the university’s official Facebook page, university administrators announced that Remmy and Okpokpo were issued suspension letters for their alleged social media comments. Chibuzor was suspended for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year for a Facebook post calling on students to protest there being only one bank on campus. Okpokpo was also suspended for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year for a Facebook post calling for the cancellation of the university’s final year examination and the matriculation ceremony. The university claimed that Remmy and Okpoko “incited students” and “created panic and confusion,” respectively.
On November 6, Mr. Okpokpo’s lawyer, Uchendu Synchro, posted on Facebook indicating the university administration lifted the suspension against both students after he appeared on a Nigerian radio show advocating for the students and promising legal action against the university.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the suspension of students in apparent retaliation for the peaceful exercise of the rights 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 should refrain from retaliating against expressive activity, so long as it is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, suspensions aimed at restricting or retaliating against such activity undermine academic freedom, institutional autonomy, and democratic society generally.