On December 16, 2020, authorities reportedly fired tear gas at students protesting the sudden closure of Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education in Nigeria.
On December 15, Nigeria’s Commissioner for Higher Education announced the closure of all higher education institutions in the country. While the commissioner didn’t provide an explanation for the decision, the announcement follows a reported spike in COVID-19 cases and the abduction of 344 students from a secondary school by the extremist group Boko Haram.
On December 16, when students arrived at the Sa’adatu Rimi College of Education to take exams, security guards reportedly denied them entry, and fired tear gas at students to disperse them. Students then held a protest on the Kano-Zaria highway, blocking traffic for hours. Police reportedly fired tear gas at the students protesting on the highway.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force against 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 and university authorities have an obligation to refrain from restricting student-led protest activity, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violent force intended to restrict student expression undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.