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: September 20, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Plateau State Polytechnic

Region & Country:Western Africa | Nigeria

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 20, 2021, state security forces responding to a nonviolent student protest at Plateau State Polytechnic (PlaPoly) fired live ammunition and tear gas, killing one student.

Students were protesting the postponement of exams due to a faculty union strike initiated two days earlier. The strike was intended to protest demands relating to compensation that they claim the government was not meeting. On September 20, as a result of the strike by PlaPoly faculty, the university suspended exams that were scheduled to commence that day, without giving prior notice to students. Student protesters complained that this and other strikes in recent years had been delaying the completion of their degree programs due to the resulting suspensions of academic activity.

Students held a protest at PlaPoly over the sudden postponement of exams and concerns about the suspension of academic activities more broadly largely caused by faculty strikes and COVID-19. Student protesters blocked a road by the campus entrance; however, the protest was otherwise apparently peaceful. When state security forces arrived on the scene to disperse the protesters, clashes broke out with students. Security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition during the clashes. One student was shot and later pronounced dead. Several other students sustained injuries.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of live ammunition and the death of a student during a student protest, and offers condolences to the family, friends, and classmates of the deceased student. While state authorities have a responsibility to maintain order and security, they also have an obligation to ensure that their actions are proportionate to the situation, do not endanger protesters, and are not undertaken to restrict nonviolent expressive activity. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, violence during protests undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.