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 23, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Abia State Polytechnic

Region & Country:Western Africa | Nigeria

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On September 23, 2021, police reportedly opened fire at a crowd of Abia State Polytechnic (ASP) students protesting in response to news that a police officer allegedly raped a fellow student.

A large group of students — apparently hundreds, according to available reports, photos, and videos — protested on Aba-Owerri Road, a busy street where the campus is situated, bringing traffic to a halt. Students chanted and held placards.

In addition to the rape of their classmate, students also protested the non accreditation of ASP’s Civil Engineering Department.

Police near ASP’s entrance reportedly fired at least several shots towards protesters, who sources described as being nonviolent. There were no reported injuries. The Abia State governor condemned the police use of force.

Scholars at Risk is concerned by police using lethal force in response to students nonviolently exercising their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly on campus, as well as allegations of a student being raped by a police officer. State security forces have an obligation to refrain from using lethal force to restrict or retaliate against such conduct, which is explicitly protected by 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. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such use of force undermines academic freedom and democratic society generally.