In May 2001, 49 academics of the University of Ilorin in Nigeria had their appointments terminated by the University authorities for their participation in the national strike of the university teachers’ union, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU). The action set off a protracted legal, industrial and political battle for their reinstatement. The group was to become known nationally and internationally as the UNILORIN 49.
In 2009, the Supreme Court declared the termination of appointment of the 49 academics illegal and restored them to their positions. By this time however, three of the academic staff had died, and several of the living academics had relocated to other universities. In the meantime, many other academics had also been unjustly treated by the University of Ilorin authorities. The “+” sign in “UNILORIN 49+”, stands for the other such victims of injustice. It also stands for the few just men and women in society who support the struggle against injustice.
The experience of the UNILORIN 49 turned out to be an eye opener. Hitherto cocooned in the relative of comfort of the academia, the lecturers were to learn how difficult it was to obtain justice through the country’s judicial system. The experience also confronted them with the enormity of oppression and injustice that the common man or woman suffers, often in silence. It became clear to them that the judicial system in the country was terribly compromised.
When the reinstated lecturers re-united after the Supreme Court judgment, they decided to establish a Foundation to assist in drawing attention to the plight of individuals or groups who may be similar victims of oppression and injustice. The objective of the foundation is to serve as a voice especially for the voiceless and for helpless victims of social, economic and legal injustice in country.