• 30 vehicles, seven buildings burnt
• I lost all I laboured for, cries retired UNIPORT staff
From CHRIS ANUCHA &TONY JOHN, Port Harcourt
No fewer than 30 vehicles were burnt yesterday at Omuokiri community, Aluu, Rivers State when angry students, under the aegis of National Association of Nigerian Students, stormed the community to avenge the death of their colleagues brutally murdered in the area.
Four students of the University of Port Harcourt were killed in Aluu by villagers last week.
Besides the 30 vehicles, no fewer than seven buildings were burnt by the students, who allegedly looted shops and destroyed other property.
But to elder Sunday Ahanonu, a retired staff of University of Port Harcourt, what happened to him on Tuesday evening was double tragedy. The man, who retired from service after 35 years of service, was sick and hospitalized. He was in his hospital bed when some angry students stormed the community.
By the time the students were through with the rampage, his house had lost its structure, beauty and design. It had been razed. He also accused the students of looting his property and making away with the sum of N850, 000 paid to him on Sunday, September 30. He said he planned to save the money in the bank the following day, but could not, as he took ill.
The 65-year-old man lamented: “ All what I laboured for as an orphan has been destroyed; I don’t know where to start again.”
It is not only Ahanonu’s house that was burnt; his three cars – a Mercedes Benz V-Boot, marked CP 816 PHC, and two buses – were also burnt.
“They looted all my property. I have lost millions of naira; I don’t know what made them to do this to me. The place where the killing took place is far from here. Policemen were here when the students came and they never tried to stop them from destroying our property. I want the management of UNIPORT and the government to provide shelter for me and my family. They also looted my wife’s property and made away with her money.”
According to him, relevant documents were lost during the attack. His son, Orowu Ahanonu, a History and Diplomacy student of UNIPORT said his family never took part in the killing of the students and said the destruction of his parents’ property was uncalled for.
The 300 level student narrated how the students engaged in a looting spree and wanton destruction of property. He said people from the neighbouring communities made efforts to stop the rampaging students, but were not successful.
“They were unstoppable! I wonder why UNIPORT students did this to us. The land, where the institution is sited belongs to Aluu. My family never killed any student. I wonder why they declared war on us. Government should replace my parents’ destroyed property.”
Another indigene of Aluu, Barrister Okachi Ordu is of the view that the entire community had been unfairly projected in a bad light. He said the area where the students were killed are inhabited by non-indigenes who bought land from the natives and built hostels, shops and others for rent.
According to him, apart from the traditional ruler, all the people arrested in connection with the murder are non-indigenes. He said the community had been facing some security challenges, which made them to write to the Inspector-General of Police, requesting for a police Division in the community, instead of a police post. He also blamed the government for the rising crime wave in the community. According to Ordu, the crime rate in the area went up when the federal government decided to use the Man O’ war camp in the community to rehabilitate some ex-militants.
He also blamed the government for rehabilitating the ex-militants in a place where students live. “Since the arrival of the ex-militants here, the crime rate has increased. They rob, rape and even kill. Cult activities thrive here. We have been crying out to the police but nobody listened to us. Just a month ago, they shot and killed two men who were driving in a Toyota Camry. The crimes are committed by strangers. Our customs and tradition forbids spilling of blood. Government should share from the blame.
There was a time the allowances of the ex-militants were not paid and they went on rampage, robbing, raping and killing.
“We sympathise with the parents of the students but the killing was not carried out by Aluu indigenes,” Ordu said.
When Daily Sun visited Omuokiri yesterday morning, it was still like a graveyard. Commercial activities were still halted as shops and other business premises were under lock and key. There was tension in the whole place as security men were seen patrolling the area, arresting more people that they felt have a case to answer. For instance, not less than five suspects were also arrested yesterday.
Some residents narrated how their houses and shops were looted and others were burnt by the angry students. One of the victims is Mrs. Daniel Ruth Nworlu. Her husband‘s house was burnt in his absence.
According to her, her husband, a sailor travelled and had not been informed of the burning of his house. She also disclosed how the students destroyed their two television sets and two deep freezers, and carted away the sum of N130, 000.00, paid by one of the tenants.
“We lost everything, including vital documents. Not even a pin was brought out from the house before they set it on fire, I have lost all. My husband is not at home, he went to work. He is not yet aware of what happened. Government should help us replace our damaged property,” the mother of four lamented.
Miss Prisca Ogbonna owns a salon, but that fateful Tuesday, she lost her hand drier, showcase and others, to the protest.
Some of the damaged vehicles in the community were Jetta Saloon (XU793 PHC); a Nissan Sunny (CB 216 PHC); a Mazda 323 LX1.3 (DD 612 PHC) and a Nissan Sunny 1.6 SLX (AJ822 NCH.)