… As students’ protest turns violence
From CHRIS ANUCHA, TONY JOHN and CANICE UZOUKWU, Port Harcourt
Students’ protest over gruesome murder of four undergraduates of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) snowballed into violence yesterday evening. As the protest degenerated into burning of houses and destruction of other property, the authorities of the UNIPORT hurriedly shut down the institution and ordered students to go home.
Biringa Chiadika Lordson, a Theatre Arts student, Ugonna Kelechi Obusor, Geology undergraduate, Mike Lloyd Toku, student of Civil Engineering, all in year two as well as Tekena Erikena were murdered in cold blood by natives of Omuokiri village in Aluu Clan, about three kilometers to the University main campus last Friday over alleged theft of a laptop computer and Blackberry phone. President of the UNIPORT Students Union Government, Nymabo Maxwell Soye while speaking with Daily Sun at about 7.25p.m last night lamented that the protest, which began peacefully earlier in the day had gone out of hand, with the students accusing the Federal Government of reacting poorly to the incident.
The protest held under the aegis of the national Association of Nigerian Students NANS had grounded activities for several hours in Choba, the University’s host community and its environs. The students had stormed Ports Harcourt since Monday from 11 states of South-South and South- East for the mass action, which began at about 11.00a.m. Some lecturers from UNIPORT who said they identified with the cause of the students also joined in the protest.
The protesters barricaded the East-West Road for several hours, making it impossible for motorists to ply the road. They carried placards with various inscriptions some of which read: “U can’t kill unique students and go free,” “Omuokiri Chiefs are Boko Haram,” “Where were police on Friday,” “Aluu, why? “Aluu community must pay with nose,” “VC must go” and “compensation must be paid to the families of our students they killed.” Speaking with Daily Sun, NANS Treasurer, South -East and South-South, Iyere Prosper Onono, said federal and state governments must address their grievances as articulated on the placards. Onono, who was disappointed at the low turnout of UNIPORT students, said they would not disperse until the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ajienka and Governor Chibuike Amaechi addressed them.
“We are not leaving here until the VC or Governor Amaechi addresses us,” he said. Former Chairman of Academic Staff of Universities, UNIPORT chapter, Dr. Andrew Fimine, who was among the protesters, said it was wrong for members of the community to take laws into their hands. He stated that the Vice Chancellor ought to have convened a meeting with the students, community leaders and security agents, to warn that no community should molest or kill any students again, adding that similar incidents had occurred in the past. “This must stop,” he said.
Another unionist and a 400-level Petroleum Engineering student of Rivers State University of Science and Technology, Charles Jaja, accused the police of negligence and called for the removal of the divisional police officer in charge of the area. Jaja said police had demonstrated lack of commitment to the protection of lives and property, adding that the victims would have been saved from the mob, if the security agents were proactive. He also blamed some UNIPORT students, who, he said, spent time, filming the killing, instead of sending distress call to security operatives. Jaja urged the Rivers State Government and the Judiciary, to expedite action on prosecuting the perpetrators of the dastardly act.
The student unionist, however, warned that shoddy handling of the matter by government might lead to reprisal attacks by UNIPORT students. Similarly, the Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ), Rivers State Council, has condemned the barbaric killing of the four students. A statement issued on Tuesday by the union sympathized with the families of the deceased as well as the management, staff and students of UNIPORT. The Union, however, appealed for calm and called on the state government and police to fish out the perpetrators of the criminal act.