By ETIM DAVID
All we are saying, give us justice! This song has continued to resonate at the University of Uyo (UNIUYO) after the June 12 students’ protest turned bloody. It is no longer news that the university was shut down after protest that claimed the lives of three students.
Key offices in the varsity were razed by irate students, including the offices of the Vice Chancellor, the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academics), the Registrar, Finance and Accounts units, Exams and Records units, the destruction of some hard discs containing vital information in the Records Department and some vehicles belonging to the varsity.
Trouble started in the university following a peaceful protest by students to draw the attention of the Vice Chancellor, Prof Comfort Ekpo, on a new fare regime for Engineering and Science faculties students who shuttle from the Town Campus to the Main Campus of the university.
Unfortunately, the security aides on campus were instructed to call in the police and other security operatives to intervene to avoid breakdown of law and order. Some of the students told Campus Square that there was no provocation whatsoever that warranted the invitation of armed security men to the university.
According to them, since the protest was peaceful, the use of firearm was uncalled for. Students expressed shock that in virtually all universities in the country where protests took place, the police who are saddled with the responsibility of protecting lives and property, ended up killing innocent civilians.
According to them, nothing would have prompted the burning down of the school buildings if three of the students had not been killed by the policemen in the process. Not long after the protest, anti-riot policemen were seen hounding students and civilians they could get hold of into their Hilux vans.
To fester the wounds, a reliable source at the Opps Department of the Police Headquaters, Uyo, told our reporter that some students had been charged to court and remanded in prison on charges of murder and arson. Those that were killed in the process were a secondary school boy who was returning from school and hit by a stray bullet, an asthmatic patient who was in her hostel and got affected by the tear-gas (she was the first to die) and lastly, Kingsley Udoette, a 200 level student of the Department of Zoology of the university.
Although details of the victims were unavailable, some students accused the police of raising false charges against the arraigned students, whom they charged for cultism. Another aggrieved student, who gave his name as Jonah, said,“We will not allow anybody to play with our lives.
They killed people at Mokola in the city of Ibadan, Oyo State, Benin, Port Harcourt, Calabar, Lagos and now Uyo through extra-judicial killings. The police need training and further enlightenment. How can you shoot in a populated university campus?
We shall resist any temptation to sweep the case under the carpet. We want justice.” “We the Nigerian students say enough is enough and we are bringing an end to this menace and incessant killing of our colleagues.” Recall that the crisis also led to the untimely death of five National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) leaders in an auto crash.
They were on their way to Uyo to mediate in the crisis when they met their tragic end. It is on record that the issues that precipitated the protest of June 12, 2013 in University of Uyo started long before the violence of that fateful day.
These issues include: Science students who were allocated to the permanent site of the university were directed to pay N200 daily while Engineering students pay N1000 per semester as transport fare (sheer injustice, bribery and corruption); increase of GST fees from N500 to N2000; proscription of summer programmes; payment of additional N2000 on the school fees after two weeks of resumption and taming of the union activities ranging from departments through faculties and the Students’ Union Government (SUG).
Other student groups told Campus Square that there would be no peace on campus until the university accedes to their demands. In a statement, they said, “Our stand is that not until justice is done and 45 of our mates who are now in prison custody are released, peace will not return to the University of Uyo.
In view of the on-going, we join the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Akwa Ibom State branch to demand the following from the authorities: a full inquest into the entire saga; unconditional release of the 45 students and addressing our demands that led to the crisis. Without these, peace shall not return to the University of Uyo.” Etim is a 300 level student of University of Uyo