…VC appeals for calm

From Tony Osauzo, Benin

The management of the University of Benin, yesterday, appealed to students of the institution to be calm as discussions were on to resolve the issues that led to the clash between students and soldiers at the university.

A soldier from the S & T Barracks in Benin City was alleged to have Thursday evening, attempted to jump ATM queues at the Ugbowo campus of the University of Benin in desperation to withdraw money, but was resisted by students.

The soldier in frustration, reportedly attacked a female student who he alleged was using her mobile phone to video him, forcing students of the University to react, even as the soldier was said to have attacked security men who attempted to intervene. What followed was ‘free-for-all’.

Consequently, soldiers who mobilized from the Barracks for retaliation reportedly attacked anyone in sight and damaging several vehicles in the process. The soldiers were said to have invaded the main gate scaling the fence of the University and allegedly destroyed the CCTV at the security post. Among the vehicles destroyed were the security vehicle and a fire fighting truck.

Narrating her ordeal, one of the victims who gave her name simply as Gloria said “I sent my sister to the ATM and she later called me that there was fighting inside the campus involving soldiers and later I could not reach her again, her line was not going again so in my panicky state I went into the campus from Ekosodin and by the time we finished, they had locked the gates, there was crowd and we were looking for cab to get back home, I was enquiring from a security man how we can get out of the campus through the back gate if they will agree to open it for us shortly after that we saw soldiers jumping into the compound they carried cutlass, jack knife, sticks and other things and started beating everybody they met. We were running and all the money we withdrew from the ATM and our phones were taken away because we have to run for our dear lives. Some of them were wearing hoods, some of them were females.”

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Similarly, another victim, a male said “I was at the Fidelity Bank ATM, I was on the queue the next thing I heard was ‘na soja una wan try’, immediately I jumped out of the way but I was injured while trying to scale the fence and I had run back into the school and then rushed to the health centre where I was treated”

When contacted, the Public Relations Officer of the 4 Brigade Nigerian Army Captain Yemi Sokoya denied the attack by soldiers and simply said “It is not true. Thank you”.

But the Vice Chancellor of the University, Professor Lillian Salami while reacting to the incident in a statement yesterday, said “The unfortunate incident of the clash between some students of our university and soldiers on Thursday 2nd February, resulting from alleged resistance of students to the soldiers’ attempt to jump ATM queues on campus has been brought under control and the Management of the University is in discussions with the hierarchy of the S & T for amicable resolution.

“The Management acknowledges that these are challenging times for everyone and enjoins all to remain calm while efforts are being made to avert a re- occurrence.

“Management also calls on the students to constantly engage dialogue in resolving issues that concern them rather than taking to protests, at any provocation, thereby causing more injury and damage to themselves and other citizens”.