Wednesday, October 10, 2012

University of Port Harcourt shuts down as student protest killings

Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, was on the boil Tuesday as students of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) protested the killing of four of their mates last Friday.

The protest forced the university authorities to order the closure of the institution indefinitely with a directive for students to vacate their hostels.

Also, 11 out of the 13 suspects arrested at Omuokiri Village of Aluu Community in connection with the murder were arraigned yesterday before the Federal High Court, Port Harcourt.

The students, under the auspices of the South-south and South-east zones of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), had barricaded the busy East-West Road, carrying placards, which blamed the Federal Government for not putting adequate facilities in the institution, a situation they said, led to the murder of the students.

The protest caused a massive traffic gridlock on the road, which leads to other South-south states.

NANS Treasurer of the zone, Iyere Onono, said the students would not leave the roads until they got assurances from either Rivers State Governor, Mr. Chibuike Amaechi, or the Federal Government that their grouses would be addressed.

He, however, expressed disappointment at the low turnout of students of UNIPORT, saying they had not shown enough concern over the death of their schoolmates.

The protest spread to Omuokiri Village where rampaging students burnt down not less than 12 houses. More houses would have been torched but for the arrival of the Joint Security Task Force (JTF).

The protesting students were also said to have tried to attack UNIPORT Vice Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ajienka, before the arrival of men of the JTF.

Ajienka, who later addressed reporters on the murder, condemned the killing, stating that nobody has the right to engage in extra-judicial killing.

"Inasmuch as we condemn all forms of criminality, the authorities of the University of Port Harcourt wish to state in unequivocal terms that nobody has the right to engage in extra-judicial killing or resort to self-help, no matter the level of provocation," he said.

Ajienka listed the names of victims as Biringa, Chiadika Lordson (Year two, Theatre Arts), Ugonna, Kelechi Obuzor (Year Two, Geology) and Mike, Lloyd Toku (Year Two, Civil Engineering).

He said the fourth victim, Tekena Erikena, was "yet to be formally identified as a student of the University of Port Harcourt."

He said in honour of the murdered students, the university authorities, in consultation with the Students Union Government (SUG), had also suspended the Students Union Week indefinitely.

Confirming the closure of the university, the institution's Public Relations Officer, Dr. Williams Wodi, said the authorities shut down the school to safeguard lives and property.

He said the authorities had also asked students to vacate the hostels, adding that the university would remain shut until normalcy returned to the area.

Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner of Police in the state, Mr. Thomas Etomi, said 11 of the suspects were arraigned to ensure that their human rights were not abused.

He told a delegation of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) led by its Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Angwe, that the remaining two suspects were still assisting the police in their investigations.

He said the police were poised to ensure a speedy investigation and prosecution of all that were involved in the murder of the students.

Angwe said the NHRC had received petitions from across the world on the murder of the four students.

He condemned the murder and said the commission would hold a watching brief and follow the prosecution on the matter.

THISDAY gathered that the main actor in the murder of the students was arrested yesterday by men of the JTF.

A source said he was picked up in the community, stripped and marched round Omuokiri community by men of the JTF before being whisked away.

The university has declared seven days of mourning for the students.

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