Wole Balogun, Ado-Ekiti
If a soothsayer had told the students of Federal University, Oye-Ekiti (FUOYE), Ekiti State, that tragedy would greet their September 10, 2019, protest to press home their demands for adequate power supply on the twin-campuses of Oye in Oye Local Government and lkole in Ikole LG, they would have easily ignored him.
Indeed, that was what happened, with the death of two of the students. Two police officers were also injured in the clash between the protesting students, “hijacked” by hoodlums and policemen who alleged repelled attack on Mrs Bisi Fayemi, the governor’s wife.
As early as 6:30 am, the angry students for the second time, gathered in front of the gates of the campuses to register their displeasure at the epileptic power supply to the two campuses and surrounding communities including Aiyegbaju, Iworoko and Ilupeju.
The university said students had protested till about 2 pm and dispersed having heeded pleas from the internal security personnel and federal security operatives, who monitored them: “Only for the news to get to the university authority thereafter that the students assaulted the convoy of the wife of the Governor of Ekiti State, Erelu Fayemi and vandalised some vehicles in the convoy.”
The management on Tuesday night announced the closure of the school and proscribed the Students’ Union Government (SUG). The Vice-Chancellor, Prof Kayode Soremekun constituted a panel to investigate the crisis. The university, however, asked its staff to continue with their work.
Meanwhile, issues have begun to crop up following the Tuesday mayhem. The police insisted that no life was lost because they had only repelled an attempted attack on Mrs Fayemi. But students claimed that indiscriminate shooting by the security personnel at protesters led to the death of two students while others were seriously injured.
As at the time of filing this report, students claimed that policemen were still arresting and maltreating students in their off-campus hostels. The students who spoke on the condition of anonymity identified one of the dead students as Okonofua Joseph of the Department of Biology Education. They explained that the death of another student in Ikole Campus, whom they claimed was shot in the eye by the police escalated the furore.
Police spokesman, DSP Caleb Nwachukwu, absolved the security operatives of any blame: “The Nigeria Police Force, Ekiti State Command, debunked the story making rounds on social media that the police shot at protesting students of FUOYE. The story is baseless, unfounded and only intends to incite and create panic in the minds of peace-loving people of Ekiti State and the general public.”
The police image-maker, who revealed that the protesters blocked the two highways of Ado-Abuja and Ijan-Ikole, vandalised vehicles, as well as hurled stones and clubs at the convoy of Mrs. Fayemi before they were repelled. He also denied that any life was lost in the mayhem saying investigations were on to get to the root of the incident.
Political twist to the development
A statement by the State Coordinator of the Peoples Democratic Party’s New Media Group, (PDP-NNMG), Bola Agboola, asked why similar protest by the students of FUOYE in Ikole-Ekiti did not turn violent:
“In Ikole-Ekiti, students of the Ikole Campus of FUOYE also protested. The protest went smoothly ostensibly because there was no police interruption. The chiefs in Ikole-Ekiti addressed the students, calmed them down and promised them necessary intervention and that was the end of the protest.”
The group alleged that the first lady, who was on tour of local councils did not play her role as a mother by addressing the protesting students and at least “promising them that government will intervene in their plight.
“Information has it that the students only wanted to express their frustration on the lack of power supply and exorbitant bills by the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) to the governor’s wife. Questions must be asked as to why one of the policemen in her entourage slapped one of the students.”
Mrs Fayemi gave her own narrative: “Half-way through our event, there was a disturbance outside. The FUOYE students (and possibly infiltrated by local thugs) had regrouped and were trying to get into the venue. The security personnel prevented this from happening.
‘’We finished our programme, and by the time we got outside, we found out that vehicles from my convoy and those of my guests parked outside the venue had been vandalised. As we were driving out of Oye town, we encountered at least two roadblocks that the students mounted to prevent the movement of vehicles. I could see students/thugs throwing stones and large sticks at us as we drove by.
“However, the casualties recorded did not take place while I was there. There are eyewitnesses, photographs and video footages to confirm this. There are reports circulating that the crisis occurred because I refused to address the protesting students. This is totally false.
‘’I did not encounter any group of students when I got to Oye town. They had dispersed before my arrival, and when they regrouped I was inside the venue. It is possible that the group that came to the venue trying to gain access with sticks and stones in hand might have included local hoodlums, but there was no way of telling the difference.
“I am scandalised and shocked beyond words to hear that I instructed security officers to shoot at students. I am deeply saddened that at least one fatality has been recorded. As a mother, my heart bleeds. All these students are my children, and no mother prays to weep over their offspring. I extend my sincere condolences to the family concerned, and I wish those who are still receiving treatment a speedy recovery.”
President of FUOYE Students Union Government (SUG), Awowola Samuel, said: ‘’I don’t see any reason the union should be proscribed. The school might be shut down till further notice so as to calm tension and aid security of the life of students.’’
He alleged that the continual shooting by the policemen and Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU) officers led to the death of two students (Okonufa Joseph, a 300 level Biology Education student and Oluwaseyi Kehinde a 100 level Crop Science and Horticulture student.
Public Relations Officer of SUG, Omofoye Adetola, said the SUG led peaceful protests at Aiyegbaju National Grid Zone and PHCN Office: “The protest ended at 1:40 pm after the union president addressed newsmen.
‘’There was free flow of traffic as armed personnel at the protest helped in controlling traffic. From the beginning to the end of the protest, there was not a single case of any incident. The protest was not hijacked by anyone.
“Hours after the peaceful demonstration ended, the SUG president, who was resting at his friend’s apartment was called by his executives at Ikole campus by 4 pm that some students were arrested and taken to Oye-Ekiti.
‘’After meeting with the DPO of Oye Police Division and one Army officer, they promised that they will get the students released immediately. Again, the Army officer came to request for the president through his personal assistant.
“The SUG president met the Army officer, whom together they went to the Civic Center. He disclosed that the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to the Governor and some policemen were there when a CTU officer slapped the president. Students at the scene were raged but the president together with the CSO to the Governor and Army officer calmed the situation.
‘’What followed after they left were series of gun sounds. However, the CSO to the governor was spotted holding the officer who shot to cease the shooting, but he could not control it as other police personnel started shooting at students and indigenes.
“Three students were injured by the policemen while two were confirmed dead as a result of the shooting by the policemen. The injured students are currently undergoing treatment in different hospitals.”
Following the closure of the university, the students have vacated the campus and their private hostels. The Education Report gathered that parents of the injured students are battling to save the lives of their wards including the one shot in the eye. While some who sustained injuries discharged themselves from the hospitals they were rushed to because of fear of security operatives arresting them.