Oluseye Ojo, Ibadan
These days, female students of the University of Ibadan, especially those staying in the female halls of residence, have become an endangered species. They have become targets for armed robbers.
Two times within one month, armed robbers have attack two female hostels in the university. The hoodlums usually invade the hostels in the night when the students must have retired to their rooms to either sleep or read.
The latest attack occurred in the early hours of Sunday August 11 at the female wing of Abdulsalami Abubakar Hall, which houses both male and female postgraduate students.
Tension still pervades the campus, as the robbers reportedly threatened that they would come back to the hostel again. The development made some of the students flee the hostel. Also, some parents that heard about the incident rushed to the university and took their female children out of the hostel.
Exactly, a month earlier, on July 11, armed robbers had invaded Obafemi Awolowo Hall, which houses only female postgraduate students. The two robbery cases were said to have followed the same pattern.
Daily Sun gathered that the last two robbery cases were not the only ones that had been witnessed in some hostels in the university. Some of the female students, who did not want their names mentioned, said similar incidents had happened up to four times before the last two episodes.
On each occasion, as gathered, the marauders carted away mobile phones, tablets, laptop computers, money and other personal effects of their victims. The armed robbers tied up the security officers on guard each time they invaded. From their operations, it was obvious that they were quite familiar with the hostels.
During the robbers’ latest visit, two male students that came outside when the robbery was ongoing were battered. One of them was hit on the head with a cutlass while the other sustained injury on his hand. They have been treated at the university’s health centre and have returned to their homes.
The security guard that was tied was said to have been dumped beside the cafeteria in the Abdulsalami Abubakar Hall. He reportedly freed himself and ran into the bush. From there, he raised the alarm that male students should not come out to attack the armed robbers, as the bandits were armed with guns.
The postgraduate student that got his hand injured narrated his ordeal to the reporter. The man, who did not want his name mentioned in print, said the operation was well-planned.
He explained that when information came to him that armed robbers had stormed the female wing of the hostel, he came outside possibly to assess the situation for himself. He said as he stepped outside his block, he saw a boy sitting on the pavement in front of the block.
“When I stepped outside, I saw one of them sitting on a pavement. I heard a shout that everyone should come out. It was in the night and I was working on my laptop. So, I came outside. Many students were still deep asleep.
“I saw a boy outside who told me: ‘Bros, dem dey rob outside, be careful o!’ Initially, I did not know that the person who made that statement was actually stationed there to know who was coming out of the hostel.
“Immediately I came outside, I just closed the gate. He pushed me and a cutlass was in the air, aiming for my neck. I deflected it with my hand and then I got my hand injured.
“A student was already on the spot. He was the student that came out first and intercepted them. He was the one they were dealing with first. They left him alone, came towards me and said, ‘Why are you out? What do you have with you?’ I said, my iPhone. They said I should bring it. They took it.
“They did not run. They walked to the fence and jumped inside. It was like they know the road network of the school. They were just confident with what they were doing. Everything was seriously calculated. It couldn’t have been outsiders.
“When they were robbing a female student, they used some terminologies that nobody knows, except you are a member of the postgraduate school, or you must know somebody inside the hall. The terminologies were too specific.
“While the robbery was ongoing, they would say, ‘check here, that wardrobe. Open that section.’ How could they have known that section if they don’t know somebody inside the hall? It was just too calculated. The timing was perfect. Then, people had started leaving the hostel for the break.
“The robbery took place between 1:40am and 5am. The robbery was already going on for long before I came out. They had been robbing the female hostel without noise. They were very professional about it. But I will track my iPhone whenever it is switched on. I am not perturbed because I will surely get it. Even, if they put a sim card in the iPhone, a message will be sent to me.
“When they took my iPhone and left, I tracked it, and I realised that the invaders were in Independent Hall. I ran to Independent Hall with security officials. We saw them walking majestically. You would not know that these people had just finished robbing people. We shouted at them and they ran into the bush and escaped.”
A visually-impaired female student, who studies Special Education in UI and would also not mention her name, told the reporter: “I was in my room when they broke in. They asked for my phone, and when they saw that it is not a sophisticated one, they asked if I had money. I said yes.
“They asked me how much and I said N2,000. Then, they asked me to go and bring it. Then I told them I could not see, that I should be assisted. They thought I was lying and threatened to beat me. But I think they looked into my eye balls and after that they left my room without taking anything.”
Chairman, Council Committee on Security of the institution, Prof Ademola Aremu, condemned the attack on the hostel. He said the management of the university had been taking proactive steps in reviewing the security design.
Aremu said: “The invaders have shown a pattern in their operation by attacking female students. They have been invading during holidays when the halls are sparsely populated.”
Vice Chancellor of UI, Prof Idowu Olayinka, told the reporter that the incident was unfortunate. He said: “The robbers came overnight. We were there on Sunday with the Deputy Commissioner of Police, the Area Commander, and the Divisional Police Officer.
“Two of the students that were injured were taken to the university’s health services and have since been discharged. In fact, one of them went for Sunday service.
“We think everything is under control. We are going to look at what must have caused this. Of course, we also have a similar case of armed robbery exactly a month earlier.
“In the whole country, there are a lot of security challenges. The campus is supposed to be a haven. At least, people should be able to sleep with their two eyes closed.
“So, we are on top of the situation. There is nothing to panic about. We are optimistic that the ugly incident will not repeat itself.”
The July 11 incident occurred at Obafemi Awolowo Hall, which houses female undergraduate and postgraduate students. The invaders reportedly stormed the hall at 1:30a.m., and operated for about 30 minutes. They went from one room to the other, and collected personal belongings of the female students, including phones, laptops and money.
The armed robbers, said to be seven in number, reportedly scaled the fence at the back of Block C of the hall, before they gained access into the hall.
Some of the female students said power supply to the hall was restored when the armed robbers arrived and was off when they left, adding that it was not the first time such a thing would happen in the hall. One of the female students, who said she is in 600-Level, said the most recent event made it the fourth one since she got to the institution.
Two of the female students were injured. One was attacked with a machete and she sustained a cut on her forehead. The other suffered a dislocation when she jumped down from the first floor in an attempt to escape.
The female student that got a cut on her head is Miss Esther Adebiyi, a 400-Level student in the Department of Computer Science. She narrated the incident to the reporter:
“Around 1:30a.m or thereabouts, some guys came to the hall. They were running around the hall, shouting ‘Mopol guys,’ as if mobile police personnel were chasing them. You would not really know that they came to raid the hall.
“They went through the ground floor. I was in my room upstairs. My roommates ran out immediately. But I was thinking that security people were trying to chase them. I did not know they were even close to my room.”
She said the door was forced open, recalling that she was in shock as she stood beside the door. One of the armed robbers that came to her room asked her to lie down. “I went flat on the floor. He asked if there was something in my room and I said there was nothing. Then, I had my laptop and my phone on the bed, which he did not see. Unfortunately, as he stepped out, he just peeped through the door and he saw my laptop and my phone. He came back to the room and took the laptop and phone.
“I went on my knees, begging him not to go away with my laptop and my phone. I told him my I.T report was in the laptop. But as I was begging him, he brought out something from his bag and hit me with it on my head. Blood came out and I went to the school clinic where the wound was stitched.”
Another female postgraduate student in the Department of Zoology, who did not want her name mentioned in print, said the hoodlums stormed the Obafemi Awolowo Hall about 1:30a.m on July 11. She said she heard a loud noise in the hostel and saw people running ran helter-skelter.
“I did not know what was happening and I continued with my sleep. Then, some minutes to 2a.m., a guy came to my window and said, ‘stupid woman. What kind of stupid sleep is this one? Your room is the next we are coming to and you are still sleeping stupidly. Were you sent to school to sleep?’
“I did not have credit and I could not call anybody. What I did was that I switched on my data. I started sending messages on WhatsApp that people should please come to our rescue because armed robbers were in the hostel, and currently in front of my room.
“All of a sudden, another guy came to the window and said, ‘if we are able to come into your room, your life will be wasted.’ I was naked and I had to quickly dress up immediately. Maybe God touched the heart of one of them who told me that his gang members had said they would waste my life if they had opportunity to come into my room. Then, I started crawling till I got to the Porter’s Lodge.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) in Oyo State, Mr. Olugbenga Fadeyi, said the robbers entered five rooms and could not really have a field day because the students shouted, which attracted security agents to the hall.
He said the police had been working with the management of the institution with a view to strengthening the security on campus, even though he admitted that there had been no arrest yet over the last two robbery cases. He said the police would clamp down on the invaders soon.
Deputy Vice Chancellor (Operations), Prof Kayode Adebowale, said after the incident at Awolowo Hall, one of the robbers left his phone behind and that the phone was handed over to the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Shina Olukolu, for investigation.
But a top security personnel in the institution, who said he was not authorised to speak to journalists, said the phone actually belongs to a female student, not one of the robbers.
According to him, the female student came forward later and said she plugged the phone in the room of her colleague in the hostel in order to charge it, and that the robbers picked it from there. The security official said her story was verified and the phone was handed over to her.
Meanwhile, the university authorities have imposed a partial curfew on campus between 12am and 5.am.