From Gyang Bere, Jos
Some students of the University of Jos (UNIJOS) are passing through the most challenging and difficult period at the moment, following the recent security breach in Angwan Rukuba Road in Jos North Local Government Area, Plateau State, which claimed the lives of 23 commuters.
The violence spread fast to the university community. Hoodlums killed three students in the process. Several others were inflicted with gunshot injuries.
As a result of the crisis, some governors had to evacuate their students (indigenes) in UNIJOS but many are still stranded on campus waiting to be rescued.
Sadly, one of the students, Mafeng Ezekiel Mwantep, a 300-Level student, Department of Economics, is still missing. Many believe he has been killed, as he was said to have boarded a Keke Napep from the permanent site of the institution to his residence in the heat of the crisis. The ugly event compelled the university to suspend the ongoing second semester examination. It directed students to vacate the institution, for fear of being attacked.
Most governors from the South East, South West and the North made arrangements to evacuate their students from the institution. Students from Enugu, Ogun, Niger, Benue, Nasarawa and Borno states were evacuated. However, some of the students, particularly the special ones, are still trapped in the hostels.
A visually impaired student, Chikeze George, Department of Sociology, hails from Imo State. He is a final year student of Criminology.
He is trapped in the Village Hostel: “As we speak, I am stranded in the institution. When the violence started, some hoodlums made efforts to invade our hostel.
“Students were running here and there. But I was waiting to be killed because I could not see neither could I run like them. God rescued me from the episode. I don’t have peace staying in the hostel at the moment. I want to go home but I do not have money to go.
“I am supposed to have finished my studies now, I am left with three papers. The current security threats have caused me a setback. I cannot go home because I don’t have money for transport. If government transports me home, I don’t know how I will return when the university resumes. I am at the mercy of God.”
Simon Augustine, hearing impaired student, Department of Special Education, said: “I have been the one sponsoring my education, I don’t have anybody to assist me. If you ask me to go home now, I may not come back when the school resumes because I will not get the required money for my transportation.
“On a general note, UNIJOS has always been affected when there is a breakdown of law and order. Once there is a security breach in town, students and staff of the university become subjects of attacks and butchery.”
Adamu Dewu, a visually impaired student, noted that: “I would prefer to go home but I don’t think going to Borno State will be safer for me. I am the one sponsoring myself and, if I go home, I might not be able to return to the institution due to lack of resources.”
On his part, Anthony Ojukwu, outgoing president, Federation of Igbo Students Association (FISA), UNIJOS, noted that, “Some states sent delegates to pick their students. Enugu State sent three buses. What the students need now is evacuation. From what we are hearing, Abia State is on the way to evacuate their students. We don’t know how true it is.
“I am sad that Anambra State has not responded, Imo State is yet to respond, and Ebonyi State. Students from the South East are stranded here due to lack of logistics. Most of the states from that zone have not sent delegations to pick their students.
“We are helpless and hopeless due to the fact that no one is picking our calls; the insecurity is increasing daily.
“We need government intervention to enable us evacuate our students who are living at the mercy of the attackers. We don’t have food to eat. We have been in touch with families of stranded students. They expressed their dismay over the inept attitude of government.”
Public relations officer of the Students’ Union Government, Ebenezer Abadume, said: “The current security challenges have made it difficult for those who want to leave on their own. We are living in a difficult situation. Many students have left and Kaduna, Enugu, Nasarawa and Ondo states have evacuated their students.
“Some students took the risk of evacuating themselves but many states are yet to evacuate their students. We are living from hand to mouth; the management of the university has tried by providing some palliatives for us.”
President-elect, FISA, Boniface Elthelbert Izuchukwu, said: “I am in charge of students from all the five eastern states, as well as Delta and Rivers. Since the unfortunate incident started, some states have been called to evacuate their students.
“But the South East has been so reluctant. Only Enugu State has evacuated its students to my knowledge. Abia State is currently on its way, that is what I was told. You can see some of the students stranded here and we are yet to see any vehicle.
“Other states are yet to reach out to me. They want us to write political letters. In fact, the whole thing has been politicised. I am deeply concerned because my own state, Imo, is yet to reach out. I have called my national president. I have called the SSA on students matters. I have not heard anything from them.
“My challenge is, I have medical students who cannot go home. They need relief materials but that is secondary. We need security, that is our priority.
“My students who are on the ground now are scared because, any moment, they can get stabbed. You can imagine, as we are here now and anybody comes in with a gun, we will be at the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is unfortunate.
“We also have special students from the South East. The federal and state governments are yet to find out how they are doing. This is not encouraging at all.”
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNIJOS branch, Dr. Lazarus Maigoro, said: “I can say authoritatively that three students have lost their lives. Two more are on admission at the Bingham University Teaching Hospital due to injuries sustained. There is no guarantee that we may not be confronted with more statistics as the days roll by.
“The most recent was the crisis that occurred on Saturday, August 15, 2021. It spread to other parts of Jos. University is a citadel of learning where every category of individual works, regardless of ethnic and religious affiliations. As a result, whenever there is any security breach in town, this citadel of learning should not by any means be affected.
“But, sadly, as soon as crisis situation erupts in any part of the town, university students and staff suddenly become targets for assassination and butchery by re sidents of the immediate environment.
“For whatever intent and purpose, some of the immediate environments to the university have become so hostile to the university community that students and staff are targeted and killed rather than protected from hoodlums.”
He expressed dismay that the crisis has led to the suspension of the second semester examination: “This equally means longer stay in school for the students in the face of harsh economic realities in the country.
“As teachers, our hearts are bleeding because they are our children. No father would like to see his child being killed because he went to the university to acquire a degree.”
He expressed regrets that some of these attacks are coming from residents that encroached on university land, operators of Keke Napep and others: “They come into the university to sell their goods. They are patronised by the same staff and students but turn back to kill them at the slightest opportunity.
“ASUU is a union that cares about the safety of the lives of its students and staff to ensure confidence in the discharge of their duties. We lack words strong enough to condemn this barbaric act. The responsibility to secure life and property squarely rests on the shoulders of government. This is very closely related to justice. We call on government to ensure justice is done to all affected communities.”
“Failure to do so, will only lead us to a greater and vicious cycle of violence through reprisals. We are also calling on government to provide very strong security presence around UNIJOS community and the routes to the university.
“The same thing happened in 2018 where we lost a staff and two students. Our union raised concerns. We were told that adequate security measures would be put in place to mitigate further occurrences.
“Here we are again, with more lives lost. Security personnel have not displayed the kind of swift response witnessed in arresting some suspects of Rukuba Road attack.”
Deputy Registrar, Information and Publications, Abdullahi Abdullahi, said: “Following the unfortunate security breach that occurred in some parts of Jos Metropolis which has led government to impose a 24-hour curfew in Jos North LG, management of UNIJOS has approved the suspension of the on going second semester examinations.
“Consequently, all examinations earlier scheduled between Monday, August 16 and Saturday, 21, 2021, have been suspended until further notice.
“All students of the university residing in the various hostels are hereby strongly advised to remain within their hostels and avoid unnecessary movements. Management has been working round the clock in close collaboration with the security agencies and state government to ensure that lives and properties of members of the university community especially students are adequately protected.
“Management wishes to appreciate government, security agencies as well as members of the public who have shown great concern about the plight of the university during this difficult period. Members of the university community especially staff and students are hereby advised to exercise caution and comply with all security directives during this period.”