BY HENRY UMORU, JIMITOTA ONOYUME & INALEGWU SHAIBU
…Senate condemns killings, urges police to fish out perpetrators
PORT HARCOURT – Students of the University of Port Harcourt, went on the rampage Tuesday protesting the murder of four of their colleagues by youths in Omuokiri-Aluu community last Friday set ablaze no fewer than 12 houses in the community even as the university has been shut down by the school authorities.
Spokesman of the university, Dr William Wordi confirmed the closure of the school to the Vanguard on phone. He assured he was going to send an official statement. It was yet to come at the time of this report.
Students from other institutions under the aegis of National Association of Nigeria Students, NANS, stormed the university yesterday to mobilise students in Port Harcourt to protest the brutal killing of three of their colleagues and one other by riotous youths in Omuokiri-Aluu community last Friday.
The rampaging students blocked the East-West road for several hours before allegedly marching to Omuokiri-Aluu community to start wrecking havoc. Community sources told the Vanguard that the students torched about 12 houses.
Vanguard gathered that while the rampaging students were on the East West road, they reportedly insisted that they would only move out of the road after the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof Joseph Ajienka had addressed them. The vice chancellor reportedly obliged them after securing assurances that he would not be rough handled.
Students pelt VC with sachet water
Sources said while the Vice Chancellor came to plead with the students to shun any temptation to be violent, some of the students immediately started hurling sachet water at him. Vanguard gathered that it took the timely intervention of security operatives to whisk him away from the spot. At press time, security operatives had been drafted to quell the situation.
Meanwhile, the Rivers State government has condemned the action of the rampaging students. Commissioner for Information and Communication, Mrs Ibim Semenitari who spoke to Vanguard yesterday cautioned the students against taking laws into their hands.
Rivers govt condemns action
While noting that there was no justification for the killing of the students she added that it was not enough reason for students of the school to indulge in extrajudicial act.
“There is no justification, no excuse for the killing. The Uniport students should not take the laws into their hands”, she pleaded. She further confirmed that security operatives had moved into the area to maintain law and order.
In a related development, the Senate condemned the jungle justice that members of the community carried out where the four students were hurriedly murdered without trial in the full glare of a cheering crowd. In honour of the deceased, the Senator observed a minute silence for them.
The resolutions followed the motion by Senator Ayogu Eze, PDP, Enugu North and 90 others condemning the murder of students of the University of Port Harcourt at Omuokiri Village in Aluu Community of Rivers State on October 5, 2012.
Meanwhile, Senate President in his remarks made a U-Turn on his earlier position on state Police, with a call now for the establishment of state police to augment the already existing federal Police structure, just as he stressed that unravelling those behind the Aluu massacre was a challenge for the Police.
Senate President Mark who had at several fora kicked against the formation of state police, stressed that against the backdrop of where jungle justice has become the order of the day, it has become imperative for the decentralization of the police system.
Mark said: “What has happened in Aluu is in every sense a condemnable act and we must do so with all our power, our strength and our might. There is no doubt that this act is condemnable, we feel for the students who have lost their lives, we feel for the parents of the students.
“This clearly shows the merits and demerits of the social media. One thing that has come out of it is that those who were there can easily be arrested by the police. The video is there and they can easily be identified and so they should as quickly as possible bring them to book as a lesson for others; other wise, another time again we will be sitting here and debating over some other students who were killed else where or some Nigerians who are killed somewhere else with impunity we cant allow that to happen.”
Earlier in his lead debate, Senator Ayogu Eze said, “the Senate laments the murder by lynching and burning on October 5, 2012 of three 200-level students of the University of Port Harcourt, Biringa Chiadika Lordson (Theatre Arts), Ugonna Kelechi Obuzor (Geology), Mike Lloyd Toku (Civil Engineering) and their friend, Tekena Erikena, all below the age of 22 years;
‘’Condemns the dehumanizing manner in which these four persons were stripped naked, marched along like common criminal, battered into stupor and eventually coma in a most horrifying display of callousness ever captured on celluloid before setting them ablaze in the full glare of cheering and enthusiastic spectators and traducers;
‘’Appalled by the flimsy and yet-to-be substantiated allegation of theft of laptops and blackberry phones, which as a Student Union activist in the school, Rhino Owhorkire, himself an indigene of Aluu, scene of the heinous crime, have not till date been produced as evidence of the trumped up robbery tale.”
‘’Urges that all the theories adduced as the reason for this crime, including allegations that the killing was masterminded to cover up the brutalization the deceased suffered in trying to recover a debt owed them by an indigene of Aluu, as well as that the deceased and one other person allegedly at large were conducting cult rites when they were caught, be thoroughly investigated for a clue to this descent into barbarism.”
In their contributions, Senators who spoke expressed total dismay, just as they condemned the act, describing it as barbaric, and uncalled for.
In his contribution, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said, ‘’I remember saying that whether what happened in Mubi was act of cultism or Book Haram, it cuts down to the fact that the security agencies have failed to protect the people. Today, we are talking about four students killed in Rivers State”. Again, it was lack of security agencies to save Nigerians that gave rise to that murder.
‘’Whether they stole phone or were cultists, killing them is condemnable. But I don’t believe the case of stealing levied against them. One of the boys was known to me. The parents are well to-do. The boy had Ipad and Blackberry and would not have gone to steal them. I think it was misunderstanding among student but taken too far. Committee on Police Affairs should see that it is investigated.”
Senator Magnus Abe, PDP, Rivers South East also in contribution said, “No matter what these students were accused of doing, there is nothing that can justify that kind of action. Even murderers would not be killed in that manner, if you look across this country, you will see that any time there is a mob action, nothing happens.
“After the elections last year, people were killed and nothing happened. What I would like to say is that we are now facing a situation where the state is finding it difficult to project its will and power across the country. It means that we do not have enough security apparatus to take care of these problems.
“As a Senate, given the situation we are in, we should look beyond the immediate in finding solution to the problems we have. We have the video and the faces of all those watching the barbaric act are there. If we go through the normal investigative process, most of those people will be arrested. All those who were watching the incident were co-participants and should be treated as such.”
For Senate Leader, Victor Ndoma –Egba, PDP, Cross River Central, ‘’It should worry us, both as a Senate and a nation that so often, we on the floor of the chambers discuss the wastage of youthful innocent lives. That is what we discuss, day in, day out.
“Last week, it was Mubi, today we are discussing that of Aluu. Every day, lives are being squandered, not just lives but those of young men and women, who constitute the future of this country. Consequently, we are squandering the future of this country and the way we are going, we might end up without a future. And we are squandering it with impunity.
‘’These people were killed in most bizarre manner. The moment people were not persecuted for their offences, we enter into a state of impunity. These killings must remind us, if we have any belief in tomorrow, if we have any hope for the future, that something must be done about the impunity in our society. Democracy is only complete when there is the rule of law. So, we cannot say we have democracy without the rule of law content.
“People must begin to pay for their offences and their crimes. What has happened is a collapse of social values. Our security agencies should do more, but the business of security in our land today must not be left solely in the hands of security agents. We must reinvent those values that respected human lives in the past.
Also condemning the act, Chairman, Senate Committee on Information, Media and Publicity, Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe, PDP, Abia South said, ‘’something worries me here and I am sure it will worry every right thinking Nigerian. I have a little glimpse of the video and people were laughing, jeering and taking pictures of other people, who were being slaughtered. It means that everyone who was at that spot didn’t see it as something that affected them. It also means that perhaps, we have lost it as a nation to the unending grievance and unending impunity.
“It doesn’t seem as if there is any way we can stop this barbaric act. From this report, there was a police station nearby. Why did they not report the incident to the Police? It means people have lost faith in the Police; people have also lost faith in the judiciary.
‘’It appears that there are two different justices for two different people – where someone was accused of stealing billions and we sent recommendations to Mr President but nothing is done and a young man was burnt to death for stealing a blackberry phone. If there is anything to be done to make statement, this Senate must do it because this is one too many.