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Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Mayhem in Anambra: 8 students injured in clash with masquerades • Fed poly shut • Buildings, vehicles destroyed

Hell was let loose yesterday, when students of Federal Polytechnic Oko trooped to the streets of the host community, Oko in Orumba North local government of Anambra state to protest the brutalization of the students by youths of the town under the guise of Mmanwu (masquerade) festival.

It took the quick intervention of the state police command and the State Security Service (SSS) to avert what could have been a bloodbath, as the youths allegedly took up weapons against the students.

The Ekwulobia-Oko-Ufuma Road along which the institution was located was barricaded while shops and some houses including a filling station were destroyed.

As a result of the clash, the institution’s management shut down the school and ordered the students home on ‘forced Easter’ holiday, to return on April 10, 2012.
No fewer than three students were confirmed to have been shot by the community youths, just as many of them were held up in their hostels necessitating the security agents to move in to rescue them from attack.
The school management also deployed their buses to evacuate the students who were trapped in the town to Awka with heavy police escort.

About 100 security operatives comprising Police, SSS, Army and vigilance group were on hand to quell the situation with Assistant Commissioner of Police in charge of operations, Bashir Makama, his deputy, SP Tope Fasugba and the State Police Public Relations Officer, Emeka Chukwuemeka on hand to direct affairs.
Narrating what happened to newsmen, the Vice President, Student Union Government (SUG), Miss Williams Ibiene said: “It is a situation she have been trying to contain every year in this school. It has been that every year when this community observed a particular festival that masquerades come out, you find out that our students become their target. It’s either they are stabbing students or they are maiming them.

“Last year we had a case of them using machetes on some students which the former director of welfare fought and nothing was done. So the one that just broke the camel’s back was that last night they went to a particular HND lodge; went into the hostel, they were stabbing students and flogging the female students. So, we felt enough is enough. The community has to do something about it they have to put an end to it. This is a federal school. They should find a way to streamline their culture to accommodate the students here so that we can be at home in our own school.”

When newsmen called at the institution, the Rector, Prof. Godwin Onu was not within the school premises but the Public Relations Officer, Mr. Obini Onuchukwu and the Deputy Rector, Dr. Don Muo, told newsmen that the institution was doing everything possible to ensure that the crisis did not escalate.

Onuchukwu said: “Yesterday (Sunday) at about 7pm we got a distress call from our security network that some of our students were being attacked by the Oko natives. We quickly got in touch with the community, the President General of OPU precisely Cyprian Nwamuo and then the traditional ruler, because it was on record that we have nurtured and enjoyed very cordial relationship with this community, so that came as a surprise and we quickly put a call across to these leaders of the community to find out immediate solution to the problem.

“We learnt that what actually instigated what you are seeing today was the very unfavourable and very unfriendly culture of the people’s masquerade such that you flog anybody you see on the street. That, we learnt, provoked the students who allegedly retaliated.

“Be that as it may we have not recorded any death as speculated, we are only aware of about seven of our students that sustained injuries as a result of the misunderstanding. They have been taken to hospital and all our doctors have been mobilized and they are handling them.

“As for security, no fewer than 50 policemen have been drafted to the area, the director of SSS, the commissioner of police, even the Government House has also been adequately briefed and the situation is under control.

“However, the institution felt it is necessary to declare few days break for the students to go home and freshen up ahead of their exams. So today we declared Easter break from today to April 10 when they will resume for their exam.
“We have already commenced friendly negotiations with the community, as I talk with you, we are meeting with the youth leader, the president general is already on his way to the school where we will commence talk.”

For his part, the National President, Oko People’s Union (OPU), Cyprian Nwamuo said: “It is very unfortunate that this happened. There was tension on this matter and we have been trying to quell it for a very long time, but last night they said masquerades went into a compound and beat some people. So the students’ union government used the opportunity to call for congress. In that congress they incited students to go on the streets and this is the result.”

On the fear that the native would be more deadly in the night, the town president said: “We have been working hard, you see what is happening here now, the police are picking our people. They have arrested about eight of us, I don’t know their whereabouts now.
“You know these are youths. It may cause more problems if they are not released, I am appealing to them because they were trying to defend themselves. We are working very hard to make sure it doesn’t go beyond this.”
The police imagemaker, Mr. Chukwuemeka said: “We came here to try to bring the situation under control and thank God that the situation as am talking to you has been brought under control.”

On causalities he said, “Well such information of someone dead is not available to me yet, the information available to me is that masquerades beat some people, I am not told that somebody died, but I was told that somebody who was beaten up was taken to the hospital where he is receiving treatment and that he is in a stable condition. it is difficult to say how many arrest we have made. When we came it was that bad. Some people who were actually fementing problem were arrested and they will be questioned with a view to forestalling reoccurrence.”
Meanwhile, there is fear that the youth might be more deadly in the night, just as there were alleged threat by the youths to burn the police station in the community to which the police had warned the leaders of the community to call their subjects to order.
culled from sunnewsonline.com
story by GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka

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