BY VINCENT UJUMADU
…As NANS calls for immediate relocation of school.
AWKA – SOME students of the Federal Polytechnic, Oko, Anambra State, who returned to the town in readiness for reopening of the institution closed a fortnight ago, following a clash between masquerades and students of the polytechnic, were allegedly attacked by people suspected to be from the town, still bearing grudges against the students for destruction of some property in the town during the clash.
This came on a day a 22-member panel was set up to investigate clash between the students and the masquerades.
The latest attack came as the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, yesterday called on the Minister of Education, Prof Ruquayatu Rufai, to send a proposal to the Federal Executive Council, for immediate relocation of the polytechnic from Oko, saying the lives of the students were no longer safe in the town.
President of the Students Union Government, SUG, of the Polytechnic, Mr. Henry Nwabineli, told newsmen in Awka that two students sustained injuries, adding that their handsets and other valuable property were removed from them.
According to the SUG president, “the people confronted the students in their hostels in the town and beat them up and snatched their telephone handsets and other valuable items from them. We have also discovered that many hostels had been burgled since the students were asked to go home over two weeks ago.”
He explained that the students had to come back because of an earlier announcement that the institution would reopen on April 10, adding that they were eager to return to prepare for their first semester examinations as the time table for the examination was already out.
Also addressing newsmen on the issue, the country representative of the West African Students Union, Comrade Sheriff Zadoc, said there were other towns in Anambra State that were prepared to welcome and accommodate the students as their children and wondered why students of Oko Poly should be living in danger in a community that should be grateful to the Federal Government for sitting such an institution in their area.
He commended the management of the polytechnic for ensuring that the students were evacuated from what he called the lion’s den, recalling that the students were being hunted by the people as if they committed any offence.
Zadok also said the entire Nigerian students would resist any attempt to ask the students of Oko Polytechnic to pay any penalty, describing as an irony, a situation whereby some people in the community would be claiming to have lost millions of naira when they were the people that started the attack with their masquerades.
His words; “Nigerian students are monitoring with keen interest, the events as they unfold in Oko. We have mobilized students across the NANS zones in the country to be ready to resist any attempt by any group or individual to impose any levy of any magnitude as reparation or whatever name.”
Meanwhile, a 22-member panel was yesterday inaugurated by the rector of the polytechnic, Professor Godwin Onu, in his office.
22-member panel set up to investigate clash
The panel has as chairman Mr. Bennett Ajakemo of the polytechnic, while Mr. Moses Okoye from Oko community would serve as secretary.
Membership of the panel was drawn from the polytechnic, students, Oko community, Orumba North local government, police, State Security Service, SSS, and police community relations committee.
No fewer than seven students were seriously injured when masquerades allegedly celebrating a festival had a confrontation with the students, which resulted in the destruction of property worth millions of naira.
The polytechnic had remained closed since the incident.
Terms of reference of the panel, which has one week to submit its report, are to determine the immediate and remote causes of the conflict, assess the extent of damage and peril to lives and property, identify those involved in inducing the conflict and roles played by individuals and groups, as well as proffer solution to the problem and recommend ways of avoiding future occurrences.
Onu explained during the inauguration that the committee was a product of long deliberation and negotiation between the polytechnic and the Oko community and hoped that a lasting solution would be found by members of the panel.
He said: “We felt that it was necessary to look into the causes of the violence because there is no alternative to peace. That is why we decided to involve all the stakeholders as nobody can claim to have monopoly of knowledge.”
He urged members of the panel to see their nomination as service to God and humanity and promised that the polytechnic would provide the panel with all the necessary logistics to enhance their job.
Onu also pleaded that the panel should endeavour to meet the target date, adding that the institution was already operating behind schedule as examinations ought to have begun, but for the crisis which led to the temporary closure of the polytechnic.
Responding on behalf of others, chairman of the panel, Mr. Ajakemo, promised that members of the panel would do their best to ensure the return of a lasting peace at Oko and the polytechnic community.