October 17, 2012

Uniport four: Different versions of why they were killed

Uniport four: Different versions  of why they were killed

University of Port Harcourt students brutally beaten and burnt alive

THE people of Omuokiri-Aluu community in ObiaAkpo Local Government Area of Rivers state did not envisage the outcry  that has continued to  trail the brutal murder of four students of the University of Port Harcourt  last week Friday in the community.

Those killed were  Ugona Kelechi Obuzor, year two Geology;  Biringa Chiadika Lordson,  year two Theatre Arts;  Mike Lloyd Toku, year two Civil Engineering,  and Tekena Erikena.

The school authorities said the late  Tekena  registered for a certificate programme with the university days before his brutal murder. According to the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ajienka, the late Tekena had done  a Basics programme with the university.

University of Port Harcourt students brutally beaten and burnt alive

The foursome  were stripped naked, marched round most parts of the community and later  clubbed to death before a cheering crowd of the community. Their remains were set ablaze and dumped in a pit in the area.

Already 18 persons, including the traditional ruler of the area, Alhaji Hassan Walewa, have been arrested in connection with the heinous crime.   The Rivers State Police Commissioner, Mr. Muhammed Ndabawa, who spoke on the arrest when a team of the National Human Rights Commission led by the Executive Secretary, Prof. Bem Agwe, visited him in his office at the Police headquarters in Port Harcourt, said 11 of those arrested had been arraigned at a High court in Port Harcourt.

He said the police had to act to meet the 24-hour deadline for prosecution of suspects in Police custody.  The Commissioner of Police who was represented by his deputy, Deputy Commissioner of Police, Mr. Thomas Etomi, said two out of the  13 that were first arrested  were kept back to aid the Police in  its investigation.

Also students under the aegis of National Association of Nigeria Students, NANS, who stormed the school last Tuesday mobilised   students of the University of Port Harcourt to protest the brutal massacre of the four.

They disrupted traffic for several hours on the ever-busy East West road that connects the West of the Niger with the East of the Niger.

Students pelt VC with Sachet water

Appeal to the students to leave the East West road fell on deaf ears. At a point, they reportedly gave a condition that they would only move out of the road if the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Joseph Ajienka, came to address them.

The VC quickly obliged them. Mid-way into his address which centred on why the students should shun any act of violence some of them started hurling sachet water at him. When it became obvious  that the students were about getting out of control, the VC was reportedly whisked away to safety.

After the VC had disappeared from the scene, the students reportedly continued their demonstration. They later marched to Omuokiri-Aluu community to set some houses there ablaze.

One of the houses torched reportedly belonged to the traditional ruler of the community, Chief  Walewa who had been arraigned in court in connection with the murder of the deceased four.

Several cars were also burnt in the community by the riotous students. Authorities of the university later closed down the school indefinitely.

What led to  their death

Different accounts of what could have caused their death have made the rounds   since the brutal killing.  The Police Commissioner, Mr. Ndabawa, while briefing the National Human Rights Commission at the Police headquarters, said the Police would do everything humanly possible to get to the root of the incident.

He said preliminary investigation showed that the boys were apprehended in the early hours of Thursday and kept till the time they were killed.

He said those who arrested them should have handed them over to the Police. Adding, he said no weapon was found on them, stressing that the traditional ruler of the community was reportedly aware of the arrest of the students.

The police boss acknowledged that the community where the boys were arrested had been notorious for crime and cult- related issues. He also said that though the boys were arrested  in the early hours  but it was not enough justification for the manner they were killed.

He said the Police would look at all ends of the incidents, also x-ray its role in the whole saga.  According to him, the High Command of the Police would also want to establish if there was dereliction of duty on the part of its men in the area.  “We have a police post in Aluu. If our men showed dereliction of duty, the IG will take it up,” he said.

The Police and security operatives have a major task to thoroughly investigate what informed the mob action.  Some have said the boys were innocent but found themselves in Omuokiri Aluu at the wrong time.  So they probably paid the price for the offense allegedly committed by others.

There are those who think that the killing would not be unconnected with cult-related issues.  According to some students of the University of Port Harcourt, the boys were allegedly on ‘assignment’ to compel a member of their group to pay his dues.

The student sources said when the deceased students and their friend allegedly  got to the  one they went to meet  he said he had no money. They then reportedly made attempt to go with his laptop and blackberry, an act that forced him to raise alarm, branding them thieves. In seconds, youths rounded them up.But some other students dismissed this as untrue. They said if the four had been cultists their group should have rushed to rescue them since the incident happened in  the university community. “ There was enough time for rescue. Again those holding them had no weapon. A few of their men if they were cultists would come, shot into the air to rescue them. They were not cultists,” a  security expert added.

A third view was that one of the students paid for accommodation which he never got at the time he was promised.  After he had made alternative arrangement he tried getting his money back from the person he paid to. But all his efforts were fruitless.

He then enlisted three of his friends and one other person to accompany him to the community to demand for the money.  They allegedly got to the debtor’s house in the early hours of the day. And an argument reportedly ensued when the debtor said he had no money.

The creditor, according to the sources, then insisted he was going to go with the debtor’s  laptop and phone and would release them after he had paid his money.  This allegedly did not go down well with the debtor whom the sources said immediately raised alarm branding the guys who came for the money as thieves. And in seconds they were rounded up.

The fifth person they reportedly brought to assist them recover the money allegedly had a gun unknown to them. He reportedly shot into the air to ward of arrest and escape leaving the four others behind.

What appears clear in all the angles that have been touted is that the foursomes were not robbers. And as usual with such situations, different versions would continue to make the rounds on why they were killed. It is left for security operatives to unravel the true story.

As it stands, speculations would continue to fly until the police come out with its findings on  the true account of what led to their death.

Meantime, the National Human rights Commission, has called on the Police and other security operatives to unearth the truth on the issue and further ensure that those behind the callous murder were made to face the law.

Executive Secretary of the Commission, Prof Bem Angwe, said his Commission would monitor the court process to see that justice was done at the end of the day.

Describing the killing as barbaric, he said no reason could justify extra-judicial murder.  He assured that his body would work with the Police and other allied agencies to see that all those that should be brought to book were made to answer for their roles in the heinous act.

He sympathized with parents and families of the victims, just as he enjoined students of the University of Port Harcourt not to take laws into their hands.

Condemnations have continued to trail the barbaric manner the foursome were murdered. No reason can truly justify the callous and heinous act.

In the judgement of many, the Police also have explanations to make on why they could not rescue the victims of the murder.

The time between when they were allegedly apprehended and when they were finally murdered, some said was enough for the Police to effectively act to save the lives of the foursome from the horrendous experience they went true before they gave up the ghosts.

“We want justice; we want justice”, were the words on the lips of all that had spoken to the Vanguard on this sad incident.

How the state and the Police go about it, time will tell

Meantime, the people of Aluu community have condemned the killing, urging government to fish out the killers.  Keshi Benson who spoke for the community said the sad incident was not committed by indigenes of the community

According to him, the area where they were killed is inhabited by strangers.

The Police and  other security operatives have assured that thorough investigation would be carried to unearth all details surrounding the brutal murder of the four.