June 21, 2016

Aftermath of students riot: Uneasy calm at UNEC

Aftermath of students riot: Uneasy calm at UNEC

•Abandoned Administrative Block

•Irate students spoil for another violent showdown over poor services

By Francis Igata, Enugu

Like an active volcano, the frustration and anger of students of the University of Nigeria,UNEC, Enugu campus over persistent erratic power supply by the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company,EEDC, in the past six months, eventually erupted into a violent protest.

This was after the students were said to have made several appeals to the university management to alleviate their predicament by providing a functional generator to replace the one that packed up. The students were said to have been irked when their one-week ultimatum to the school authorities to repair the broken down generator was reportedly treated with levity.

•Abandoned Administrative Block

•Abandoned Administrative Block

The incident led to the shutting down of the school, with lectures suspended and even the non-academic staff prevented from working in their offices.

To compound the students’ woes, water supply to the university has become epileptic, triggering a sharp rise in the cost of water with a bucket now selling for N40. Consequently, there is serious concern about sanitary condition at the hostels with the lavatories not having water.

Indeed, when Vanguard Metro visited the Lady Ibiam female Hostel at the campus, we were greeted by an offensive odour from the conveniences.

Access to internet services

The students were equally infuriated that the abysmal power situation in the campus affected Wi Fi services which they had paid for to the tune of N12,000, thus denying them access to internet services.

Further findings by VM showed that the students were equally angered by abandoned infrastructures that dot the campus, including the gigantic ongoing Administrative Block which has been in this state for four years.

Unconfirmed reports revealed that the building, started by a past Vice Chancellor, Barto Okolo, may have run into a hitch following alleged financial malfeasance surrounding the contract award.

At the campus
However, VM can confirm that the Police authorities in Enugu State have since moved in to avert further breakdown of law and order at the University. At the campus entrance gate, a Police Amoured Personnel Carrier, APC and about five patrol vehicles with stern-looking policemen were stationed there to forestall further breakdown of law and order.

At the transport section of the university, four campus shuttle buses with smashed windshields bore testimony to the anger of the rampaging students during the riot. This was also the case with vandalized street light poles at the lecturers quarters.

But while the police appeared to have restored order, there was still palpable tension in the university community over fears that the angry students are regrouping for another round of violent protest.

Angry student speaks
Reviewing all that has happened, Chigozie, a 200 level law student had lamented thus: “There is no electricity power in the school. Students are frustrated over the absence of Wi Fi to browse after paying N12,000 for it. Last week, we had a full one week strike to enable the Student Union President negotiate with the management over the broken down generator.

“The management did nothing to alleviate our plight. They treated us as if we are not making any sense to them. We wake up every morning and there is no light to read our books. Exams are scheduled for June 28. There is no light to read our books, iron our clothes, among other things. The school management said they were going to repair the generator. Later they said the generator is beyond repairs.

“We told them to get us a new generator. We have not had light for the past six months. The school management was rationing the light. Some will have power supply from 7 to 9pm, while others will have from 9 to 11pm. That is two hours electricity per day. That is how we have been living. You can imagine what two hours a day power supply will do for a student who lives in a hostel that is over populated.

“The issue of water is another thing. We are living at the mercy of water vendors. A bucket of water sells for N40. You can imagine at this hard times how many buckets a student will need in a day. Consequently, the sanitary condition is poor. We fall sick weekly here.  The Wi Fi was meant to last for one year. Look at it: six months down the line, no services. They told us that every hostel will have Wi Fi but it turned out to be a lie.

“We have resorted to buying modem and pay for internet services. This is broad day extortion by the university management. How can one pay for something and cannot have it? A typical law student is meant to read six hours a day. How can this be achieved? How do we charge our lanterns?”

Police response
Speaking on the development and Police efforts to restore law and order, Police Public Relation Officer, PPRO, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu said: “The presence of our men was to ensure that further breakdown of law and order is averted. We do not want an escalation of the situation. Properties have been destroyed in the riot over issues the students have against their management. We are bent on ensuring public peace and safety so that people can go about their normal businesses.”