There was pandemonium at the otherwise serene University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Choba, last Monday.
It was triggered off by the erstwhile Niger Delta militants who are camped at the Leadership Training Centre, Aluu by the Federal Government in line with the amnesty package for former violent regional rights agitators. The centre and the university share a common boundary.
On the fateful day, the ex-militants plied their abandoned trade, though, without guns. But it was devastating as the university community, the host communities as well as passers-by who fell prey are still counting their losses from the volcano.
Cars were purportedly vandalised, valuable items ranging from handsets to computers were carted away by them. University girls and others were also said to be raped.
Brigandry was the weapon chosen by the ex-Niger Delta warlords to agitate alleged non-payment of their stipends and neglect by the federal government. Many had condemned the boys’ approach to express their feelings to government.
Both the academic and non-academic staff of UNIPORT have withdrawn their services from the university until the ex-militants are relocated to another site by the federal government.
Chairman, Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), UNIPORT branch, Dr. Andrew Efemini, last Thursday flayed government’s purported negligence on the amnesty deal. He did not only foresee a deadlier agitation by the boys if government failed to satisfy their needs.
Dr. Efemini said those behind the camping of the ex-militants in the area threw the sanctity of a university to the wind, hence restated that with the presence of the boys, the university was no longer safe.
Visibly angry ASUU boss was vehement when he stated that the ex-militants should be relocated to the nation’s seat of power, ASO ROCK. He said the boys should not only live with Mr. President, but also serve as his security aides and for the state chief executives too.
The chairman cautioned the ex-warlords not to provoke students of the university again, and stated that a repetition of the dastardly act would attract unpalatable reaction from the students, whom he described as “potent force all over the world”.
Students of the university, last Tuesday, trooped to the Rivers State Government House to press for the relocation of the ex-militants.
The secretary of the Students’ Union Government and Human Physiology Student, KingJoy Kedee in an interview with The Weekend Tide, on Thursday, pleaded that the repentant militants should be relocated immediately in the interest of peace on campus.
President, Akpor Youth Organisation (AYO) said, “AYO applauds government’s amnesty deal with the ex-militants, but not happy for camping them at Aluu, near UNIPORT because we are now witnessing incessant violent demonstrations within and around Akpor Kingdom”.
Seventy-year old ruler of Omuchiorlu Community, Aluu, Chief Elijah Chuku feared that purported anti-social behaviours of the ex-militants since they came to the locality would be imbibed by the vulnerable youths, hence pleaded with relevant authorities to relocate them.
Meanwhile, report from Government House, Port Harcourt, Thursday, stated that the Rivers State Government had stated that any ex-militant that engages in crime would face the wrath of the law as the post-amnesty programme has no room for criminality.
Governor Chibuike Amaechi stated this Thursday when he addressed the authorities of the University of Port Harcourt at Choba over the recent violent demonstration of ex-militants on the school campus.
Governor Amaechi, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Magnus Abe, said the havoc caused by the ex-militants on the institution is unacceptable and would not be tolerated by the state government.
The governor explained that the amnesty period elapsed on October 4, 2009, and therefore, raping, looting and destruction of people’s properties, which are not covered by the amnesty programme, attract punishment.
He restated the state government’s commitment to the rule of law and assured that anybody who commits crime would face the wrath of the law because the state government would not allow a recurrence of the criminality.
Governor Amaechi said the ex-militants were brought to the Aluu camp to be re-orientated and rehabilitated, to make them better people, but noted that under the circumstance, it is wrong to allow them stay near the institution.
The State Chief Executive used the opportunity to convey the deep concern of the government and people of Rivers State to the University Community over the incident and appealed to the victims to put themselves together while the victims of rape were to be given proper medical attention.
Governor Amaechi stated that the federal government has been fully briefed on the issue, emphasising that the non-payment of their allowances should not have attracted the violence they perpetrated on the school community.
He, therefore, urged the Vice Chancellor of the institution to reassure members of the school community that the incident would not recur and advised them to go back to work.
Earlier, the Vice Chancellor of the University, Prof. Don Baridam, thanked the state government for the concern they had shown to the school and the reassurance of adequate security measures.
Prof. Baridam said few weeks after the murder of the school’s Chief Security Officer and the violence perpetrated by the ex-militants, a state of fear has now enveloped the institution, leading to workers absenting themselves from work for fear of their lives.
The Vice Chancellor said the ex-militants raped 12 girls, looted properties and vandalised others, emphasizing that the solution to the problem remains the relocation of the camp.
He remarked that the school environment is where people come from different parts of the world to undertake academic programme and urged the state government to do something quickly to save the situation before the ex-militants indoctrinated the students’ population.