Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa
At least three persons were feared dead on Tuesday while some policemen were injured when security operatives deployed to reopen the access gate to the Niger Delta University (NDU) clashed with the protesters.
The state-owned university had been on lockdown by youths and women from Amassoma community, Southern Ijaw, whose names were deleted from the institutionâ€™s payroll following alleged irregularities in their credentials, mode of employment or due to redundancy.
THISDAY gathered that a detachment of security personnel was deployed earlier yesterday to open the gate which has been sealed by the angry demonstrators after a peace meeting between government representatives and community leaders.
Things went rapidly awry, it was learnt, when the surging agitators refused to allow the police forcefully break the welded access to the school leading to the use of tear gas and gunshots to disperse them.
In the process, the sporadic gunfire was said to have hit three persons who died before they got to the hospital, while some cops who retreated into the school premises were attacked and injured.
â€œThe security operatives including the police, soldiers and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were overwhelmed by the crowd rushing towards them.
â€œThey first retreated into the premises of the university and called for reinforcement. Later they started throwing teargas canisters at them and shooting at the protesters. Many were injured and about three persons were shot. They were feared dead but were immediately rushed to the hospitalâ€, a source said.
The police were not willing to respond to enquiries yesterday but a faction of the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) led by Eric Omare, in a statement, said more than three persons were killed.
â€œWe therefore call on all parties to exercise restraint. The government of Bayelsa State and community leaders of Amassoma must rise to calm the situation.
â€œ We also call on the Inspector General of Police to properly investigate the circumstances surrounding the gruesome murder of youths of Amassoma community and bring the perpetrators to justice to serve as deterrence to other blood thirsty police officersâ€, Omare added.
In the meantime, the Government of Bayelsa State has condemned the violence and attack on the state-owned Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island, by some â€˜hoodlumsâ€™.
In a statement by the Special Adviser to the Governor on Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, the government blamed opposition political leaders for the â€œmobilisation of the hoodlums who barricaded the gate and disrupted academic activitiesâ€.
The government said the hoodlums attacked a detachment of policemen who were deployed to the NDU and injured some of them before ransacking the Amassoma Police Station.
â€œThese mischief makers have mobilised, funded and armed hoodlums to disrupt academic activities in the school, and forcibly close it down even when negotiations on the recent retirement of over-aged personnel of the institution have been concluded and agreements reached.
â€œThese hoodlums have for the past one week stopped free movement of vehicles and persons on public roads. They disrupted conduct of businesses in and around Amassoma by putting canopies on major roads to pander to political interests who are desperate to tarnish the good image of the government,â€ said the statement.
Accordingly, the Bayelsa State government warned communities to note that the institutions are the collective properties and investments of everyone in Bayelsa and are not owned by any particular host community.
The statement also alleged that the hoodlums disrupted construction work in the university as they prevented workers and contractors from working on ongoing multi-billion projects such as the Senate building and a network of roads within the campus.