Adibe Emenyonu reports on an ordinarily joyful  graduation party at Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, that turned into a funeral parlour following a scuffle

Ihunmudumun is a quarter in Ekpoma, headquarters of Esan West Local Government Area, housing the Edo State-owned Ambrose Alli University (AAU). The university formerly called Bendel State University, was in 1991 changed to Edo State University, when the old Bendel State was split into Edo and Delta states, and Edo inherited the school. However, it was in 2000 that it was renamed after its founder, Prof. Ambrose Folorunsho Alli, who was the then governor of old Bendel State.

Tucked away in a corner of Ihunmudumun is the Judges Quarters. And close to it is a popular joint, where students converge to have a good time away from the stress of reading and attending lectures. The spot is as old as the university, which was established in 1980, and has over the decades continued to enjoy the patronage of its customers, who are largely student.

Celebration Gone Awry

There was no known record of notoriety associated with the joint until the night of Tuesday, September 18, when a graduation party was organised by one Dr. Einstein Chibundum, to mark his final exit from the Ivory tower after six years of burning the midnight oil. In the euphoria of the moment, he was said to have gathered his friends to celebrate with him. However, a little misunderstanding turned the entire ceremony awry. Before people knew what was happening, nine persons laid dead, including the celebrant and his invitees.

Trouble allegedly started when two guys got into a serious fight at the venue. However, as people were trying to separate them, one of the fighters said his opponent tore his cloth, which must be paid for. Efforts to persuade him fell on deaf ears as he later left with his friends, only to return with guns, in search of the person that fought him. Upon sighting his opponent, they opened fire on him and those who separated the fight.

Casualty

Among the dead was the celebrant, who was to finally graduate Tuesday this week. Other casualties included one Ose Abulu and his girlfriend, Martha Ugwi; Jerry Omobhuudeaka Ogbu, a 2017 graduate of engineering and former Student Union Government (SUG) Leader of Parliament of the school, and others whose names could not be ascertained as at press time. Ogbu, THISDAY gathered, was supposed to proceed for the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC) by October.

The lady, Ugwi, was a Banking and Finance graduate of AAU and presently doing her NYSC in Katsina State. She was said to have come to celebrate the graduation party with her boyfriend, who was also graduating, only to meet her untimely death.

Arrest

Although the assailants were reported to have fled the scene immediately, some were arrested, while the rest were gunned down in a reprisal attack. After they were apprehended, the suspects were said to be helping the police in their investigation.

In addition, a crack team of detectives from the Edo State Police headquarters in Benin City were dispatched to the university to uncover the death surrounding the mass killings at the neighbourhood.

The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Johnson Kokumo, who spoke from on phone from Osun State, where he was deployed to on election duty, confirmed that some arrests have been made in connection with the killings.

He said, “Yes, some arrest have been made and the suspects have been transferred to the State Criminal Investigation Department headquarters in Benin.”

Kokumo who said that he was yet to be briefed on the exact number of suspects nabbed by the police however expressed his angst over the hydra-headed problem of cultism at the state-owned tertiary institution.

According to him, “Ambrose Alli University, I must admit is a den of cultists. The killings was as a result of a fight between rival cult groups. We are determined to get to the heart of the matter and check the rising wave of cultism at the school and other tertiary institutions in the state. We can’t tolerate the situation.”

Conflicting Reports

The Esan West Council chairman, Patrick Aguinede, however, disagreed with police commissioner that the killings were cult related.

Describing the police report as too hasty, Aguinede stressed that the bloodbath was not cult related in anyway. He said investigation showed that there was disagreement among some ‘G-boys’ also known as Yahoo-Yahoo over money sharing while some final year students of the institution and a female member of the NYSC were having graduation party within the same precinct, which became bloody.

According to him, “the killers missed their target and angrily killed people at the party. The true position is that it was not cult related as being speculated. It has to do with disagreement over money. We gathered that those G-boys from places like Kenya were quarreling over money. It is unfortunate that the boy they came for escaped and they now killed five persons. Four boys and a girl.”

The disagreement over those involved in the gruesome murder unfortunately cannot bring back the dead to live. Rather, what is required is for security agencies to beef up surveillance around the community.

Fear

Already, there is palpable fear in the university community as people, both students and non-students, move around with caution. For now, celebrations of any kind seem to have been put to on hold, especially at the once bubbling spot near the judges’ quarters.

While the outcome of the police investigation is awaited, people now rarely walk alone at night within the university community and some prefer to stay put at their hotels and lodges instead of partying.