Adibe Emenyonu in Benin City
Hell was let loose in Benin City, capital of Edo State as some soldiers attached to the S&T Barracks Ugbowo allegedly invaded the University of Benin, caused disruption and assaulted staff and students of the university.
The incident took place at one of the school’s Operated Automated Machines (ATM), which resulted in scores of students being wounded and several vehicles damaged in the melee.
In the process, one of soldiers narrowly escaped being lynching but for the intervention by members of the public.
The soldiers, according to eyewitnesses, who spoke, were said to have had an altercation with the students when they forcefully overtook students on queue whose turn it was to withdraw from the Automated Teller Machine (ATM), owned by one of the banks at the university premises.
Trouble, according to the source, broke when the students who had queued for the withdrawal resisted the soldiers from jumping the queue to withdraw at the expense of the students who had stayed for hours to get paid.
It was said that the soldiers had on Wednesday, approached the ATM and wanted to repeat the same on Thursday when the students asked them to queue up if they were to withdraw from the Point of Sale Machines.
The sources added, “On Wednesday they came here and harassed the students. They even asked the students who challenged them to queue up to lie on the ground.”
Continuing, the eyewitnesses who don’t want their names on print, said, “But today when they came again and wanted to do the same thing, the students resisted them.”
While the heated arguments lasted between the students and the soldiers, the Chief Security Officer (CSO) of the institution was said to have moved to the scene to intervene when he got assaulted by one of the soldiers who slapped him.
The development, the source further stated, heightened the already tense atmosphere as students in their numbers pounced on the soldiers with one of them reportedly sustaining injury.
The aggrieved students barricaded and halted vehicular movements for several hours as all routes leading to and from the UNIBEN main gate stalled in protest against the military action while demanding an apology as well as an end to the oppression
It took the intervention of some spirited Nigerians and the Deputy Police Officer, DPO, Ugbowo Division to appease the irate students to allow movement around the axis.
When contacted, the Police Spokesman, SP Chidi Nwabuzor, said he was in Abuja and could not give details but directed our correspondent to speak with his 2i/c, ASP Jennifer Iwegbu, who confirmed the incident.
Speaking, ASP Iwegbu said peace was restored after several appeals to the students but claimed that the students wanted a phone belonging to one of the unnamed students that was smashed on the ground fixed to end the gruel.
The unfortunate incident according to investigation, the soldiers were said to have regrouped and went back to the university, beating anyone in sight, as well as smashing vehicles.
Meanwhile, the university management has called for calm, saying it is in discussions with the hierarchy of the military for amicable resolution.
In a statement through the Public Relations Officer of the university, Dr. Benedicta Ehanire, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Lilian Salami, said efforts are in top gear to avert any recurrence.
She said: “Management acknowledges that these are challenging times for everyone and enjoins all to remain calm while efforts are being made to avert a re-occurrence.
“Management also calls on the students to constantly engage in dialogue in resolving issues that concern them rather than taking to protests, at any provocation, thereby causing more injury and damage to themselves and others.”