– Promised more attack
– NANS Zone B threatened war on the villagers
– Student promise reprisal in further attack
Properties worth Millions have been vandalized/looted by the angry youths of Obinze, Ihiagwa and Eziobodo which are the host communities of FUTO after a recent faceoff with the Institution. Ahanonu Emmanuel, takes a look at how the decades’ peaceful coexistence between the duels degenerated into war.
The peaceful coexistence between Federal University of Technology Owerri FUTO and its host community has degenerated recently into a full blown crisis which may involve destruction of lives (to the destroyed properties) if urgent but long lasting steps is not taken by the Federal Government to re-broker peace and guarantee enabling learning environment for the students once more. This is owing to the frosty display of hooliganism exhibited by the host community were their youths (backed by high and mighty in the community) invaded some new structures in the Institution being put in place for the staff and wrecked them down, and loot other properties worth over N20m.
Thus, the recent sight of Military men in all part of the institution can only query one’s psyche if FUTO has turn to North East part of the country where Boko Haram has held sway for over a year.
Although, FUTO environ has witnessed tremendous infrastructural development since Prof. Chigozie C. Osiabaka led administration. So, it was another feather for the Institution when some bulldozers started clearing some potion of ‘presumed’ FUTO land for building of the staff quarters. Not longer that the clearance start that building commence; difference structures being erected simultaneously.
But in the wee hours of Wednesday 7th, the youths of the host communities; Umuchima, Umuanunu, Eziobodo, Iheagwa and Obinze invaded the new structures that were at roofing stage and uprooted at least two and smirched all the glasses in the other small hall that was already painted.
According to eyewitness, the youths numbering over a thousand were all armed with various dangerous weapons ranging from matched, axe and den-gun. Worst still, many old women, elders and rich joined the youths in their destructive expedition.
They started the march around 6:30am from the school Main gate. They first surrounded, disarmed and dis-uniformed all the security men on sight before launching into destruction of glasses at the front gate. They marched to the new building and delayed not in pulling them down. Then, they proceeded into looting and destruction of any valuable on sight.
According to one of the security men on duty that dreaded day who spoke to our correspondent on the condition of anonymity because he was not empowered to speak for the issue “it is by miracle that none of us was killed that day. When those boys arrived, there were like five or more armed military police but they quickly left to avoid bloodshed as hundreds of those boys were well armed. They surrendered all of us in security uniform and seized all our cloths; they equally made sure that no security man answered call as long as their operation lasts. “One of us” (referring to another security man) he continued “who answered call from his family member was nearly killed as those boys alleged that he was calling the Vice Chancellor for reprisal. They dealt with him and quickly destroyed his phone as well. Our security van was equally affected before one of us miraculously save it by driving out forcefully at the middle of the heat. It was a horror sight!” He summed.
If not for the timely intervention of the police and military men, the issue could have degenerated into another thing as the news of this villagers’ invasion got to the students’ hostel just when the military has been able to repel the looters.
The police later arrested some villagers in the afternoon of the incident. When the information got to the villagers, fresh trouble brewed as they quickly remobilized themselves, this time, more armed and more determined and proceeded to the old registry (results and records) and started destroying all the glass. Not for the strong protectors used, they could have penetrated the people’s result archive and destroy them all. They also visited and burnt the security house close the registry before some students help in quenching the fire; although, the building was half burnt.
According an assessment record obtained from Investment Industrial Complex Amalgamation, item worth over N20m Naira were carted away by the invaders. Some of the items include 2water Sumo, 35Head pans, 35 spades, water Horse, 30 plastic seats, 16 plastic tables, 2 canopy, 4Trailer load of cement, 14 Alumac Frame, 10 Alumac Windows and doors, 14sets of water tap, 23 1000liters of Geep tank, woods, electric bulbs, electric wires, lamp holders, 30 flexible wire, 18 wood table, 5 cement mixing machine, 5bags of nails, 55 drums of paints, rods, molded blocks, 5 Gas cooker, 5 Gas cylinder, 12 block molder, 2 block molding machine,2 sign post, tire, diesel, motor glasses, among others.
Moreover, anything they lay their hand on; they either stole or destroy it as seen the many bags of destroyed cement which they either pure water of smirch it with sharp object to be useless.
Speaking with one of the villager who pleaded not to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue, “It is the VC of FUTO who caused all the problem”. He narrated how the VC started the trouble by what he called “shifting the goal post at the middle of the match”, for single-handedly extending the gate/fence of the institution for over 500metres and thereby encroached in the villagers’ land. He equally told our reporter that there has been a sharing arrangement between the villagers and the FUTO management where the villagers are given some portion of the school land to farm each year in return of leaving their lands for the Institution’s exploit. Thus, he believed that the issues hatched when the incumbent VC started reneging in the former arrangement.
Hear him “the VC change the goal post at the middle of the match and decided to shut the doors over his host community and do things without recourse to the accepted arrangement, so when the host community couldn’t bear it, the vent their anger in those new structure to reawake the Management to either get back to status quo or do things in the right way”. He rejected the allegation that the villagers came with looting intentions.
But in a swift reaction, a Memo released by NANS Zone B, signed by its Secretary General Comrade Okafor Chucks described the incident as “a stampede and a big blow to FG/FUTO students” and added that the Villagers/assailants comprises of “the youths and elderly one heavily armed with machetes, cutlass, locally fabricated guns and other ammunitions”. He however alleged that the attack was a high conspiracy between the evil elders and some persons seeking for undue recognition in the Institution.
Comr. Chucks after the incident equally led a high power students leaders delegation comprising of NANS Executives, SUG President of FUTO (and his Excos), SUG President of Federal Poly Nekkede and his Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education counterpart condemned the action and threatened that for the villagers having the temerity to vandalize and setting ablaze the result and record section, “if any student’s result is missing, troops of NANS foot soldiers may engage the village in a war”. He therefore called on FUTO students to be ready for a fresh war if the villagers repeat this act.
While briefing journalists, Chucks added “Do not think that we are cowards for letting go of all these act of insurgence and humiliation to my constituency, we will take it up if the villagers do not desist from this act” he warned. While calling on the VC not to be distracted by the ploys of his rivals to frustrate his developmental efforts. He finally give kudos to some students leaders for their responsiveness during the insurrection especially NANS Zone B Coordinator Comr. Okorie Ikechukwu while instantly ferried from Unizik to FUTO for quell the insurgence, FUTO incumbent and emeritus Presidents Comr. Wisdom Chimezie and Aluta Bishop, Nekkede SUG President Comr. Janere Emmanuel as well as NANS Majority leader and the former coordinator.
While FUTO SUG Public Relation Officer Comr. Nwaigwe Chidozie explained that the ugly incident is what people can do when they are disgruntled but added that the issue of land dispute in FUTO is an aged-long issue, although, he believed that it has been settled until this recent incident. He added that “it baffles me because the building they destroyed are still within the school perimeter. But his President Comr. Wisdom Chimezie while admonishing students to remain peaceful believed that any violent action by the students could be adversely detrimental to their academic pursuit and advised the students to allow the Management who are already on top of the situation to handle it properly.
But students seem not to be interested much on dialogue as shown by the words of some cross section of the students interviewed. One of them, a 400L IMT student who spoke in confidence believe that the incident happened in the first place because the security in FUTO is a shadow of itself as their security men are armless and very few, to take care of over 14thousand Hectares of FUTO land. He believe that “nobody can hold the student not to vent their own anger on the ingrates villagers if there is a repetition of this senseless act hence no student can afford to lose his results after spending time and money here”. While another prayed “let’s just know early about any more attack in this school, if the attackers escape alive, they should go for testimony”
Nevertheless, to avoid future reoccurrence, NANS Zone B Secretary suggested three things to FUTO Management; putting up a fence round the Institution (as many parts are not yet fenced), putting up a military checkpoints in all the entrances and meeting with the leaders of these communities to put a long lasting peace deal so that the students can learn without being afraid of their host community attacks.
Nonetheless, FUTO students and the villagers seem to be gilding up their mind on what happen next or who attacks next.