Official activities at the University of Port Harcourt have been put off till further notice as the school authority mourns the death of four students brutally burnt in a vigilante operation following the visit of four students to the village.
The school authorities of the University of Port Harcourt declared a seven-day mourning for the murdered students while the yearly student’s Union week celebration has been put off till further notice .
The University also in mourning lowered the national flag to half-mast to demonstrate the deep bereavement of the school. It however had made known that the authority will not partake in the litigation exercise that may follow the killings even though the school has been in deep mourning.
Addressing newsmen on Tuesday at the Governing Council Chambers, Senate Building, UNIPORT, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Joseph Ajienka, said the university had been working in cooperation with the Nigeria Police and other security relevant agencies, to unravel the circumstances that led to the brutal killing of the four students.
He explained that the lynching of the students took place outside the jurisdiction of the university, adding that the university bore no responsibility for security outside the campus, even as it accepts the fact that students live and commute to the campus from some of the host communities, including Aluu.
The Vice Chancellor, Professor Ajienka also explained that students and staff, who wish to reside in any of the host communities, did not usually consult the university. “Omuokiri, Aluu Community where the incident reportedly took place is about three kilometers from outside the university.
He affirmed that because the incident took place outside the university, where it has no jurisdiction, it would be prejudicial to on-going investigations for authorities of the university to issue independent statements on the issue, without cooperation from such agencies, which are in the forefront of the investigation.
“As it is to be expected under the circumstance in which we now found ourselves, the university is in a mourning mood in honour of the murdered students”, he said.
Also, the ongoing 2012 Student Union Week which was to commence on Tuesday has been put off immediately. Flags are already being flown at half mast as a mark of honour to the deceased students.
Professor Ajienka, appealed to the security agencies to bring the perpetrators to book and also unravel the exact circumstance surrounding the unfortunate incident.
He said: “In as much as we condemn all forms of criminality, the authorities of the University of Port Harcourt wish to state in unequivocal terms, that nobody has the right to engage in extra-judicial killing or resort to self-help, no matter the level of provocation. Whatever was the grievance(s) of the lynch mob should have been promptly reported to the relevant law enforcement agencies, than resorting to the law of the jungle.” He also commended the Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, for his timely intervention that prevented the issue from degenerating into war.
Tragedy fell when five students of the University visited a cult colleague seeking for an outstanding payment for one of their members being owed an unspecified amount of money.
The village was very close to the University. On arrival the fellow student they went to meet said he did not have money for them pleading for more time. There was an argument as to the reason why the money needed to be collected and tempers rose as the argument got hotter.
Then the students decided to punish the cult member seizing his laptop and Blackberry mobile phone to force him into obeying their paying order.
As the visitors left the colleague, the angry mate was irritated by the seizure of his belongings and shouted thief, thief, attracting a vigilante group which had been constituted in the town because of constant robbery raids.The vigilante was alerted by the yelling and they swung into action chasing the students. They were mistaken for those that had pounced on the village previously. The vigilante took the students to their community leader who questioned the students but was unconvinced about their explanation of visiting their colleague student.
As the vigilante presented the laptop and the phone forcefully taken from the student they had visited, the local head ordered instant jungle justice for them to be applied, and hence the brutal killing and burning.
At least 12 suspects and the leader of Aluu community have been arrested.
Many civil rights activists have come with the question as to why the police were not alerted before the students were killed and burnt.
The identities of the students have been made public by UNIPORT authorities. They are: Biringa Chiadika Lordson, a second-year Theatre Arts student, with Matriculation Number U2010/1805036, Ugonna Kelechi Obuzor, also a year two Geology student with Matriculation Number U2010/5565149 and Mike Lloyd Toku, year two Civil Engineering student with Matriculation Number U2010/3010094.
The fourth person, Tekena Erikena, was yet to be identified as a student of the University of Port Harcourt, but information had it that he was a student of School of Basic Studies.
The village as at yesterday was being discarded as villagers run from being arrested. Solders and police experts have been drafted to the village to bring about peace as the students’ protests in incapacitated social activities.