Thursday 28 February 2013

NSUK Students Shot Dead: Army Denied Involvement

At least four protesting students of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi (NSUK) were shot dead and four others injured, Monday 25th February, 2013. It was widely reported that the four students were cold-bloodedly murdered when soldiers and policemen fired shots to disperse students who were protesting over lack of water at the university.  

According to the Student Union leader, Rabiu Omame Tijani, the protest started impulsively at about 7.30am by few students at their hostels but soon snowballed and spilled into the street.

 “The protesting students who were chanting “No Water, No Road”, blocked the Keffi – Akwanga road and disrupted traffic for hour”, Tijani disclosed. He said that all efforts by the University’s Registrar, Mamma Dalhatu and the Chief security Officer, John Aboh to calm the irate students proved abortive, until armed security personnel came in to break off the riot and disperse the crowd.

Confirming the shooting, an official of the Federal Medical Center Keffi, Jamilu Nagogo told newsmen that six people were brought with gunshot injuries, one of them already dead while one other person died later at the hospital.

The Nasarawa State Police Spokesman, DSP Michael Ada, confirmed that there was shooting but said he was only aware that two students were injured. The University Spokesman, Jamil Zakari on his part disclosed that he heard of the shooting but could not confirm by who or any deaths.

In a rather stanch statement, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has urged the government to hold those who participated directly or indirectly in the cold-blooded murder of the four students.

In the statement, the NLC President, Abdulwahed I. Omar said, “The government should fish them out immediately and prosecute them in line with the laws of the land”.

But, in its official reaction, the Nigerian Army has denied reports that its troops killed four students of the Nasarawa State University who were protesting lack of basic amenities in the institution, adding that its soldiers did not shoot any of the students during the protest.

Speaking after the Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Azubuike Ihejirika, received the Indian Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Krishna Singh, in his office, the director of Army Public Relations, Brigadier-General Ibrahim Attahiru said the Army killed no student.

He narrated that, “On February 25, 2013, students of Nasarawa State University came out en mass and barricaded the Keffi-Akwanga expressway, which is part of the 177 Guards Battalion patrol routes. This road was blocked with logs of wood and burning tyres which hampered vehicular movement, leaving travellers stranded for hours and numerous vehicles damaged by the violent crowd.

“It was also reported that the irate crowd were looting travellers’ belongings and throwing stones, bottles and metal objects at the security operatives. However, it is believed that the protest was hijacked by some hoodlums and cult members who are students of the university.

“As a result, the violent crowd burnt down two vehicles at the Police Station located across the campus and seized a tanker loaded with fuel with the intention of burning down the Police Station.

“The combined efforts of 177 Guards Battalion with others security operatives prevented the hoodlums from this act. The violent action of the crowd led to three soldiers of 177 Guards Battalion sustaining various degrees of injuries from the stones, bottles and metals thrown at them.

“It is important to note that the combined efforts of the troops in conjunction with other security agencies assisted in dispersing the crowd and removing the blockades from the road to ease movement of vehicles. Presently, law and order have been restored in the area and troops are closely monitoring the situation.”   

When asked why soldiers and not police were called to quell students’ riot, Attahiru said “You are aware of the problem of communal clashes in Nasarawa State. Troops are on patrol to checkmate the killings and violence, so the Vice Chancellor did not need to invite soldiers on patrol who ran into the blockade on a major highway and were engaging in violence,”

“In any case, let me repeat, our troops did not shoot any student during the protest. We are very well trained professionals. Since we did not use live ammunitions, I do not know how we would have shot anybody. Our troops were not in any way involved in the shooting”, he emphasized.

Over the years the problems associated with police capability to control crowd have continue to mount. Whenever an initial incident erupts into a major crowd control problem, most police divisions in Nigeria are confronted with a difficult manpower problem. To hide the shortfalls in number and quality of uniformed personnel available for swift deployment, the military is always beckoned and the fallout disastrous because military orientation and training is not to control crowd or quench riots by armless citizens.  

Dispersal is also a factor. Normal police operations require personnel to be distributed over the entire geographical area of a state or city. When disorder erupts, the task of mobilizing all available manpower becomes enormous. The Commissioner of Police in charge of the State or Divisional Police Officer in charge of the division, as the case may be, must weigh the need for police to control the riot against the risk of leaving vital areas of the city or state without police protection in the meantime.

Most cities in Nigeria do not have enough policemen quickly available to assure control in the event of a sudden large disorder, coupled with poor training, discipline and command deficiencies, undefined police tactic which is responsible for most use of deadly force when the situation did not call for it are among the very problems that the authority must address if we must witness less of fatalities during peaceful protests in Nigeria.

As the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Abdulwahed I. Omar said, “the nation must invest in lasting and durable facilities early enough in order to avoid some ‘fire brigade approach’”.

That is, government must place high premium on the capacity of the police to prevent disorder through the provision of appropriate quantity and quality of personnel, technology and welfare as well as the promotion of security and welfare of the citizens. Towards this end, “government must re-discover its values and inspire its younger generation….”

Emergencies are anticipated in police planning. They range from natural threats like the recent floods that devastated many states of the country to man-made incidents like the recent protests by the students of Nasarawa State University, Keffi.
In the civilized world, only law enforcement agents with the appropriate temperament, education and training relevant to students’ psychology are usually deployed to campuses.

To get to the root of the matter the Nasarawa State House of Assembly yesterday Thursday, 29th February, 2013, set up a committee to investigate the killing of the University students.

The house’s decision followed the motion by member representing Udege Constituency in the Nasarawa State House of Assembly, Hon. Mohammed Ibaku under matter of public interest. The law maker said that students had the fundamental human rights to protest against water scarcity on their campus.

 He condemned the killing of the students, stressing that, “what happened in Keffi leading to the killing of the students was unfortunate, uncalled for and ungodly. The students have the right to protest against lack of water, as it is legitimate.

“It is better to use the police to maintain law and order when students are protesting than to use the military personnel.

“I condemned the killing of the students in its totality, the perpetrators of the act will not go unpunished”, he said.

Member representing Kokona East Constituency Hon. Dogara Sa’aka seconded the motion, adding that the investigation would identify the perpetrators of the act and recommend appropriate punishments.

Sa’aka said that water was essential to human life, adding that, “he who provides water provides life”.

Honorable Sa’aka queried the rationale behind sending soldiers to the university’s campus in place of the police.

The motion was unanimously adopted by the house for the setting up of the probe committee.

In his response, the Speaker of the House, Alhaji Musa Ahmed, directed the House Committees on Education, Security and Water Resources to investigate the immediate and remote causes of the incident.

The House also condoled with the families of the deceased for the irreparable loss of their loved ones; and observed a minute silence for those who lost their lives during the fatal protest. 

In the same vein,  on Tuesday, 26th February, 2013, the Federal House of Representatives, charged its Committees on Army, Security and Police Affairs to undertake a thorough investigation into the killing of the four protesting students of the Nasarawa State University, Keffi by soldiers deployed to quell the protests. The Speaker, Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, asked the panel to report to the chamber within two weeks for further legislative action.

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