It is no longer news that Friday, the 17th day of February, 2017 will forever remain evergreen in the minds of Federal University of Technology Owerri (FUTO) students as the institution witnessed the worst form of protest/riot over the purported hike in tuition fees, no free Wi-Fi (as proposed), incessant increase in course registration fees and other pressing issues.
The peaceful protest which was initiated by a well-known student activist, a former Student Union Government PRO in the person of Comrade Ogbonna Collins popularly known as ‘Rochas’, turned to a violent one after he was arrested by the Department of State Security Service (DSS).
The protest began as early as 6am with mobilization of students staying off campuses before heading to the hostels to mobilize more angry Nigerian Students to join in the protest. Around 8am, the institution was lit with a peaceful march down to senate building with students on black outfit carrying placards written “Prof. F. C. Eze must go”, “Say no to hike is school fees”, “We need more banks in FUTO”, “Federal University of Money, Owerri”.
No vehicle (especially staff vehicles) was allowed to enter the school; all went well not until security operatives (Police, DSS, SARS) stormed FUTO with full force like an angry lion looking for who to devour. The Vice-Chancellor on sighting the angry scampered for safety without uttering a single word to the student (which could have ended the protest).
Students later marched down to various lecture halls to make sure no lecture was ongoing. It is worthy to note that a lecturer (name withheld) was whisked out of a classroom and asked to stop his lectures for his own benefit. Everything that happened was a peaceful one. All hell went loose when our very own activist, Rochas was accosted, beaten and arrested by DSS after they engaged him in a shootout while trying to catch him. After he was whisked away, the whole protest turned violent.
Firstly, students marched to senate to destroy properties but they were stopped by the police who used tear gas to dismiss the mob. However, after much trial, students were able to destroy most of the vehicles parked at Senate, threw heavy stones on the aluminium windows, and broke the senate gate with other heavy damages.
Later, the mob marched to Diamond bank where they destroyed most the facilities at the bank including vehicles parked at the bank. Before the police could intervene, the angry mob marched to the ICT building where they did the most fatal damage. Almost all the laptops, printers, UPS, scanners, and other accessories worth thousands of naira were looted in broad day. The building was vandalized and the windows were damaged. Other damages were also done at strategic buildings like Library, SEET and SMAT complex, SUG resource centre, SOSC building.
Later, the police men came and intervened by arresting students, and shooting of tear gas. Sanity was later restored on campus and information came from Abuja that the students should vacate the hostels before 4pm or else face the law. Academic activities were also suspended till further notice.
Meanwhile, most students expressed their annoyance on the purported hike in tuition fee when interviewed by reporters from FUTO students’ society of Journalist. Read their reactions: “Our school fees has been unreasonably increased, imagine year one paying over 100 thousand naira for tuition and acceptance fee”, “it is a taboo for a Federal University to pay such a high amount”.
The school management is yet to make an official statement with regards to the protest, Rochas is yet to be released, students have vacated the hostels and academic activities has been shut down till further notice.
Orji, Williams Ukaegbu/FUTO