The crisis that snowballed into Tuesday morning’s protest march by University of Jos students was triggered by a palpable sense of insecurity that has engulfed the Plateau state capital in the wake of Sunday’s suicide attack on St. Finbarr’s Catholic Church, a student leader has told Premium Times.
The president of the Sociology Students Association of the University, Emmanuel Olayinka, said since the Sunday incident, students have felt increasingly unsafe in their hostel, particularly after two of their colleagues were stabbed in a reprisal attack by some aggrieved relatives of victims, without any steps taken by the authorities to protect them.
Mr. Olayinka, who is also a 400-level student, said his two colleagues (male and female) were attacked by a group of mourners, suspected to be Hausa men staying close to the Naraguta hostel of the university, who were returning from the burial of one of the victims of the reprisal attacks following the church bombing.
“The two victims, including a 200-level Accounting female student, Dorothy, were attacked by some people from Anguwan Rukuba, who had gone to bury one of their own that was killed during the reprisal attacks that followed the suicide bombing of the Catholic Church,” Mr. Olayinka said. “Because the route to the burial ground passes through the hostel, so on their way back they met these two students and attacked them.
“The fact that students are not safe even in their hostels is what infuriated the students to embark on the peaceful protest march that resulted in their blocking the main highway leading to Bauchi.”
Dorothy, he said, is in critical condition at the university clinic.
According to Mr. Olayinka, though security personnel drafted from the Special Task Force (STF) arrived the scene of the students’ protest, they kept watch from a safe distance, neither attempting to stop the march nor molest the protesters.
Prior to the incident, the student leader said, female students were previously attacked on a number of occasions, and even robbed by a group of young men from the community known as Malo boys, who usually go to the female hostels to work.
“Until the place is fenced, these types of attacks on students will continue,” Mr. Olayinka said. “Ordinarily, anyone going to the burial ground has no business coming through the hostel. But, the way things are, not only females, but all students are vulnerable to attacks.”
The spokesperson of the state police command, Samuel Dabai, who confirmed the incident said investigations have already commenced but that no arrest had been made so far.
However, the Dean, Student Affairs, of the university, Rotgak Gofwen, who spoke to Premium Times on the telephone, said the fence provided by the university was vandalized by people wanting to use it as a thoroughfare.
“Well, I can tell you that the University fenced not only the hostel area, but the campus as a whole, Mr. Gofwen said. “If there is any space on the fence, it must have been broken. But all the same, we will have our engineers look at the place and mend any breakage there.”