Concerns are growing about the security situation at Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ile-Ife, as some students allege some of their colleagues exhibit tendencies similar to those of cultists.
Cultism is believed to be a rarity on OAU campus, with the sustained consciousness and movement against the act, following the infamous July 10, 1999 killings of five students of the school, including then Students Union secretary general, George Iwilade.
However, many students of the university say cult-like actions such as harassment, bullying, open use of illicit drugs and flaunting of fraternal paraphernalia are now rampant on campus.
The students mentioned public places on campus where such acts are rampant as AngloMoz car park between male and female freshmen halls of residence, the halls of residence, New Buka and the academic area.
But the university says these are one-off cases and suggest they should not be regarded as cult activities.
Nevertheless, some students appear to believe the days of zero-cultism are over. “The mindset over the years is that OAU is one of the most peaceful campuses in the country and every student has that confidence to walk at any time of the day and night,” said a student, seeking not to be named for fear he could be attacked again.
“While we are aware that they operate underground, they are becoming brutal these days. I was attacked at sport complex axis after I finished praying. Suddenly, I saw these two hefty men who asked that I give them my phone and wrist watch.
“As someone who has stayed for more than two sessions on campus, I asked them if they were doing ‘aro’ (sarcasm) and one of them slapped me, asked me to kneel down. They overpowered me and took away my phone and wristwatch. They, however, left a warning that I should never pass through where they saw me at late hours.”
Another student, who identified himself as Opeyemi, alleged that the activities of the suspected cultists are more rampant in the halls of residence.
“I stayed in Angola hall last semester as a fresh student and I witnessed several students at night smoking recklessly in the bush behind the last block of the hall,” he said. “They were seen countless times consuming hard drugs such as codeine and Tramadol. I went to the security unit to complain. I was asked to write a statement which I did but, unfortunately, nothing was done.
“The most dangerous aspect of it is that some fresh students then (now in 200 level) even smoke in the rooms and often spray the odour with air fresher.”
Speaking with our correspondent, a freshman Law student said: “We are intimidated and harassed, threatened and molested. Last week, Faculty of Law Students Association organised a party for us and suddenly a guy with a yellow beret and yellow belt was misbehaving, posing threat to us. I told my friend I would not be attending the party because I recognised that he was putting on a beret that belongs to one of these cult groups.
“Suddenly, the security van came to take him away. Just Wednesday, I heard some 200 level students beat up a fresher along Awolowo – ETF hall axis and dared him to report to anybody. They even collected his phone and threw it in the bush to punish him.”
Students blame the situation on the absence of the Students’ Union, which had traditionally been responsible for security and mobilisation of its members against cultism. PREMIUM TIMES reported how the union was suspended last year by the university management due to the activities of some of its leaders.
While reacting, the school’s chief security officer, Babatunde Oyatokun, confirmed receiving reports relating to concerns raised by the students who spoke with our correspondent. He, however, said the university would keep working to maintain its reputation for a peaceful campus and zero tolerance for cultism.
“The issue of flying of colours particularly that of yellow beret was reported last week to be precise,” he said. “However, the guy in question was not our student, he was invited by one of our students to the campus. He is a student of Oduduwa University Ipetumodu, a private University here in Ife. So because of that we referred the case to police and asked them to investigate him.
“We took his picture and declared him undesirable on our campus. So, that was the step taken by us. The student he followed in was seriously warned because he is a fresh student who we saw as one who does not know the custom of the school. So, we warned him against future occurrence.”
He said there had only been one reported case of bullying or harassment.
“Concerning bullying, well, the only information I have was that of a 200 level student that slapped a 100 level student and both of them are in my custody,” I have obtained statements from both parties and anyone that is liable, the university has a template. There is an internal mechanism to handle such case. I have completed my report.”
Stating further, he said: “We are working tirelessly on students that may have tendency of taking hard drugs. Last week, we moved around all the chemists and pharmacies on campus to check if they are selling codeine or Tramadol. So, for now, we have not been able to lay hands on any and we are still working on it seriously. Our men are on patrol day and night with covert and overt surveillance.”
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