At least two persons were on Tuesday feared killed while others were injured following a clash between the police and protesters at the Niger Delta University (NDU), Amasoma, in Bayelsa State.
The NDU was plunged into crisis after some angry women of Amassoma, the university’s host community, took to the streets on Tuesday to protest their disengagement from the institution as the state government implements its ongoing public service reforms.
The protesting women were said to have locked up the university gate, blocked the Amassoma-Tombia Road and carried mock coffin of the state governor, Seriake Dickson, while demanding reinstatement.
The protesters maintained that the ongoing reforms have led to massive job losses from members of the university’s host community ”who gave up their ancestral land to accommodate the university in exchange for job opportunities for the people.”
“We feel that the school is part of our community and we gave up our lands to support the establishment of the school with the understanding that the school will provide some jobs to our people and now those jobs are gone.
“The reforms are targeted at members of the host community, the loss of 1,700 jobs is not a joke and we urge the government to respect the understanding we had with the university management in the early days,” one of the protesters said.
Reacting, the state police command, in a statement on Tuesday signed by DSP Asinim Butswat, its Spokesman, said the management of NDU informed the command via a letter “to provide security in the university to prevent hoodlums from stealing the property of the university.
“18 suspects were arrested for riotous behaviour and that they would be charged to court soon.
“Also 80 members of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) who are vulnerable to attack from Amassoma community were rescued.”
According to him, the corps members were handed over to the NYSC officials in Yenagoa.
He denied allegations that security operatives shot at the protesters and killed three of them.
“Consequently, on 21st May 2018, the command deployed security personnel to the university. On arrival at the gate, the detachment of policemen met a hostile crowd who fired shots at them.
“The police had to use reasonable force to contain the hostile protesters. In the ensuing melee, two police officers were injured, five police vehicles vandalized and the protesters attacked the Amassoma Police Division.
“The Command deployed additional security personnel to contain the protesters and restore normalcy in Amassoma community,” Butswat added.
However, a community source claimed two policemen and a civilian lost their lives in the confrontation while the arms and ammunition of some of the policemen were carted away by the mob.
Two bodies dripping with blood were seen being carried away while several others sustained varying degrees of injuries.