It was a strange development in the history of students struggle in the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) that a student will be shot dead during a protest against management policy. Sadly that was the situation on Monday when a student of the university, Peter Ofurum, was shot dead during a protest by students against alleged hike in fees.
Students wailed as they spoke about the late Ofurum, saying he was on his way to hitting the First Class grade with a CGPA above 4.5. One of the students, who identified himself as Chris, alleged that a policeman opened fire at Ofurum.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that, as early as 6am, students of the UNIPORT mobilised to the East West Road, chanting solidarity songs and denouncing the hike in their fees by the management of the school. It is still not clear who fired the shot that hit Ofurum but students believed it was the police deployed to disperse the protesting students.
Tempers flared after the killing. It is also not clear who destroyed some valuables in the university before the students were forced to vacate their hostels in the three campuses of UNIPORT. The police have denied firing life bullets during the protest.
Public Relations Officer of the Rivers State Police Command, DSP Ahmad Muhammad, said the police used minimal force to disperse the students, a position corroborated by the acting Commissioner of Police in the state, Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of Administration, Mobolaji Odesanya, when he visited the school after the protest.
Vice Chancellor under attack
Vice Chancellor of the university, Professor Ndowa Lale, has come under attack over the murder. Some people said his alleged arrogance made him dismiss appeals from several quarters to shelve the hike in fees paid by the students.
An activist in Rivers State and Coordinator, Integrity Group, Mr Livingston Wechie, said he made several entreaties to the university to maintain the statusquo for peace to reign but they fell on deaf ears.
Lale further incurred the wrath of many when he alleged that the protest was sponsored to remove him from office. Livingston, who addressed a press conference in Port Harcourt, alongside the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, said it was a shame that the Vice Chancellor could say such, stressing that it showed his insensitivity to the plight of the students that resulted in the protest. At press time, the appeal was that the Federal Government should do everything possible to unmask the killer of Ofurum.