by Simon Utebor, Chukwudi Akasike, Temitayo Famutimi, Monalisa Gbagbeke and Blessing Adeguyi
FOLLOWING the lynching of four students of the University of Port Harcourt, River State, the police have arrested Aluu community leader, Alhaji Hassan Walewa.
The police on Sunday morning stormed Aluu in Ikwerre Local Government Area, where the students were beaten to death and set ablaze by a mob. Our correspodents report that both the beating and the burning were videotaped and the film clip has gone viral on the Internet.
Also arrested by security agents were members of Walewa’s family and some students of the institution, who lived off campus.
PUNCH Metro gathered that the community was deserted when security agents and soldiers stormed the area in search of those who killed the students on Friday. The lynched students were identified as Lloyd, Tekena, Ugonna and Chidiaka. Those who lynched the students reportedly accused them of stealing laptops and phones.
Speaking with our correspondent on Sunday, the immediate past President of UNIPORT’s Students’ Union, Mr. Rhino Owhorkire, expressed regrets that some students living within the community had also been arrested by the police.
Owhorkire explained that though the arrest of some members of the community was a welcome development, the arrest of “innocent” students living in the community was unnecessary.
He condemned the gruesome murder of the students, maintaining that the crowd should have handed them over to the police.
Owhorkire said, “We totally condemn the act that was perpetrated by the Omokiri Allu community. We ought to have gone beyond meting out jungle justice to anybody. They claimed the students were robbers, but nobody came out to say his property was stolen.
“We also heard that the students were cult members, who went to collect dues from other members. But the aggrieved colleagues decided to brand them thieves and this attracted some members of the community who killed them. We have been hearing a lot of rumours since the incident.”
He said that the UNIPORT SU had dissuaded students planning from embarking on a protest in Aluu community to shelve the idea in order to allow security agencies to carry out their investigation.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ben Ugwuegbulam, confirmed that some arrests were made in Aluu, adding that any person found not culpable would be released.
According to him, the police are making progress on their investigation based on the information at their disposal.
A source also said the video of how the students were killed was being investigated.
Also, the Public Relations Officer of UNIPORT, Dr. William Wodi, told PUNCH Metro that the university had yet to ascertain if the deceased were students of the university or not.
Wodi said the institution would make its position on the matter known to the public on Monday (today).
Meanwhile, there were conflicting accounts on Sunday on how the students met their deaths. While some insisted that they were robbers, others claimed they were members of a cult. Yet, their friends said they were innocent. Most of these disclosures were made on the Internet, especially the social media, where the deceased students’ friends and loved ones also gave vent to their sorrow.
On Nairaland, a popular online discussion forum, some of the posters who claimed to be residents of the community where the incident took place insisted that the students were robbers. They claimed that the students were members of a cult group, that had terrorised the community for a long time.
These residents insisted that the students were found with laptops and phones in an uncompleted building, smoking Indian hemp. Villagers who sighted them reportedly informed the vigilance group in the area that some robbers had invaded the community. According to these posters, the villagers, on getting the information, combed the area, found the students and lynched them.
But other contributors, who appeared to be students of UNIPORT, insisted that the students were not robbers but members of a secret cult. One of the contributors wrote, “On that fateful day, they went to Aluu village to ‘‘ruffle’’ a particular person who happened to be a rival cult member.
“On getting there, they didn’t meet him at home. So, they decided to relax in a nearby bush.”
He added that it was the rival cult member that went to the vigilance group to allege that the students were armed robbers.
The anonymous contributor added, “Their rivals reported to the vigilante guys that the thieves terrorising the neighbourhood had been spotted.
“Knowing that if they (the lynched students) were spared, they would retaliate, these rival members, posing as ordinary students, called for the heads of the boys and accused them of orchestrating several robberies in the area. They even arranged for some girls to claim they had been raped.”
Outrage on social media
There have been outrage on social media since the killings broke out on Friday. The majority of contributors on different fora insisted that the students shouldn’t have been lynched but handed over to the law enforcement agents.
Jennifer Okafor, a contributor on a blog, Information Nigeria, said, “God will judge those that did that to them. Why didn’t they take them to the police? Ask those that killed those boys whether they have not stolen anything in their lives. The sins of those boys will be on the heads of those that killed them.”
Francis Obiagwu, a student of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, also on the blog, wrote, “People should have just beaten them and let them go or got them arrested by the police, rather than killing them. The people that killed them should be punished for taking the law into their hands.”
On his part, Alfred O’keke wrote, “What in the world is going on in this country? Have we lost our sense of humanity? That such a gruesome thing could happen to teenagers and there is no anger from the public. What is the difference between this and the killing of 42 students in Mubi in Adamawa State? Jungle justice! Where are we headed in this place called Nigeria?
“Politicians are busy looting our common wealth and confining our generations to perpetual poverty and these are the ones we hail, idolise and make kings.”
Dejo Olowu said, “We see all these extreme outbursts of mob justice, jungle justice, anger and venom in Nigeria, yet, some of us will still argue this has nothing to do with government or with leadership. It is a trickle-down effect, a consequence of our collective psychosis.”
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