Traffic along the ever busy Orlu-Owerri federal highway was yesterday morning, held for several hours, as a detachment of officers and men of Imo State Police Command, battled to contain the protesting students of Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, AIFCE, Owerri. Gov. Rochas Okorocha The first story that trailed the demonstration, was that the angry students were protesting the demolition of a number of structures in their school by the state government, while the second was linked to an alleged internal administrative problem. One of the fleeing students that was spotted at the nearby Mosque, claimed that “the protest, which took a near dangerous dimension yesterday morning, is as a result of the state government’s plan to destroy the pedestrian bridge.” The fleeing student expressed shock at the way the state government was mindlessly demolishing parts of the institution and the Federal Medical Centre, while the security agencies continued giving full backing to “the mindless destructions.”
The students who started their protest before 6.30am in front of the College gate, were later overpowered by the police, following the firing of teargas on the protesting students. A commercial bus driver that spoke to Vanguard as he made frantic effort to escape from the scene, said: “The police have taken over the area and it is safer to find an alternative route to my destination”.
Vanguard equally gathered that the choking smoke of the teargas sadly filtered into the Federal Medical Centre, Owerri, FMCO, which shares a common perimeter fence with the institution. A staff of FMCO, who spoke on strict grounds of anonymity, lambasted the police for “compounding the health conditions of patients that are on admission in the hospital.” It was the considered opinion of the angry health worker that the police ought to have applied caution while using teargas canisters close to any hospital.
“How can the police exonerate its officers and men from blame, if any patient dies of asphyxia? The excessive power show by the police and the state government was unnecessary”, the angry health worker said. However, when contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Andrew Enwerem, linked the protest to some internal problems in the school.
“The students said they want the bursar to be removed. They also asked that the male and female students should be allowed to share the same hostels but the school management is vehemently opposed to this demand,” the PPRO said. Continuing, Mr. Enwerem, who said that he was speaking from within the school premises, however confirmed that no student, as at the time of the brief, was arrested in connection with the protest.
“The students have been successfully confined within the campus. The smoke that rented the skies during the protest, was a bonfire set up by the students. No structure in the school was destroyed but we are still keeping watch over the place”, Enwerem said. Asked to comment on the effect of the teargas smoke on FMC patients, the PPRO described it as “most unfortunate”, stressing that the police cannot control air flow.
“It is most unfortunate that patients admitted in the Federal Medical Centre suffered some discomfort in the process. Our target was the students. The effect on patients was unintended, especially as the police does not control air flow”, the PPRO said.