The Fire on University of Jos

As tragic as the killings in Plateau have assumed dangerous dimensions, the students of the University of Jos, have time without number, been at the receiving end. In the last two weeks, a number of them have lost their lives in what appears to be silent killings, even as they present a worrying situation that must be tackled once and for all. Even more, it is time some measures are taken to protect the university community from those who find recourse turning on staff and students any time there is a crisis in Jos, writes KATDAPBA Y. GOBUM.

ONE crisis after another in Jos has opened the flanks that should have protected the students and staff of the institution. Apart from the crises, which have left them at the mercy of miscreants, insecurity on the campuses, nonetheless, has not helped matters; as increasingly lives of the occupants of the citadel of learning are at risk.

Times without number, owing to the proximity of the university to areas that have become notorious for harbouring miscreants; particularly at Dariye Motor Park, Ungwan Rimi and the Bauchi junction close to the students’ hostels on the Naraguta end, they have become a target of harassment, intimidation and, in some cases, leading to the unfortunate deaths of students.

Sad as the development has turned into; after the incident which took place on Rukuba road on August 14, 2021 the students and staff were exposed to harm’s way again. At the height of their second semester examinations for the 2019/2020 academic session, the students and staff were asked through a terse press statement signed by the Registrar of the University, Chief Monday Danjem to vacate their hostels until further notice on account of ‘the intensified killings of students…after the relaxation of the 24-hour curfew’. 

Unfortunately, the students got trapped in their various hostels. The intervention of various states and spirited individuals helped them survive the vagaries of loneliness and lack of food in the hostels; for the days that they remained without care. How some of them were taken back to their parents remained largely a miracle. A number of them, however, were not that lucky to have returned to the warm embrace of their parents.

Insecurity, for the University of Jos, has become the lot of both staff and students over the years. The recent events leading to the painful death of some Fulani travelers on their way back from Bauchi to Ikare in Ondo State on Rukuba road drew the flak of condemnation for the act; and before long, the university took its turn for the worst. The university community became a hunting ground by miscreants, who, as often, wanted a pound of flesh from the students and staff who had no hand in the killings.

According to Danladi Joshua Adankala, Students’ Union Government President of the University of Jos, said ‘part of the incident of August 14, is the brutal killings of innocent students by some elements guided by inhuman and barbaric philosophies. Unfortunately, our cry is not loud enough to attract any media or government attention’.

He reeled out the names of those killed and or wounded to include: Doris Bitrus Danboyi, Bagu Christopher, Mangal Joseph (Pharmaceutical Sciences, missing), Mafeng Ezekiel, a student of the Department of Economics Education is still missing. A 400 level student of Geology Department, Moses Joyce Tsaku was found at the Intensive Care Unit of Bingham University Teaching Hospital in a very bad condition with machete cuts all round her body, so also is Kwaghaondo Kingsley Aondona, a 400 level Medical Student is lying almost lifeless at the Intensive Care Unit of Bingham University Teaching Hospital. Peace Isaiah, a student of Science and Technical Education was found in Ola Hospital after hours of tedious search.

Going down memory lane, he recalled that on September 30, 2018, Kums Shedrack Fenan, a 300 level law student was murdered inside the Village hostel so was James Paul at Kunga alongside five others in their sleep by hoodlums. In 2019, the university lost the following in different circumstances: Blessing John, Peace Obi, Uche, Iliya G Pigera so was Rinji Bala. He asked: ‘What sins have we really committed against the Nigerian state to deserve all these pains, sorrows and neglect?’

At that moment, retrieving members of the university community to safer havens became difficult to contemplate. That has always been the case; as often, miscreants and even the sane, on certain notorious points in the area would seize the opportunity of venting their anger and perceived frustrations on the students. The tension that always comes in the wake of such could be felt all over as to agitate parents, security and the university authorities; and indeed the wider society.

Professor Gray G. Ejikeme- AG. Vice Chancellor of UNIJOS

According to students of the university, there are points which they think are a source of worry, and which must be tamed are: Bauchi Junction, Permanent site/Village Hostel gate, Farin Gada, Naraguta/Gidan Mai Jagab, Forestry and Zololo junction. It was on one of these junctions that Iyaye Abuma Shedrack, a one hundred level Micro Biology student was stabbed to death. Doris Bitrus Danboyi, also a one hundred level student of Religion and Philosophy did not live to tell the story as she made to go to church August 15, 2021; she was hacked to death and her dream ended by those who may never appreciate the investment made on her education.

Literarily, the campus was on fire for weeks running; and it may continue if measures are not put in place to save it. It was a place not to be entered by any except the security personnel. For days, those who did not have the privilege of being ferried away had the misfortune to lick their wounds; despite the fact that adequate ‘security arrangements have been made to protect us, but we are yet to see that practically’, they could not prevent the deaths of some students.

To stem the tide of what may become of the city; the state government after a review of the security situation quickly imposed a dusk to dawn curfew on Jos North and South and Bassa local government areas. But, before the news had been digested, the curfew of Jos North had to be reviewed to 24 hour; as available reports showed things were not well. Reports were rife of reported silent killings being carried out in some parts; which necessitated government to come harder of its citizens who had taken the law into their hands.

In the course of the week, the Plateau State Council of the Nigeria Union of Journalist in a press statement signed by its Chairman and Secretary, Paul Jatau and Peter Amine respectively raised what measures to be made to ‘protect staff and students on the two campuses of the university’. The Council called for an establishment of a mobile barracks on the Race Course; a parcel of land that has been illegally acquired. Most of those who read the statement have applauded it.

The union noted with dismay that the University community has become a target for miscreants who do not value human lives and peace; killing many innocent and harmless students. To protect them, the security agencies should devise more strategies to protect the University community and indeed other residents of Jos.

Before long a plethora of statements in response to the plight of the university were flying all over the city reiterating the concerns of the Nigeria Union of Journalists in the state. Whatever feelings a section may have, our reporter found out that, this cannot be a wasted effort to chart a way forward to protect the university.

The Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU University of Jos through a press statement signed by its chairman, Dr. Lazarus Maigoro, was livid with the killings of students and staff. He said, ‘we have suffered untold damage in relation to loss of lives and property and also suspension of academic activities each time there is security breach in Jos. Despite all the provocation, we have continued to offer service to all, irrespective of religion, culture and tribe. The university administration has over the years made overtures to neighboring communities in terms of undergraduate admissions and staff employment, yet our students and staff are killed at the slightest provocation, no matter how far the epicenter of the crisis from the university.

He continued: ‘But sadly, as soon as crisis erupts in any part of the town, the University students and staff become targets of butchery by residents of the immediate environment. For whatever intent and purpose, some of the immediate environments to the University have become so hostile to the University community that students and staff are targeted and killed rather than protected from hoodlums. It is rather unfortunate to note that some of these attacks on the University community are coming from residents of encroached University lands, operators of keke Napep and others who besiege the University arena to sell their goods and patronized by staff and students as their means of economic livelihood.

Commenting on the issue, one of Nigeria’s foremost journalists, Jonathan Ishaku stated that the University of Jos is ‘the most threatened institution of higher learning’ in Nigeria. ‘There’s hardly any riot in this city that its students are not killed; in cold blood and many others that have gone missing, presumably dead as it always turned out’, ‘therefore, it is irresponsible for government, at all levels, to continue to watch innocent students killed at every sectarian convulsion without doing anything.

‘Many have suggested that the surrounding ghetto harbouring these violent miscreants be demolished and have a mobile police sub-station built there. I absolutely support this view as the only way short of the greater cost of moving the institution completely out of that place. However, this requires a strong political will, a commodity that currently appears to be in short supply’

The issue of the security of staff and students is a matter of great concern, even as if the issue of the Yelwa Zangam massacre is taken into consideration; it means that more has to be done. As deplorable as it has been observed, for all intent and purposes, the university is not safe, except there is urgent intervention of the state concerning the security of the area as well as taking over lands that were illegally acquired.

Most who have heard of the development are ‘mortified that hoodlums with no ambitions in life whatsoever will target students trying to improved themselves. The perimeter and areas surrounding the university should as a matter of urgency be more secured. And its no longer a matter of debate or procrastination about setting up a permanent military or Mopol bivouac around that area’.

To do this, it needs a government with the political will to get this done. Everything, indeed anything that has become a threat consuming lives should be taken away. No nation or parent would want its youth to be sent to school, only to be brought home one day lifeless.  They cannot continue to be vulnerable, taking into account the history of the struggle to secure the campuses in the past without let.

Some people have said the will has always been lacking. But more importantly, posers have been made on account of the number of children of the rich who are in that university; insisting if the children of the poor are not catered for, their welfare may not mean anything for now. Now that there has been massive turnaround in infrastructure on the campus during the tenure of the campus during the tenure of Prof Sebastian Maimako, contemplating it being moved from its present location cannot be an option, as it would involve a resettlement program and a major transportation rerouting network. Both the federal and state governments must be involved”.

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