Community blames police for deaths over relocation protest

The residents of Ikole local government area of Ekiti State at the weekend accused officers of the state police command of escalating the crisis that led to the untimely deaths of five persons during a protest over relocation of a proposed federal university from the town.

The persons were reportedly killed when some youth in Ikole took to the streets to protest the relocation of the university from the community to Oye Ekiti last Thursday. Several persons also sustained varying degree of injuries during the crisis and property worth millions of naira were damaged.

The university, which is one of the six newly created by the federal government, was originally sited at Ikole by the state government. But this became controversial after politicians from the opposition PDP in the state accused the Action Congress of Nigeria-run administration of playing politics with the establishment of the institution by claiming credit for its creation.

Speaking on the handling of the protest, the chairman of Ikole local government, Biodun Akin-Fasae, and the lawmaker representing the area in the state House of Assembly, Adebayo Morakinyo, accused the police of deliberately killing some of the protesters.

“We call on the police authorities to fish out the policemen that allegedly shot at the people and prosecute them, not only to serve as deterrent to others, but to inject civility and decency into the force,” Mr. Akin-Fasae said.

Messrs Morakinyo and Fasae contended that protesters, who they said cut across party and religious divide, had conducted themselves peacefully before the police moved in a commando-like style and started shooting at them with life bullets.

“No person or police was harassed or attacked in the course of the action by the protesters, contrary to the position of the commissioner of police in the state, Olayinka Balogun, that innocent people were harassed,” Mr. Fasae said.

Police response

The police at the weekend claimed that only three persons were killed during the crisis.

In a statement signed by Mr. Balogun and made available to journalists in Ado-Ekiti, the police said four vehicles and a police post were also destroyed during the violence, adding that some policemen who sustained injuries are still on admission at the University Teaching Hospital, Ado-Ekiti.

The police boss said the protest was initially peaceful and later turned violent when about 2,000 youth started attacking policemen, deployed to the town to restore peace, with dangerous weapons.

The commissioner said that calm had since been restored to the community, and gave the assurance that the command was committed to the protection of lives and property of the people of the state.

“I am calling on the elders in the community to advise their wards not to take laws into their hands any longer. We will not fold our hands and allow miscreants to endanger lives and property,” Mr. Balogun said.

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