Two students were feared killed yesterday when students of the Federal Polytechnic Nekede, Owerri, Imo State yesterday embarked on a violent protest over alleged hike in tuition fees and student union election.
The students in their hundreds gathered outside the premises with others suspected to be cultists armed with AK 47, shortguns and other dangerous weapons and stormed the school premises.
The protesting students alleged that the school had increased their tuition fee from N30,000 to N40,000 while the acceptance fee was hiked from N10,000 to N15, 000 per session three weeks ago.
But in a swift reaction, the management denied any increment. The Public Relations Officer (PRO) , Nze Obinna Okafor, told newsmen that the management has not increased any fee.
He said that the polytechnic community woke-up yesterday to discover that the students took to the streets, destroying property belonging to the school and individuals.
Student Union election was expected to be conducted tomorrow as the committee released names of qualified and disqualified aspirants.
It was gathered that the electoral panel has screened six presidential aspirants namely, Bekee Igbojionu, Peter Ahuana, Kingsley Nwosu, Collins Nlembe, Nnamdi Maduagwu and Emeka Nzeh, while two of the aspirants scaled the hurdle.
One of the presidential candidates, Igbojionu was dissatisfied with his disqualification but allegedly had a link with the office of the wife of Imo State governor. One of the aides to the first lady allegedly indicated interest to influence the inclusion of the failed aspirant among the cleared presidential candidates.
But Senior Special Assistant to the governor (Media) Mr. Chinedu Offor, described the allegation of government involvement in student unionlism as the handwork of mischief-makers. He said what interest did the state government has in a federal institution.
It was alleged that the State Security Service (SSS), Owerri invited the Dean of Students Affairs over the disqualification of Igbojionu, which the dean turned down because it was an oral invitation.
A member of the electoral committee who pleaded anonymity told Daily Sun that Igbojionu was disqualified because, he held no elective position in the past .
The protesting students destroyed the main gate, set ablaze student union office, vandalized over 20 vehicles belonging to the school and individuals. Also destroyed include the office of the Rector and lecturers offices.
The management informed the police of the riot on time but their late arrival created room for students to wreak havoc.
The quick intervention of soldiers from the 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, few hours later, saved the situation from degenerating into further disaster.
Police spokesman, DSP Linus Nwaiwu, said that he has not received details of the riot.
Meanwhile, the management yesterday closed down the institution directing all students to vacate the school’s premises immediately.
In a two–paragraph statement by the Registrar, Mr. Matthew Alegbe, he said, “The management of the Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Owerri has directed all students of the institution to proceed on break with immediate effect.
“In the light of the above, the students should vacate the campus immediately”
The protest disrupted a vehicular movement in both Owerri the state capital and its environs as many workers and commuters were stranded..