Scores of protesting undergraduate students of the Ondo State-owned tertiary institution, Rufus Giwa Polytechnic Owo (RUGIPO), were injured on Sunday during a clash that involved armed officers of the B Divisional Police Station of the Ondo State Command of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF).
The students were protesting following an accident that involved one of their female colleagues who was crushed on Saturday evening by a commercial motorcyclist, a SaharaReporters correspondent learned.
Several students told our correspondent that the female student, whose identity was yet to be ascertained as of press time, was from the Mass Communication department and was undergoing her National Diploma program in the institution.
However, the injured student is feared dead by many students.
Students who spoke to SaharaReporters accused the armed policemen of high-handedness and maltreatment of their fellow colleagues.
The students accused the policemen of destroying their personal belongings at their respective off-campus and private hostels during a search.
“These armed rampaging policemen came down to the off-campus and private hostels of the school in the name of a search-team and beat up many of our colleagues while rooms belonging to the female students were burnt with properties and credentials belonging to them badly damaged.
“They destroyed properties worth millions of naira, mostly at a popular private hostel called Coco Hostel and also threw canisters of teargas at the innocent students, especially the ones that couldn’t run for their dear lives,” a student told SaharaReporters.
SaharaReporters learned that the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of the B Divisional Police Station, Tajudeen Akande, had to escape by whiskers during the melee that occurred between his men and the protesting students.
“Only God knows where the DPO was coming from, and upon sighting the protesting students who were very close to the Otapete Police Station, the police boss put up more speed and attempted to crush the students who had already block the road.
“The students had to ventilate their boiling anger on the DPO. The beat him to pulp and damaged his vehicle before he narrowly escaped into the station,” a student told our correspondent.
Ebiseni Omojuwa, President of the Students Union Government (SUG) of the institution, told a SaharaReporters correspondent that the armed policemen harassed and intimidated the protesting students with gunshots.
“Many of our students were shot during the protest and they have been rushed to the Federal Medial Centre (FMC) in Owo,” he said.
At FMC in Owo, several students with gunshot injuries were in critical condition at the adult emergency ward of the facility, while the health workers were hostile and barred journalists from taking photographs of the injured.
“You are not allowed to take photographs or do film recording here,” an angry health worker told our journalist who was still questioning students and sympathizers at the entrance of the ward.
A doctor who refused to give his name and managed to speak out confirmed to our correspondent that injured students were rushed to the hospital and have been receiving treatment.
“Three students with gunshot wounds and seven other critically injured were rushed to the facility of the FMC for treatment,” he said.
Meanwhile, the management of the institution has shut down the school and announced the commencement of an immediate midterm semester break for all the students.
Samuel Ojo, Public Relations Officer of RUGIPO told SaharaReporters that the students have been asked to vacate the school’s hostels.
“All the students have been advised to immediately vacate the institution’s hostels with immediate effect and proceed on midterm semester break,” Ojo told our correspondent.
Femi Joseph, the Spokesman of the Ondo State Command of the Nigeria Police Force, told SaharaReporters that the protesting students attacked the Divisional Police Station in the town and destroyed properties in the premises.
“The protesting students went to the B division Police station in Otapete area of Owo and destroyed everything in sight, including the building, and set vehicles parked at the premises on fire.”
Mr. Joseph, who further denied the involvement of his men in the fracas between the police and students, said the accident only occurred between a female student of the institution and a commercial motorcyclist in the busy town.
“Our men were not involved in the accident and none of them caused it, as speculated around the town by rumor peddlers. It was a complete accident between a student of the school, a private vehicle and a motorcyclist.
“And our men on a routine patrol ran into the scene and decided to help the victim. She was picked up and immediately rushed to the hospital for treatment,” he added.