The protest staged by students of the University of Port Harcourt, UNIPORT, turned violent on Monday leading to the death of two students, just as the school management has ordered immediate shut down.
The students had embarked on the protest to register their displeasure over an alleged policy by the management of the institution that school fees must be paid before they would be allowed to take their first semester examinations.
A student, identified as Peter Ofurun, reportedly died instantly after he was hit by a bullet from a policeman.
Another student, a female, also died while being rushed to a hospital after she was a bullet.
The UNIPORT students’ protest had halted academic and administrative activities in the institution as they demanded that the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Sunday Lale, should address them and reverse the policy
Ofurun was a student in the Faculty of Management Science before he met his untimely death. His corpse was later taken to the African Independent Television station in Port Harcourt.
According to sources, the students became casualties when policemen opened fire to disperse the protesting students from the busy East-West road they had occupied for hours.
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The spokesman of the Rivers State Police Command, Ahmad Muhammad, however denied that any life was lost during the protest.
“No reported case of loss of life throughout the students’ protest. What the police did was just the discharge of their mandate of restoring normalcy and orderliness in the university,” Muhammad said.
According to reports, the students came out from their hostels at about 4.30am to express their grievances over the stance of the UNIPORT management to stop them from taking their first semester examinations because of non-payment of the fees.
Students affected by the policy, according to a source, will also be made to carry over the courses.
During the protest, one of the student leaders said: “We have pleaded with the management of our school on several occasions to extend the deadline for the payment of the school fees to second semester, but they refused.
“We will prefer the school to be shut down until the management accepts our position on this matter. We are going to continue with our protest until the vice- chancellor comes down here to address us,” one of the leaders of the protesters said.
However, the Deputy Registrar, Information of UNIPORT, Dr. William Wodi, explained that the protest was not about increase in fees, but about a few students, who wanted to take exams without paying the N45,000 school fee.
According to him, while 98 per cent of students had paid and ready to sit for the exams, the two per cent remaining refused to pay, even after extending the deadline on five occasions.
To forstall further breakdown of law and order, the Senate of the university has shut down the institution with immediate effect.
Wodi, while making the announcement, said: “Senate has shut down the university with immediate effect.
“All students have been directed to vacate their hostel accommodation before 6pm today (Monday). Students’ union and all their affiliate bodies have been suspended with immediate effect. The closure will last for one month.”
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