The Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Lilian Salami, on Friday called for calm over the clash between soldiers and students on the campus on Thursday.
Trouble was said to have started as attempts to by some military personnel to jump the queue and make cash withdrawal at at one of the bank’s Automated Teller Machine was resisted by the students who had waited patiently on the queue for hours.
In a statement by the VC on Friday, she described the incident as unfortunate and urged the students to always seek alternative resolution to crisis instead of protesting.
The statement reads, “The unfortunate incident of the clash between some students of our university and soldiers on Thursday 2nd February, resulting from alleged resistance of students to the soldiers’ attempt to jump ATM queue on campus has been brought under control and the management of the university is in discussions with the hierarchy of the S&T for amicable resolution.
“The management acknowledges that these are challenging times for everyone and enjoins all to remain calm while efforts are being made to avert a re-occurrence.
“Management also calls on the students to constantly engage dialogue in resolving issues that concern them rather than taking to protests, at any provocation, thereby causing more injury and damage to themselves and other citizens,” the statement added.
When The PUNCH visited the school premises on Friday, there were fears among students and residents of the area of a reprisal attack. Four vehicles that had their windshield smashed were packed close to the school’s main gate.
The exit gate was shut as motorists used the entry gate and were subjected to vigorous search before they were allowed in, while some students and resident gathered at the main gate afraid of what would happen next.
A group of police officers also sat close to the mountain to forestall further breakdown of law and order within the university environment.
A student told The PUNCH that they were afraid that the soldiers could still come and attack the school in the dead of the night.
She said, “Two of the five soldiers who caused the trouble were taken the security house at the main gate to prevent them being lynched. The were released to their superior later on Thursday evening.
“But they regrouped and came back in the early hours of Tuesday at about 12.30 and they jumped the fence, destroyed some vehicles and started shooting sporadically into the air.”
Another student, who gave his name as David stated that trouble stated when five soldiers came on Thursday to withdraw money at the Wema Bank ATM without joining the queue and showing no courtesy to those who had been on the queue for hours.
He continued, “A female student was said to be recording what the soldiers were doing and her phone was taken from her and smashed on the floor. A cab driver who tried to intervene was also molested which drew the ire of the students.
“If they had agreed to allow the female student go, the crisis would have been avoided. But we are afraid they might come back to attack us just like the did in the early hours of Friday.
“As soon as the issue escalated, we blocked the road which caused gridlock. But the Divisional Police Officer of Ugbowo came with his men and the blockade was removed.”