Wednesday 22 July 2015

ERC Condemns Police Mindless Violence on FCE Zuba Students

Demands Immediate Re-opening of the Institution
Press Statement
The Education Rights Campaign (ERC) unequivocally condemns the Nigerian Police Force, Zuba Division for harassment and molestation of students of Federal College of Education (FCE), Zuba, Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. The harassment and molestation occurred between the hours of 9pm and 1am in the night of Wednesday  8 July 2015.
The central cause of the crisis was the police prevention of students from conveying their colleagues injured in an auto accident to the hospital demanding instead, and rather insensitively, that they must first obtain a police report without due regard to the fact that any delay could lead to loss of lives.
We also condemn the closure of the College next day after angry students provoked by the actions of the police embarked on a protest. Even though the protest later, and unfortunately, degenerated into a riot, our stand is that it was the police violence on students including shooting of tear gas and the breaking into a female student hostel that provoked the crisis. Therefore closing the campus, as the administration of the institution has done, is not the solution. Indeed the Education Rights Campaign (ERC) will vehemently oppose any attempt to punish students or to demand payment of any reparations or damages by students. While we do not support riot as a means of expression, we must not also lose sight of the extreme provocation that the police violence against students who were still in anguish over the fate of their colleagues injured in the auto accident constitutes.
We demand the immediate reopening of the institution. We firmly believe that a genuine solution to the crisis has to begin from placing the blame squarely on the police and the conduct of a proper investigation by an independent and democratic panel of inquiry consisting of elected representatives of students and staff unions, human right and civil society organizations to investigate the conduct of the police and recommend any police officers found culpable for necessary disciplinary actions. In addition, we call on the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), human rights and civil society organizations to publicly decry this police violence on students
According to reports, the crisis started on Wednesday 8 July 2015. Two students of the FCE Zuba, FCT Abuja were involved in a motor accident close to the Nigeria Police Force, Zuba division. However while other students at the scene of the accident were struggling to rescue them and take them to hospital, the policemen on duty insisted that the students must get police report before they could take their injured colleagues to the hospital. This led to a heated argument between students and the police. Many students felt that it was more important to get the accident victims to the hospital immediately as any delay could prove fatal. The policemen's response was to fire tear gas on students. They shot sporadically in the air with students and passerby running for dear live. The Police men also forced their way into the female hostel beating students.
To us in the ERC, the demand of the police that the students must get police report is ridiculous  and insensitive. Also it shows that the police are only interested in the money they hoped to extort from the students instead of joining them to save the lives of the accident victims. Equally condemnable is the firing of tear gas at students who only wanted to save the lives of their colleagues.
Moreso, the fact that the accident occurred right near a police station with police men witnessing the accident and rescue efforts means there was no need for the formality of a police report.  Indeed as a public institution established by law and the constitution to ensure the safety of lives and property, it is the constitutional responsibility of the police to at all times offer adequate protection to Nigerians. In this case, the only way the police could have fulfilled its lawful responsibility of safeguarding lives was to join the rescue effort and also provide its officers and vehicles to convey the accident victims to the hospital.
In any case, a police report is only needed to assure doctors, nurses and other medical personnel that persons in need of emergency medical treatment did not sustain their injuries in the process of committing a crime. Therefore where the police is directly and physically involved in conveying the victims to the hospital, it should be expected that  medical personnel would be doubly assured that the circumstances surrounding the accident is legitimate and not criminal and therefore be more willing to offer much-needed emergency medical treatment for the injured students.

Dimeji Macaulay
ERC Northern Zone Coordinator