The Nation writes on the in depth details of the shooting of UNIBEN Student, Juliana Martins.
According to a report by The Nation, security of lives and properties is one of the responsibilities of government. However, the alleged shooting of Juliana Martins, a 400-Level Mass Communication student of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) during a protest at the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) has led to growing concerns about public safety, reports IFUNANYA OSAKWE (UNIBEN).
The life of an individual cannot be given by a fellow human being and so should not be taken. This is why it is imperative for security personnel to be properly trained, screened and oriented to avoid the misuse of their weapons.
However, the alleged assault on protesting students at the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) for demanding their start-up packs after a workshop programme, led to the shooting of one Juliana Martins of Mass Communication Department on her leg.
How it all began
According to some members of Niger Delta Students Association of UNIBEN, they went to protest at the NPDC for being denied their start-up packs after a workshop organised by th company.
NPDC is a subsidiary of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NPDC) that is engaged in oil and gas exploration and production in the the hydrocarbon-rich regions of coastal Nigeria, onshore and offshore; and more recently, around Equatorial Guinea.
According to the protesting students, NPDC did not provide logistics for those who were invited to the event. The workshop was organised to enlighten the students on the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA).
At the end of the programme, students were supposed to go home with a laptop each. But, unfortunately, NPDC was alleged to have bought empty laptop bags as souvenirs.
CAMPUS LIFE gathered that there was a meeting earlier convened by NPDC management and the student representatives to resolve the issue, but it was not fruitful.
The Students Union Government (SUG) President, Osazee Foster, said after making their findings, they found that Martins attended the workshop which was organised by NPDC, Benin City.
Further findings by the SUG showed that NPDC, an offshoot of NNPC, had earlier promised the participants that the company will take care of their accommodation, feeding and other expenses, including laptops and stipend.
He said: “When the company didn’t fulfil its promises, the participants felt betrayed and had to stage a peaceful protest at the gate of the company.
Protest turned awry
Foster continued: “It was during this protest that a group of policemen came to the scene to engage the protesters. They threatened to shoot the students if the protest continued, after which a trigger-happy policeman started shooting sporadically, which eventually led to Juliana Martins being hit by a bullet.
“She was rushed to the closest hospital where she was stabilised and then transferred to another for proper treatment.”
One of the protesting students, who gave his name as Japhet Chikwe, said: “We are, however, thankful that it was her leg the bullet hit and not any other life-threatening part of her body.”
Police deny shooting
The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Edo State Police Command, Bello Kontong, said Martins’ injury was checked by his team and it it was not a bullet wound.
He further claimed that the persons who protested were said to be impostors and not Niger Delta students.
The PRO also said investigation by his team showed that Martins is not from Southsouth, but from Southeast and so should not have been among protesting Niger Deltan students.
“However, we are still investigating the case and proper action will be taken once we are done,” he said.
The students insisted that Martins was shot, and that NPDC should pay the medical bills.
The President, Mass Communication Students Association, Adakpo Mark, said the major displeasure of the students was the claim by the Police Command that Martins’ injury was not from a gunshot.
He said: “The first hospital where she was taken to, a military hospital, confirmed that Martins was, indeed, shot and that her injury was as a result of a bullet.
“This is a tactics by NPDC to divert attention from the main matter on ground.
“Recent information we received was that the police man has been dismissed and in custody. But we are asking for more. He should be given a long-term prison sentence for attempted murder.
“The NPDC must reimburse Martins for the pain and challenges she is going through now. Right now, she is at University of Benin Teaching Hospital, whereas examination is few weeks from now.
“This situation has affected her health and studies. We will not take it lightly. We are also calling on NPDC to fulfill its corporate obligations to the students who attended the workshop.”
Students’ Union talks tough
Foster said: “The New Dawn Executives have paid her a visit at the hospital, and have vowed to make sure the perpetrators were brought to book. We have made sure that the policeman who shot our dear student has been detained as investigation is still ongoing.
“We also want to use this opportunity to remind all UNIBEN students that Juliana Martins is one of us, and as such whatever befalls one, befalls all of us.
“The life of everyone is precious; but, to us, the welfare of every UNIBEN student is paramount, and we will not allow any of us to be cheated. In solidarity, we stand firm for justice because without her , there is no union,” he said.
Students displeased; enraged
A student of the Department of Mass Communication, Osadolor Nosa, said the news that Martins was shot because they were protesting peacefully made him realise that even students were not safe anymore.
According to him, the action does not speak well of the Police as they are meant to protect the people and not attack them, especially when they are agitating for their rights.
“From what we heard, the NPDC failed to fulfill their end of the bargain after promising to give laptops to participants at their workshop and then when they protested they were shot. This is totally unacceptable and heart-breaking.
“There is nothing wrong with the students demanding why the company has refused to do the needful. Protest is a method of showing disapproval to something.
“So, I do not see any reason they were shot at. Most importantly, they were not armed but were protesting peacefully. Even if the policeman was aiming at a particular person, it does not change anything as they were students.
“The policeman that was shooting displayed a high-level of ignorance because he should have been knowledgeable not to shoot at peacefully protesting students.
“However, he should be dealt with and the victim properly compensated for she has lost health wise and academically,” he said.
A 100-Level Mass Communication student, who does not want to be named, condemned the shooting of the protesting students.
“It was disheartening when I heard that our student was shot during a protest at NPDC. This does not speak well of both the company and security personnel.
“If students were shot, who can say they are safe? Protest is not a crime as far as it is peaceful,” she said.
Another 100-Level student at the Theatre Art Department, Josephine Osagie, said the shooting of students protesting for their rights was an abuse of power by those meant to protect citizens.
“It is quite disheartening that something like this happened. The students who went to protest only did so because they were cheated by the company. So, I do not see any reason they should be shot. It is blatant disregard for the law.
“I am happy she is recuperating. However, the policeman should be severely punished to serve as deterrent to other trigger-happy policemen,” she said.
Joel Okeogula, a 300-Level Mass Communication student, said: “I was actually shocked because I felt we are in a democracy and there is no need for any violent retaliation by law enforcement agencies on protesting students. So, I actually feel sad that a police officer fired at the students and unfortunately hit one of our own.
“They were just protesting and there was no need to fire at them. I hope the government looks into the issue and takes a decisive action against the police officer.”
The Governor of Faculty of Art Students Association, Johnson Victor, said: “We want to use this medium to inform and call on the public, every Faculty and UNIBEN students to get ready to secure justice, if this very important issue is not properly addressed.”
When CAMPUS LIFE put a call through to an official of the NPDC, identified as Noble Imabibo,he declined comments. “I can’t make any comments. Please,direct your questions to the Managing Director,” he said.