Three persons were on Tuesday feared killed following a clash between security operatives and kinsmen of late former Governor Diepreye Alamiyeiseigha in Amassoma, Southern Ijaw, Bayelsa State.
The clash, which reportedly started in the morning at the gate of the state-owned Niger Delta University (NDU), was said to have left many people injured.
It was gathered that the university community was thrown into tension as sporadic gunshots and fired teargas canisters caused panic among the residents.
The problem was said to have started when a detachment of armed security operatives, who arrived the community early in the morning, forcefully opened the gate of the troubled school.
The school was shut down by aggrieved community women, whose names were removed from NDU’s payroll after they were indicted by the ongoing public sector reforms of Governor Seriake Dickson.
The women, who insisted that their names must be returned to the payroll against civil service rules, were said to have hired the services of a welder to permanently seal the university’s gate.
To find an amicable resolution to the issues, the government recently dispatched a team of negotiators led by the Chief of Staff, Talford Ongolo and the Commissioner for Education to meet with the protesters and the host community.
It was gathered that among the resolutions of the parley were agreements that the university should review the fate of the sacked workers and suspend the protest to allow academic activities resume in the university.
Despite the agreements, the host community continued with its protest refusing to unseal the gate of NDU.
The protesters including women and youths were said to be angry when they woke up in the morning to discover that the school’s gate was forcefully opened and surrounded by scores of heavily armed security operatives.
They were said to have regrouped in their numbers and marched towards the gate to confront the security men.
A source from the community who spoke in confidence said: “The security operatives including the police, soldiers and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) were overwhelmed by the crowd rushing towards them.
“They first retreated into the premises of the university and called for reinforcement. Later they started throwing teargas canisters at them and shooting at the protesters. Many were injured and about three persons were shot. They were feared dead but were immediately rushed to the hospital”.
A lecturer from the university who also spoke in confidence said Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) were deployed to reinforce security at the troubled community.
“Some persons have been shot by security operatives following protest by women and some youths on the forceful reopening of the NDU school gate”, he said.
A student doctor at the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital (NDUTH) said one of the shot victims was brought to the Accident and Emergency ward of the hospital.
Some leaders from Southern Ijaw condemned the use of force to address the issues in the school and its host community.
A former Acting Governor of the state, Chief Nestor Binabo, asked security operatives to apply caution insisting that the problem could only be resolved by sustained dialogue between the community and the government.
Binabo urged security operatives to immediately leave Amassoma community to avoid further bloodshed in the area.
He said: “This whole issue shouldn’t have been allow to escalate to this level. Security operatives including soldiers have no business in this matter.
“It should have been resolved by appeal to conscience and dialogue between the school management and the host community.
“It is condemnable that it has resulted in loss of lives and injuries to my kinsmen. Efforts should be made to withdraw the security operatives to avoid further bloodshed”.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Don Awunah, was said to have led a team of senior police officers to the scene of the crisis.