Some soldiers attached to the Army Supply and Transport (S&T) Barracks, Ugbowo, Benin City, Edo, who allegedly caused disruption and assaulted students of the University of Benin at one of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) inside the school premises narrowly escaped being lynched to death by the irked students on Thursday.
The soldiers, according to eyewitnesses who spoke to our correspondent, were said to have had an altercation with the students over whose turn to withdraw from ATM, owned by one of the banks at the university premises.
Trouble, it was learned started, when the students who had queued for the withdrawal resisted the army personnel from jumping the guns to withdraw at the expense of the students who had stayed for hours to get paid.
It was gathered that the soldiers had on Wednesday, approached the ATM in the same alleged oppressive manners and wanted to repeat the same on Thursday when the students asked them to queue up if they are to withdraw from the ATM
“On Wednesday, they (the soldiers) came here (the ATM inside the University) and harassed the students. They even asked the students who challenged them to queue up to lie on the ground.
“But yesterday (Thursday) when they came again and wanted to do the same thing, the student resisted them,” an eyewitness who did not want his name mentioned said.
While the heated arguments lasted between the students and the military officers, the Chief Security Officer, CSO, of the institution was said to have moved to the scene, apparently with a view to intervening when he got assaulted by the soldiers who they claimed slapped the CSO.
The development, according to the source heightened the already tense atmosphere as the students in their numbers pounced on the soldiers with one of them reportedly sustaining injury.
The aggrieved students afterwards barricaded Ugbowo-Lagos Expressway and halt vehicular movements for several hours, as all routes leading to and fro the UNIBEN main gate were stalled in protest against the soldiers’ action.
It took the intervention of some spirited Nigerians and the Deputy Police Officer, DPO, Ugbowo division to appease the irate students to allow movement around the axis.
When contacted, the Police spokesperson in the State, SP Chidi Nwabuzor said he was in Abuja and could not give details but directed our correspondent to speak with his 2i/c, ASP Jennifer Iwegbu, who confirmed the incident.
ASP Iwegbu said peace was restored after several appeals to the student but claimed that the students want a phone belonging to one of the unnamed students that were smashed on the ground fixed to end the gruel.
In a swift reaction, the Vice Chancellor of the University of Benin, Professor Lilian Salami in a statement on Friday, lamented the “unfortunate incident” and sued for calm, assuring that efforts are being made to avert a reoccurrence in future.
“The situation has been brought under control and the Management of the University is in discussions with the hierarchy of the S & T for amicable resolution,” she said.
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