ABDUCTION OF UNIVERSITY STAFF AND STUDENTS SSANU TO WRITE IGP FOR GUNS LICENCE FOR SECURITY OFFICERS ON CAMPUSES

Mohammed Ibrahim

National President, Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim

•We’re worried over incessant kidnapping of lecturers, students-ASUU

In the wake of abductions of staff and students on university campuses, varsity workers under the aegis of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities are proposing to write to the National Assembly, seeking gun licence for security officers at the various universities across the country.

The association said it would push all the right buttons to ensure gun licence for security teams was obtained to protect its members, students, as well as communities surrounding most universities.

SSANU said it believed if the universities’ security teams were allowed to carry arms, bandits and kidnappers would not be having a field day attacking campuses and kidnapping lecturers and students.

The association had recently called for arms possession by security men protecting universities in light of attacks on campuses by bandits.

Also, the Vice-Chancellor, Obafemi Awolowo University, Prof Eyitope Ogunbodede, in a recent interview told Sunday PUNCH that at this point in time, universities’ security officers must be allowed to carry guns.

Asked if the association would write the National Assembly to seek gun licence for security men guarding university campuses to push forward their demand, SSANU National President, Mr Mohammed Ibrahim, said it was something they were working on.

He said, “Yes, it is something that is on our table. As a union with a large membership, our members have remained the constant targets of bandits and kidnappers, and we know how their families and the union were involved in ensuring the release of those kidnapped in the past.

“So we have started putting documents together; we are consulting because it is something that has to do with the law. But because getting to change a law is a herculean task in Nigeria, it’s not all going to be in writing. You have to lobby and knock at strategic doors.

“At the end of the day, it’s not only our members that are going to benefit from the law. Other members of the community are also going to benefit. So we are not going to leave anything to chance. We will push all the (right) buttons that we need to push to ensure this is done to protect our members, the students, and surrounding communities at the universities.

“You know, most of the universities are not within towns. They are mostly built on the outskirts of communities and most are not properly fenced. The universities are porous and criminality-minded people can go in and wreck any havoc. So having our security officers licensed to carry guns will do a lot to deter criminals from attacking our campuses.”

When Ibrahim was asked when SSANU would tender the request at the National Assembly, he said it would be “in the next few weeks.”

He said, “We are spread all over the country and our membership cuts across all universities. Also, we have the different arms of the union such as the National Executive Council and National Administrative Council.

“Both of them have considered the option but we need to dot the i’s and cross the t’s before we present the ideas. So in the next few weeks, we should be able to come up with something reasonable.”

When asked further if the universities were going to increase the number of security men on campuses, Ibrahim said the campuses were adequately equipped and that what the security officers needed was only licence to carry guns.

He said, “Campuses generally have security units and we are not lacking in the number of security people. What we lack is the wherewithal because what makes the difference between our security people and the bandits or kidnappers is the arms the latter carry.

“If the criminals were to face our security officers one on one, they wouldn’t be able to do anything. But it’s the weapons the criminals bring that scare our people. If you dare the criminals without having weapons, they will shoot and kill.”

Ibrahim added that the presence of police or military on campuses had been largely insufficient, partly due to what he described as “disagreement” between students and security agents.

“We were told we have less than half a million of policemen in the country, and half of them are not even where they are supposed to be. They are escorting wives of politicians, VIPs, or guarding banks.

“Part of our recommendations is that the government should engage in massive recruitment into the police so that places like university campuses can have enough police to protect the staff and students,” he said.

In recent times, university campuses have become the targets of bandits and kidnappers who kidnap lecturers and/or students for money. Some students and lecturers have lost their lives in recent times in the hands of criminals.

For instance, bandits invaded the Greenfield University, Kaduna State, on April 20, killing an official before kidnapping 19 students and three workers of the institution. Five of the students and a worker were killed by the bandits days after.

The remaining students and workers were released in May after their parents and family members were reportedly forced to sell their properties to raise a ransom of N180m to pay as ransom to the bandits.

In addition, the criminals also collected eight new motorcycles before they freed the students and workers.

In May 2020, gunmen attacked the University of Jos Staff Quarters and shot dead a lecturer, Dr Nendi Drengkat. The gunmen kidnapped Drengkat’s six-year-old daughter in the attack and demanded a ransom of N10m.

Also, in May 2021, gunmen abducted Umar Buba, who is the Head of the Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management (Faculty of Agriculture), Taraba State University. The lecturer was kidnapped at the university’s staff quarters in Jalingo, the state capital.

In November 2020, gunmen also attacked the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and kidnapped a senior lecturer, simply identified as Bako, alongside his wife and daughter. In a statement, the university’s spokesperson, Awwalu Umaru, said the lecturer was kidnapped at the staff quarters.

Meanwhile, asked if ASUU would also write the National Assembly to demand gun licence for universities’ security officers, ASUU President, Prof Emmanuel Osodeke, said the union would deliberate on the matter in its August meeting.

He said, “We have not yet discussed such an issue. Maybe we will discuss it at a proper forum and then take a position on it. But as it is, there are security agents like the police who should protect the campuses. They may not necessarily be situated on the campuses, but it will be good to have them nearby and easily be called upon to arrest a security threat.

“They should not be on the campuses because in the past, students had been killed by security agents. With the changing security architecture, we will discuss the matter you asked at our next meeting in August and take a position on it.”

Osodeke said definitely, the kidnapping of lecturers and students was bothering the union.

He said, “Kidnapping of lecturers and students is bothering us and we have talked about it. But the security system is not working, The system needs to work so that everyone in the country, and not just lecturers and students, will be safe.

“We must ensure this country is safe, and we need to do two things: the security architecture must be rejigged, and also, as a long-term solution, there is a need for equity and balance in the country.

“As we speak, only a tiny percentage of the Nigerian population controls the country’s wealth, and we have a large population that is hungry and unemployed. If this system was working, we wouldn’t have this high level of banditry and kidnapping.

“So there is a need for leaders to learn how they can take care of the ordinary man on the street whose child cannot go to school because there is no money to pay tuition fees whereas their own children are schooling abroad.”

Osodeke urged the government to fund education so that “our children can go to school and crimes like banditry and kidnapping can be reduced.”

Copyright PUNCH.