By Okungbowa Aiwerie
A communal crisis in a Delta State town has left a student of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) dead. Students are demanding justice.
Socio-economic activities were temporarily halted in Asaba, Delta State on Monday after students from various groups including National Association Nigerian Students (NANS), marched to protest the killing of a 500-level student of Electrical Engineering, University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT), Nzete Ogochukwu Patrick.
Nzete was hit by a stray bullet following renewed hostilities in a communal clash within a quarter of Ogume town in Ndokwa West L.G.A.
Chika Ossai, a childhood friend of the victim said that the victim, who hailed from Ogbe-Ogume quarters, was returning from a church service when he was hit by the bullet after youths invaded Ogbe-Ogume quarters.
He said: “Nzete was a responsible young man who couldn’t hurt a fly. He was a responsible and peace-loving person. Due to his dedication and commitment to the plight of students in the Niger-Delta region, he was elected vice- president of NADESSTU at the University of Port Harcourt. From my investigation, it appears he was among bystanders watching the melee between Ogbeolle and Ogbe-Ogume youths and a bullet hit four persons, while two others are battling for their lives at a hospital, Nzete and another youth did not make it.
Continuing he said: “The sad part of all this is an attempt by some persons to tag him as being involved in the fighting that took place that day. Patrick was not a violent person, he was a law- abiding citizen whose only goal was to graduate and assist his parents.”
Nzete’s younger brother, Chinedu, said he may have died alongside his brother had he not been away on an errand.
On the fateful day after returning from Winner’s Chapel, Ogbe-Ogume, he said their mother called him on phone to buy her something.
“My brother was an advocate of peace. He was popular amongst children in the community. On that fateful day, my brother and I went to church, but my mother called me on phone and asked to buy something. I left him in front of our father’s house. During the fight, he and other youths thought it was wrong for kith and kin to fight as we believe both communities are brothers, so he spearheaded peace efforts but when everyone thought it was no longer dangerous, the youth attacked him killing him.”
Recalling the genesis of the problem in Ogume, Ossai said it could be traced to a leadership tussle over the position of Onotuku (traditional prime minister) in Ogbeolle.
He said the prime ministership position in Ogbeolle quarters had lapsed after the incumbent completed his five-year tenure, but resisted the election of his successor, hence the crisis which spilled into Ogbe-Ogume quarters.
He argued that the victim could not have been involved because the crisis did not concern his quarter, adding that the persons fomenting trouble were known in the community.
The protesting students are demanding that those behind the murder be brought to book.
Other students’ bodies at the protest included National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS) and National Association of Delta State Students (NADESSTU).
Clad in black attires and armed with placards, the protesting students denounced attempts to unjustly label the victim with a criminal tag.
According to the students, the victim was not one of those fomenting trouble in the community.
Addressing reporters, president of NADESSTU, Mr. Godwin Saturday, lamented that the late Nzete would have graduated this year but for the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic.
He called on the authorities to fish out the killers of the final year student, as well as immediately put measures in place to adequately address the communal crisis in Ogume town.
On his part, the Senate president of NADESSTU, Mr. Odogwu Hyascent Ugochi, said the news of the death of Nzete was shocking, insisting that the deceased was not a criminal but a peace-loving youth whom he (Ugochi) had worked closely with in the recent past.
Director of Special Duties of NANS, Zone B, Chika Kessy Ossai, said Nzete’s death was a personal loss.
Ossai maintained that Nzete was not part of those causing trouble, and that those behind the lingering communal crisis were known, alleging that the authorities were simply shying away from arresting the suspects.
According to him, the state governor has so many aides on conflict resolution, yet communal clashes remain a constant feature in the state, adding that the reality has now cast a doubt on the capacity of the aides to resolve issues without recording innocent casualties.
Adding his voice to the students’ protest, the Director-General of Revive Africa Initiative, Ugagaoghene Ogheneyole, urged both the local and state government to rise above board and restore peace to Ogume town.
“People cannot continue to hide under the guise of communal crisis and be causing mayhem, and maiming law-abiding and innocent citizens.
“Nzete was not a criminal, he was not even part of those fuelling the crisis, yet he has become a casualty. Many people have been killed innocently, that is why government needs to act fast to stop this wanton killings of innocent persons in Ogume on account of the crisis,” he said.
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