The Ebonyi government on Tuesday defended the presence of the Nigerian Army and Police at the Federal College of Agriculture Ishiagu (FECAI) as its worker’s protest entered second day.
News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that the insttution’s unions on Monday staged a peaceful protest at the institution’s premises and shut its gates over allegations of financial impropriety against some staff members.
NAN further recalls that the unions under the aegis of the Joint Action Union (JAC) locked the institution’s entrance gates, its administrative office, the provost’s lodge among others.
Dr Kelechi Igwe, Ebonyi Deputy Governor, while addressing the union members on Tuesday, said the army and police’s presence was to check the movement and activities of hoodlums.
Igwe said that there were possibilities of the protesters being attacked as some people would flare with ‘external’ spirits possessing them and misbehave.
“You may think that you are in control of the situation.
“But when the “war”songs assume high tempo some people who have other spirits leading them from their homes will start behaving uncontrollably.
“It will at the point become the sin of one on the leader; that you did not ask him to do it but you are leading the protest and will be held responsible,” he said.
The deputy governor assured that the security agencies would not molest or violate the rights of the protesters but would ensure their safety.
“You should allow them to stay as the most civil thing protesters do all over the world is not to confront security operatives.
“No security man will attack you as long you conduct yourselves within the limits of the protest and we are happy that you have not killed, stoned or destroyed property,” he said.
He, however, warned that the government would not condone their presence constituting a threat on the road which passed from the institution unto Ishiagu community as it might heighten the tension.
“When people see you chanting war songs they will feel that an uncontrollable crisis will occur although you may feel that it is an innocent protest.
“You should make a report to the state government.
“Although we don’t have administrative jurisdiction over you as a federal institution, we will liaise with the relevant authorities to solve the problems,” he said.
Mr Bamidele Adekunle, Chairman of the institution’s branch of the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), and leader of the protesters, decried the presence of the army and police over ‘an innocent’ protest.
“We are simply protesting that the administration of the institution’s Provost, Dr Wilfred Nwangwu, has been hijacked by three ‘cronies’ who take management decisions and generally run the institution.
“These people have been embezzling huge funds of the institution.
“Most prominent was the N13 million released by the Federal Government (FG) for sustainable agricultural programme to cushion the effects of COVID-19 lockdown.
“The provost failed to handle the situation and we have duly petitioned the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria over this.
“The three staff members in the junior cadre have allotted official vehicles to themselves and eroded the legacies of the immediate past Provost, Prof. Justina Mgbada,” he alleged.