-CRUTECH Is Notoriously Porous, Says Chief Security Officer (CSO)-
Colonel Moses Effiong (Retired), Chief Security Officer (CSO) of Cross River University of Technology (CRUTECH), has stated that the university is “notoriously porous”. He made this submission yesterday when he granted an interview to LinCornellah’s blog, against the backdrop of last Friday’s killing of a young man in the premises of the university. The CSO answered questions on that incident and much more.
Please read on:
Last Friday’s killing of a young man in CRUTECH suggests that there is something wrong with the security situation in this university. What would you say to those who may feel that this university is insecure?
It may sound as self-indictment if I say “Yes, we are not very secure”. And I have my reasons for that. As I have always told those who care to listen, CRUTECH is very very porous. I mean every word of that statement. I have visited some universities, either on official duties or for personal reasons. For instance, the university of Port Harcourt is well secured, as far as perimeter fencing is concerned. But CRUTECH has no perimeter fence.
And remember that CRUTECH is a soft target. What I mean by that is firstly, because of its population. Secondly, in an academic environment such as this, the students as well as the staff are very conscious of their freedom. They want to be free to express whatever they want to express; they want to go to wherever they want to go. So there is that aspect of “I want to be free to carry out my research,” “to teach my people, to tell the students whatever I want to tell the students”. That freedom to an extent affects any tight security procedure that you may want to bring to bear.
For example, last year we brought in about three or four mobile police vehicles and I heard from a Lecturer who said, “With all these police people around, do you think this is a military garrison?” And I just laughed. Yet, we brought those people to beef up the security of the environment during the second semester exams where normally, especially the final year students go to some extent to do anything to take the exams. So, I asked that Lecturer, “Ah my friend, what do you mean by that?”. He said, “I am seeing police everywhere. Don’t you know that this is a university environment?” This was coming from a Lecturer who should know better.
A year before that, we heard some gun shots, after some examination papers had been written. To forestall that, we brought in these people. And that was the reaction of a fellow staff. Having said that, I can say that CRUTECH is notoriously porous. That shouldn’t be. And because of the lack of the perimeter fence, about one third, if not more, of CRUTECH land has been encroached upon. So, because of that encroachment, we are living with a host community that we are not really friendly with. We call them people that have encroached on our land and they are referring to us as people who don’t want them to stay on places that they have bought.
So, the relationship between the university and the host community is not as cordial as it should be. There was a day I rode into the host community called Iyonde, and some people were saying, “See that man wey no dey gree us pass through CRUTECH”. So, the cordiality is not there. You can see that anybody passes through CRUTECH. How do you know who has a gun and other dangerous weapon coming to harm either the students or the staff? These are some of the things we are facing.
Perimeter fence is really capital intensive. Unless the government comes to the aid of the school, I don’t know if the school can have such money to have a perimeter fence. Even then, I have been recommending that we build perimeter fence or at least close the critical areas of the school. Look at the Pavilion for instance. The people on the other side, including indian hemp smokers, drug addicts, hoodlums, cult members and all that, are always at the place. We can’t totally man that place.
Look at the Iyonde axis too. Even if we want to fence it, they will ask us, “How do you want us to go out”? CRUTECH seems to be their only route to the outside world; the other side is marshy. Equally, look at the other axis around the Works department. The whole of that place is open. So, all these tend to weaken the already existing security. And don’t forget, the security people we have are not armed. And the people coming inside here could be armed. In many cases, they are armed with guns, machetes and the rest. Even if you are an American marine, you can’t face somebody who is armed.
What steps has the university’s management taken to solve this porous security situation?
It is capital intensive to do perimeter fencing. Left to the school, as you know, they are unable to even pay salaries. The school has been appealing to the state government to offer assistance. The Security Adviser to the State government has been here not less than thrice and has seen the situation on ground.
About three years ago during the past administration in the state, we got to a stage where we wanted to send the people who have encroached on our land away. We made contacts with the Police, the State Security Service and the Army to work with us. We worked on the logistics of the operation and the school was asked to fund part of it. It cost 7 million naira and the school agreed to pay 2 million naira.
After we agreed on it and got ready to carry out the operation, we met a stonewall and couldn’t proceed. I am quite sure that it was due to political reasons. I overheard someone saying, “ah ah, when you know we are going to do elections, you want us to carry out such an operation so that people would not vote for us?” I was in that meeting. So that is part of our dilemma.
Some people have alleged that last Friday’s killing in the school’s premises arose from a cult related disagreement. What have you found out?
From what I have heard, it is cult related. The victim’s body was picked up that night and when we asked some questions, we were told that about three weeks earlier, another student threatened him on an issue related to a snatched phone. So the bottom line is that it is cult related. Without any fear of contradiction, I want to say that cultism in this school may not be as bad as it is at the University of Calabar (UNICAL). There is no doubt about that. At least I compare notes with my colleague there. But cultism exists here.
I would like to suggest that we should be firmer with students involved in cultism. Even if you want to say that it amounts to self-indictment, I would like to say that I do not think that we have been firm enough. What I mean is that when we find out that a student is involved in cultism, we should suspend or rusticate such a student. Otherwise, he would be a bad influence on others. There is absolutely no doubt about that.
We should also advice other students to expose cultists among them. Some students may want to say, “I don’t want to expose him. Because of me, he is sent off. I don’t want that.” I think we have seen the need for us to handle the situation here. If we send such cases to the Police to handle, we cannot be certain of the outcome.
What have you found out about the identity of the deceased young man and anyone suspected of his killing?
It has been confirmed that he is a graduate of the University of Calabar. On the day of the incident, I was attending a meeting somewhere outside the campus. But when I got information on the incident, I went to the scene opposite Visual Arts Department when the Police were carrying the corpse away. A brother of the victim claimed that the victim is an ex student of University of Calabar. I also heard that the victim was leading a girl home when he was shot. I met with the girl the following day. She lives with one of our staff who was good enough to bring her to me because the family of the victim started harassing that staff.
When I interviewed the girl, she admitted that the victim was her friend. So, I said, “If he was your friend, why do you think he was shot?” She told me that the victim’s brother told her that one other student threatened that he would deal with the victim because of an issue related to a phone. That area is still grey. But the person who allegedly threatened the victim is our student. If the boy that is being touted as being behind the killing is indeed behind it, I know that he is a cult boy.
Why have they not expelled such a student who has been clearly identified by your office as a “cult boy”?
Hmm. “Why have they not expelled such a student who has been clearly identified as a cult boy”. (Pause). Well, I think that process is being pursued. I know the authorities know about that boy. I, the CSO made a special report about that boy about two months ago.
As the University’s CSO, how closely do you work with students, especially with the Man O’ War Club?
Shortly after I came on board as the CSO of CRUTECH, I was informed that there was a boy in the hostel that was found with a pistol. I immediately called the Police and we came down and disarmed the boy. The Man O’ War gave me information that led to that disarm of the armed student. That was the beginning of my close relationship with them. I call the Man O’ War Commandant and the President of Students Union Government whenever any security related incident happens in the university. They are the first informants.
How adequate is your personnel?
We don’t have as much as I would want. As you have porous borders, it means you need more men. Also, the people are not armed. Somebody who is armed can cover a place of about two hundred, three hundred or four hundred meters. But when you are not armed, you need more men to cover the area. I would suggest that we should try and arm our security.
Although Nigeria’s constitution does not allow security personnel in tertiary institutions to be armed, I have been to Abia State University where half of the security personnel are armed. Even in UNICAL, security personnel who have para military or military background are armed. Here, I am the only person who is armed. That is not good enough.
What message do you have for persons who may feel scared about the security situation in CRUTECH?
The school authority and the security department are trying their best. I still want to repeat that security incidents here are far less than what happens even in UNICAL, our sister university. We hear of incidents of kidnapping of Lecturers in that university. But even with the porous nature of our university environment, that has not happened here. I am still proud of that.
However, it does not mean that we should rest on our oars. We can do better as far as security is concerned. I continue to repeat that any effort that is put in place without perimeter fencing may just be half measures. Whatever you do here, if your area is porous for anybody to come in and go out, it diminishes your efforts.
- Linda and Cornelius Ellah
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