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Police Bow To Pressure, Release Detained UB Students 

By Isidore Abah & Andrew Nsoseka

security-officers-blocking-students-from-moving-to-the-ub-central-administrationPolice in Buea have released some of the students of the University of Buea, who had been detained following a peaceful demonstration on November 28.

The Post learnt that the students were released in the early evening of Wednesday November 30, most likely from pressure mounted by lawyers, human rights activists, civil society organisations and politicians.

“Thanks to the intervention of the lawyers, those of us who were detained at the police were released,” said one of the students who had gained his freedom.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Southwest National Commission of Human Rights and Freedoms, Christopher Tambe Tiku, suffered humiliation at the hand of gendarmes.

While the human rights activist tried to intercede on behalf of some students incarcerated at Gendarmerie Brigade, the gendarmes commanded him to prostrate on the floor.

UB on November 28 exploded into violence after three years of calm. The last strike action at UB was staged in 2013. But, known for its quick temper, the Anglo-Saxon Ivory Tower rose again deeply angered.

A contentious press release, harsh penalties and missing presidential grant are some of the grievances that piqued the students. And this is what the ever trigger-happy Government troops were waiting for.

The journey to what has been described as a bloody battle commenced when the Committee of Deans and Directors, CDD, of UB led by the Vice Chancellor, Dr. Nalova Lyonga, released a communiqué on November 22 after a boardroom meeting.

The CDD had in the press release disassociated UB from the on-going strike action by Anglophone teachers and Common Law lawyers.

The communiqué read thus; “The Committee of Deans and Directors informs all stakeholders that the University of Buea did not mandate any individual, or group of persons, to speak on its behalf.

Therefore, the University of Buea dissociates itself from all the contents of their communiqué.

“Staff and students of UB are informed that UB has not been modified and that classes should keep going on. Furthermore, its calendar of activities concerning Continues Assessment, CA, and other evaluations remain unchanged. Lecturers should continue to fulfill their responsibilities.

Students are warned from acting on false messages from the social media such as that which claim the Registrar has asked students “…to apply for their transcripts or any other documents …because the University of Buea shall close its doors on Friday.

“Please verify any information about the University from the UB Officials. All necessary measures have been taken to ensure the safety of all and the situation will continue to be monitored.”

Even though the aforementioned press release was openly criticised by SYNES UB Chapter, that had earlier signed a communiqué, lending support to the Anglophone teachers and Common Law lawyers’ strike, the students had been blackmailed, so to say, into obeying the VC and the CDD as they were told that CAs would begin on November 28 and that those who would miss any of the CAs would have themselves to blame.

According to some students, the CDD press release came when they were facing a myriad of problems ranging from financial misdemeanours to an overbearing administration.

The students said they were planning to confront the VC with their problems for solutions to be sought.

Biya’s Money Of Discord

After the academic blackmail, on November 28, students, especially Level 400s from all the faculties and departments trooped to the campus to resume classes. But before the commencement of lectures, the students gathered in front of the Central Administration building, seeking audience with the VC for her to address some of their worries.

One of such problems was the Presidential Grant. The students wanted to know why some of them, especially Level 400 students were not given the Presidential Grant, given that the money was meant for all the students who met the requirement.

The students felt cheated that their peers in other States universities have benefitted from the same grant without any complication.

Tongues were already wagging that UB authorities have used some of the students’ money to solve the financial challenges plaguing UB.

When the news broke on social media, UB Registrar, Prof. Roland Ndip, quickly issued a press release, exhorting the students to stay calm, saying the names of those who did not benefit from the presidential largess had been re-forwarded to the Ministry of Higher Education for the problem to be rectified.

But sources at UB told The Post that the move was a deliberate attempt by UB authorities to deprive some students of the money.

Our sources questioned why the issue is peculiar only to UB, when all the State universities have received the same money and given to their students without issues.

Cruel Penalties On Late Payment Of Fees

Another problem that took the students to the Central Administration was the FCFA 10,000 penalty that has been imposed for late payment of fees.

According to the disgruntled students, two-thirds of the UB student population have not registered their courses because the University officials are demanding for FCFA 10,000 as penalty for late payment of fees.

“Why should the university ask returning students to pay FCFA 10,000 as penalty barely one month after the resumption of lectures? This is evil. In the past years, returning students used to pay their fees even during the second semester, without any penalty.

By the way, who instituted a penalty for the payment of fees in the University? Is it a decision from the Ministry of Higher Education? Why are the other universities not demanding for penalty? Why only in UB?

“We have been forced to pay for things that are even free. We are even forced to pay to know our results. We think the university authorities are using us like milking cows. Is this why the VC dissolved the Students’ Union just to be exploiting us? Enough is enough.

We are tired of this tyranny and exploitation, that is why we need a students’ Union body that can represent us and not those handpicked by the VC to facilitate her exploitation,” a group of enraged students asserted.

As the students gathered in front of the Central Administration requesting the VC to come out and address them, since according to them there is no recognised students’ union where their problems could be channel to, a different official was sent to address the students on behalf of the VC.

The students, however, said they needed only the VC.

Instead of the VC to heed the students’ request, two trucks loaded with anti-riot troops drove into the campus at breakneck speed and halted in front of the Central Administration, surrounding the defenceless students.

In a bid to douse the mounting pressure caused by the troops, the students started chanting “No violence- no violence- no violence –no violence…”

Within a twinkle of an eye, five Black Marias and water cannon trucks stormed the campus and parked in front of the Central Administration. It was evident that the dialogue which the students requested for had been foiled by UB authorities.

The trigger had been pulled. Random gun firing, tear gassing, stone throwing, exchanges of blows, arrests and torture set in. Once more, UB had become a battle ground.

Indiscriminate Arrests

During the heated exchanges between the troops and the students, several students were arrested and whisked off into custody. Even those who fled the uprising and stayed indoors were trailed to their hostels and arrested.

Speaking to The Post, one of the students whose hostel was raided recounted, “The police broke into our hostel and started beating us. They arrested some of my neighbours, especially girls and took them away. We don’t know where they have kept them.”

When these reporters visited the Molyko, Buea Central and Muea police cells on November 29, the cells were teeming with students and some said they didn’t even know where their friends had been taken to.

It was the same scenario in major hospitals in Buea where students with broken heads, ribs, hands, legs and others had been admitted.

Police Rape, Loot

In the course of molesting the UB students, The Post learnt that some police officers raped a 17-year-old student. She was one among other female students who were raped by the troops.

“The police smashed my door open and after ransacking my room, the collected my phone, money and my laptop. One of them tried to force himself on me,” another female student said.

Another story is told of a girl who had to jump from the third floor of a storey building just to avoid surrendering her virginity to the police officers. The girl is also receiving medical attention.

While students have been subjected to untold suffering, many want parents to hold Dr. Nalova Lyonga and Southwest Governor, Okalia Bilai, responsible for anything that would happen to their children.

According to them, instead of the VC to protect the students entrusted into her care, she instead surrendered her female students to sexually starved troops, mostly drawn from police training schools to prey on them.
The population also wants Okalia Bilai to be charged with crime against humanity.
According to them, it is the Governor who instructed his forces to be irresponsible and reckless in an attempt to quell a peaceful demonstration by students.

SYNES Urges Parents To Withdraw Their Children

Meanwhile, the executive Council of SYNES-UB has condemned the police brutality meted on the students and urged parents to encourage their children to go back home in order to avoid similar occurrences.

“Our strike is on-going, as such, students should go home and not come to school to be brutalised,” SYNES stated.

The Council also condemned the Vice-Chancellor for inviting the students to go back to campus when it was evident that most of the students had travelled home and that teachers had resolved not to resume classes until a satisfactory solution had been proffered to the plethora of problems tabled to Government by Anglophone Teachers’ Unions.

“If all the students arrested on November 28 are not released; the suspension of the on-going strike will never be possible.”

FAKLA Wants Rapist Police Prosecuted

Meantime, the Fako Lawyers Association, FAKLA, has strongly condemned the crackdown on students.

“We condemn Government’s action on students characterised by looting, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, breaking into students’ residential hostels, teargasing students, arbitrary arresting and detaining them at various police cells and other inhuman treatments.”

On the rape case of the 17-year-old, FAKLA wrote.

“We condemn the act of sexual violence on the students, most especially acts of rape perpetrated on a 17- year-old university student by an officer of the forces of law and order….”

The lawyers called on UB to ensure the immediate release of all students illegally arrested and detained and compensate those injured by the forces of law and order and have the rapist police persecuted.