“Shooting at unarmed students who were protesting the alleged sexual assault of one of them by a police officer is against all known and recognised rules of engagement by law enforcement”, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State Friday warned policemen in the state.
The governor therefore condemned in the strongest of terms, the shooting of Abia State Polytechnic Aba students on Thursday by some police officers at the vicinity of their campus.
The students were protesting against the rape of a female student of the school by policemen attached to the Eziama Police Division, Aba, as well as the non accreditation of some courses in some of the department by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE).
The Abia governor in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Sir Onyebuchi Omemanka on Friday, described the ignoble act of the police officers as excessive, uncalled for, pointing out that it could aggravate an already tensed situation which could lead to collateral damages.
The governor said, “Shooting at unarmed students who were protesting the alleged sexual assault of one of them by a police officer is against all known and recognised rules of engagement by law enforcement officers who could have employed other means other than deadly force to disperse the protesting students”.
While assuring that the state government was already looking into the issues that led to Thursday’s protest which created a huge traffic jam along Aba-Owerri Road, the governor insisted that the use of deadly force by the police was completely unacceptable to the state government and out rightly condemnable.
Governor Ikpeazu therefore urged the Police of Commissioner, Abia State Command, CP Janet Agbade and the Area Commander in charge of Aba to ensure that the officers who were involved in Thursday’s shooting incident were identified and punished in line with extant Police Regulations.
He also asked the police authorities in the state to ensure that such display of disproportionate force does not happen again, even as he advised the students to be disciplined and avoid taking the law into their hands even while protesting, adding that they must at all times, exercise restraint when confronted by policemen who are on lawful duty.
“Under no circumstances”, the governor noted, “must students confront police officers who are engaged in their lawful duties”, adding that the Police has a responsibility under the law to ensure that peaceful protests by students are not hijacked by hoodlums whose intentions are different from the those of the students.
Ikpeazu used the opportunity to warn that his administration will not condone the use of excessive force by police officers; pointing out that any student who, under the guise of a protest, chooses to unlawfully confront an armed police officer must be prepared to face the consequences.
Meanwhile, the wife of the governor, Deaconess Nkechi Ikpeazu, has taken up the medical bills of the 18-year-student who was hospilised in an undisclosed hospital after the policemen whom reports said, took her away from the female lodge near the Polytechnic campus to their station, was allegedly ganged-raped.
Uche Nwosu is a two time Shell Petroleum PLC award winner in the year 2000;
He won the Shell Award on Investigative Journalism and Environmental Cleanliness.