This Day (Lagos)

6 March 2002

Nigeria: Ritual Killings in Ekpoma

Lagos — 300-Level Ambrose Alli Varsity medical student beheaded, another's private part, breast removed

Restive students of the Edo State owned Ambrose Alli University just trying to come off a maze of confusion over a phenomenon increase in school fees sank deeper into crisis last week with two of their colleagues found killed in parts of host Ekpoma community for suspected ritual purposes.

The school had managed to re-open penultimate week for the 2000/2001 session after several postponements believed to have arisen from the new discriminatory fees introduced by the authorities, which also saw fees paid in the institution upped by over 500 percent.

But just as the tension generated by the new fees began to die down on the intervention of the state government, which made marginal reduction in the new fees, the unexpected happened to two of the students in the Ekpoma community again to set the school on the path of not just a fresh crisis but one that may probably pitch the students against the host community.

As the school resumed last Monday, news of a dismembered body of a student lying in cold blood in a part of the town spread like wide fire round the campus.

A quick dash to the place revealed it to be that of a 300-level medical student, Jerry Ojerevba. The body was without the head, implying that his killers had chopped off the head and took it away.

The death, particularly with the body found in the situation it was, caused ripples in the campus and the entire town.

But if the students thought they had had the last of such incident, it turned out a lie when on Tuesday the body of a female student was found dismembered and dumped in another part of the town.

The private part and breast of the yet to be identified lady as at press time laid in her pool of blood to arouse instant reaction from fellow students, who filed out in large numbers to protest the killings.

The university's authorities were equally as touched, prompting them to issue a bulletin the same Tuesday to blame the incidents on cultists.

The authorities noted that there was a resurgence of cult activities in the school, which according to them, had subsided in the school before now.

But the students, some of whom spoke to City Diary last weekend, disagreed sharply with the claim that the killings were carried out by student cultists.

One of such students, who simply identified himself as Kennedy, said on Friday in reaction to the authorities' claim:" There is no way the killings can be blamed on student cultists. They are cases of ritual killings, the Ekpoma community should be asked why they have resorted to this sort of ritual killings. And if at all they would do it, why they should be killing students"

Another student chipped in: "The problem we have here is that over 90 percent of our students are off campus. We live among the people, in their houses on rent. Now, they have resorted to killing us, removing vital parts of students to do only God knows what. We would not tolerate it.

"And I think this a good reason why we must insist that the authorities provide enough hostel facilities to accommodate all students in the campus".

In total agreement with the students' claims, a political activitist in the community said: " I am not surprised at this happening. Elections are close and rituals like this are always common among politicians, they are behind it. Campus cults have nothing to do with this. We were once students, we passed through this same university. Student cultists don't cut off heads, they don't remove human organs. They kill, they do so in vengeance or to ensure total triumph over s supposed enemy".

Like the school authorities, which reacted immediately by issuing a bulletin to commiserate with the students and to condemn the act, the state government promptly sent a delegation to the university to condole the students and the authorities last week Wednesday. But the government action appears not to have in any way appeased the students.

The students had planned a protest rally in the campus and to the palace of the traditional ruler of the town last Friday over the killings.

Students leaders and leaders of some campus organisations said unless something urgent was done, the situation was capable of degenerating into crisis between the students and the host community.

One of such leaders, President of the Reformers Academy, said they were contemplating going to the palace of the traditional ruler of the town last weekend or early this week to seek his intervention to avert a possible violent clash between the students and indigenes of the town.

The students insisted that the community has to be blamed for the killings, arguing that no such case of ritual killing had ever been witnessed in the area since the school was established. The closest to such a thing, according to them. was the case of a female student, who was raped sometime this year

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