Lafia — Gangs of thugs, today, violently disrupted protests by Nasarawa State students of tertiary institutions who poured into streets to register their anger against the state government's failure to pay their scholarship.
The students, who were led by officials of Nasarawa State Students' Association (NASSA), and zonal leaders of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS), had earlier in the morning gathered at the Nasarawa State Polytechnic, in Lafia, where they commenced the protest that was designed to take them through major roads including Jos Road, and Shendam Road, to terminate at the gates of Government House.
The students planned to stage a bigger protest at the gates of Government House, and to hand a letter of protest to Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, registering their grievances over the failure of the state government to pay scholarships for 2010/2011, to 2011/2013 academic sessions.
Daily Trust learnt that students union leaders who briefed them at the polytechnic, said they were disappointed that the state government, had in 2010, made students of tertiary institutions in the state to part with the sum of N2,500 each as fee for the form to earn them government scholarship, only for the government to look the other way.
The students chanted anti-establishment slogans and poured into the road in front of the polytechnic where they began to march, peacefully, said one of the students who participated in the march.
But no sooner had they poured into the road with fresh leaves in their hands, to commence the protest, than violent youths believed to be sponsored thugs, descended on them in the presence of armed security operatives who were stationed there to guard the protest from spilling into the hands of miscreants.
"The students rushed back into the premises of the polytechnic, for fear of being hurt by the thugs. They tried severally to come out but the thugs refused to allow them while the uniformed policemen and soldiers looked," one student said.
At about past 11am, according to the students, a message reached them from Abubakar Bubuche, the state Director of State Security Service (SSS), who invited the protesters to his office, in what they said saved the situation from escalating into a violent confrontation between thugs and students.
The SSS director, Bubuche confirmed in a phone chat with Daily Trust that he invited the students to his office, "as a measure to prevent any violent confrontation and to protect them." He said at about past 4pm when he spoke to this reporter, that he had listened to the students, whose grievances, he confirmed as "scholarship issues", and added that the security agency will relay the protesters' grievances, accordingly, to the government.
Comrade Taimeko Sunday, National President of NASSA, who led the protest, told Daily Trust on phone at about 4:30pm that he and his team were still at the SSS headquarters in Lafia, and had just finished writing down their grievances, including the unpaid scholarship and government's failure to provide hostels at the tertiary institutions and to renovate the few existing ones.
"We also want an indigene as Vice Chancellor of the state university because the non-indigene we have there has cornered admission meant for our people. We also want the governor to fulfill all his campaign promises including the appointment of an aide on students' matters, and to give us audience. He doesn't need us again, after he won his election," Comrade Sunday added.
Meanwhile, the thugs had followed up, and stayed put at the vicinity of the SSS headquarters in Lafia, but were dispelled by armed operatives there.
The state Education Commissioner, Comrade Hussaini Abubakar told Daily Trust in a text message, that he was busy with the governor, to react to the student's grievances.