Between two and five protesters were shot dead on Tuesday while several others were injured following a clash between the Police and protesters at Niger Delta University (NDU), Amasoma in Bayelsa.
NDU, which was shut in March following incessant protests over alleged hike in sundry fees payable by students, was scheduled to be reopened on Tuesday by the university management. Meanwhile members of Amasoma community, aggrieved by job losses following ongoing reforms in Bayelsa public service, had blocked all major roads leading to the NDU.for the past one week
It was gathered that the security agencies deployed to reopen the gates of the institution clashed with the angry crowd that insisted that the institution should remain shut. Residents near the university community said that the clash turned violent when the policemen resorted to firing gunshots to disperse the protesters, resulting to death of five while several others were injured.
The protesters comprised the host community and staff of the Niger Delta University, including non-academic staff who were part of the 1,700 who lost their jobs in what the Bayelsa government described as "retirement".
They maintained that the ongoing reforms had led to massive job losses from members of the university host community who gave up their ancestral land to accommodate the university in exchange for job opportunities for the people.
“We feel that the school is part of our community and we gave up our lands to support the establishment of the school with the understanding that the school will provide some jobs to our people and now those jobs are gone," one of the protesters said
“The reforms are targeted at members of the host community; the loss of 1,700 jobs is not a joke and we urge the government to respect the understanding we had with the university management in the early day."
Two lifeless bodies dripping with blood were seen as they were carried away for medical attention, while several others that sustained varying degrees of injuries were also taken to a nearby hospital.
Community sources said two policemen and a civilian lost their lives in the shootout, while the arms and ammunition of the policemen were carted away.
Mr Don Anwunah, Commissioner of Police, said by telephone on Tuesday that the protesters attacked policemen deployed to reopen the gates of the university, which was sealed by welding the metal gate.
He denied that there was any death recorded in the clash, saying policemen deployed to the scene were rather attacked and injured by the protesters.
“There is no death as we speak; their modus is to put some old women who are naked in front while the youth behind them shoot at the police and they had torched a total of eight police vans unprovoked.
“The vice Chancellor wrote to us to forestall the vandalism and carting away of the university property by the community people even when the gates are locked and we sent our men there. Our men have been attacked and there is no death so far; we are battling to dominate the place with our men to restore normalcy."
It was gathered that the military had been drafted to the area to reinforce police presence.