Posted by Olaniyi Abodedele on Sunday, June 26, 2016 Under: News Stories

Pretoria – South Africa: Six (6) out of twenty nine (29) Nigerian students from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape currently studying under the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty program of the Federal Government of Nigeria sustained gunshot injuries while many others were injured and tear gassed by members of the South African Police Services (SAPS) during a peaceful rally at the High Commission of Nigeria, Pretoria to protest against their alleged unpaid tuition, accommodation, feeding allowance and two years book fees on Thursday 23rd of June, 2016.

Speaking to The Nigerian Voice Newspaper; Mr. Debor Oriji the Students President under the Presidential Amnesty program at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Port Elizabeth informed that “Actually the problem behind us coming to Pretoria was as a result of the government's failure for payment most of the time. This has become a tradition of government precisely that of the Amnesty office who will be owing us about four (4) months then pay one month, as such we the students cannot bare the pains anymore because we are in a country where we have no brothers nor sisters and as a matter of fact it’s a strange country to us, so we decided to come on a peaceful protest, and as you can see we are doing picketing, we are not here to fight nor to do anything. The Embassy is the only family we have as citizens of Nigeria hence we decided to take buses. We came with three (3) buses, we took the risk of driving 16 hours for us to come to the Embassy to protest and tell the Embassy that they should call who so ever they are going to call in the Amnesty office in Abuja so that payment can be made as we have been evicted from the hostels and our exams results have not been released to us”

The students who had embarked on a 16 hours road journey from Port Elizabeth arrived at the High Commission of Nigeria, Pretoria on the morning of Thursday 23rd of June, 2016 in three (3) quantum buses. The students after waking up in their buses on the morning of Friday 24th June, 2016 gathered in front of the High Commission peacefully insisting that they will not leave until their money is paid, and as such demanded that the High Commission gets across to the Amnesty office in Abuja to pay their three (3) months outstanding allowance and 2 years outstanding book fees owed them by the Presidential Amnesty Scholarship office under the Federal Government of Nigeria in Abuja when officers of the South African Police Services shot and teargased them in an effort to disperse them “We came here since yesterday and the Embassy did all what they could do according to what they told us which we also saw because we sat and had a meeting with them. That notwithstanding we were given whatsoever they dimmed fit for hospitality, they tried their own possible best, but if this may interest the Federal Government you can see where we slept, we slept in the bus throughout yesterday night and the cold was 3°C; even animals in this country are not allowed to sleep outside, 29 of us slept in this buses. But today we started the peaceful protest but you can see my brothers and colleagues were shot by South African Police; 6 of them were shot, many injured and teargased. We are students, we came here legitimately to protest for our money because this is our embassy, we came here to report our problem to our embassy for them to help us so that our problem can be addressed but we were so surprised that the Nigerian Embassy asked the South African Police to release gun shots at us and we were shot. Now we are reporting this to the Federal Government that if this is the culture they want us to cultivate or if this is what the Federal Government want to do, they send students abroad without paying and allow them to suffer upon that they will be threatening them. The people that they employ that should serve the people of Niger Delta are not serving us rather they are threatening us.” the Student’s leader stated.

The students through their President praised President Muhammadu Buhari’s effort in the fight against corruption and his effort in restructuring Nigeria. They called on the President to restructure the Niger Delta Presidential Amnesty office in Abuja as they alleged that they are incompetent “We know that the President is trying his best but the people in the positions are not doing well. Hence we are agitating that the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta Affairs Brig-Gen Paul Boroh (rtd) is not doing his job. Head of Education is not doing his job. Head of Accounting himself is not doing anything. You can imagine that we have been pre-informed before today that they have paid us since 21st of May 2016, not knowing that they haven't done any payment. It was on the 22nd that I was called by the head of accounts who told me that in fact it was a mistake, which is a huge negligence on their part for an account officer which have told his subjects that he has made payment and to now come up again after one month to tell us that actually he thought he had paid us and that our center was not part of the payment. You can see how far the Nigerian government is putting people who are incompetent in positions of authority and offices to work for government. We the Nigerian students under the Presidential Amnesty in Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University are not happy with whatsoever that is going on hence we are telling the government to look into this and do something to better or change the situation. Government should employ people who are competent into the various departments.”

It took the intervention and address of the Nigeria Defense Adviser Commodore SS Lasa and Mr. AK Balogun the Senior Consul Officer in Charge of Consular Affairs to calm the angry students who alleged that the Embassy had instructed the South African Police to fire gunshots at them. The Defense Adviser explained “Now, for whatever is happening here there are conventions on how things are done. This place is parts of their responsibility, this people are Diplomatic Police and they have a role for whatever they are doing. I am not part of the Police; can anyone give the Police instructions? Can I give instructions to Police to shoot? Am I the head of Police? The Defense Adviser asked the students?” 

“There is a Cornel here that is the team leader, whatever action they take here they are answerable to their people and if anybody is killed here I must answer to that and I must ask why. So don’t come and say someone gave them orders; why should somebody give instructions, can we give instructions to that?”

Mr. Lasa further took his time to explain to the angry student why he decided to address them “My coming down here is because: one, I heard those shots; two, I have been on phone since. I don't like to come out and speak on things I don't know. Please, I don't speak on things that I don't have knowledge of. They have their own duties, I don't know what their roles are and I don't work with them. I work because I am from the Defense side and I will do things because it is on the defense side.”

“I have nothing to do with what is Consular matter; I have no role for Consular matters. And if i go out of my way to do this, it’s because I have feelings and feel for you guys. Whatever is happening here is not something that is correct but I am part and parcel of government and that is why I am taking these steps to do what I am doing to resolve this issue. I don't have the responsibility for any of this thing that happened, that’s why you see I refused to talk to you. The first time this thing happened in October last year i went to the extent to make sure that the money was paid, and I went back to speak to this people back in Nigeria and they explained to me the problems that was happening, and that your money were joined with Malaysia and USA. As I am talking to you, the same money with Malaysia and US that is about 1.2 million Dollars or whatever, and it is beyond the level of the person that was supposed to sign”.
The defense Adviser opined when the students asked when their money will be paid “I am waiting for a call within the next 10 minutes, I have called the Chief of Defense Intelligence and they have already gotten to the National Security Adviser. He is also talking with General Boroh”.

“You see am just going to the extent of talking to you because I take it as a point of duty because we are Nigerians, not because it is my duty, it is not my duty. I explained to you that it is the Consul General that is supposed to be the one to handle anything that has to do with Nigerians. This thing that happened here is beyond any Nigerian to handle here, there is nothing I can do from here to put my hands through the telephone to force someone to go and do it. Let’s wait in the next 10 minutes they will let me know. My is, let me seek from behind and try and make things work from Nigeria otherwise there is nothing anyone can do here.” The Defense Adviser stated.

As at 6pm on Friday 24th of June, 2016 the students had received alerts confirming payments of two months out of the three months outstanding payments. The students through their President thanked the Defense Adviser Commodore S.S Lasa and Mr. A.K Balogun the Senior Consul Officer in charge of Consular Affairs at the High Commission for their roles and relentless effort in bringing the matter to a temporary resolve. As at 7pm the students had journeyed back to school.

All effort by The Nigerian Voice Newspaper to reach the Presidential Amnesty office in Abuja was unsuccessful. The question that remains to be answered is someone sitting on this money or why should students result to protest before their entitlements due to them are paid? What would have happened if one of the students had been shot dead by the police? Your answer is as good as mine.

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