South South teachers protest today over alleged attack by DSS
Ministry moves to probe assault
All teachers in Federal Government colleges in the South South zone will today protest against an alleged attack on their colleagues in Calabar by operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS).
Already, teachers of the Federal Government Girls College (FGGC), Calabar have since weekend declared a work-to-rule action as they planned a peaceful walk covering a distance of about five kilometres from the school by Jonathan Bypass to the House of Assembly and the Governor’s Office to drop their protest letter.
The attack forebodes dictatorship in a democratic era that brooks no respect for the rights and dignity of the citizens. It is deemed a continuation of the impunity of the DSS that once raided the Akwa Ibom State’s Government House and homes of serving justices of the Supreme Court to arrest them for alleged corruption.
At the school yesterday, which is close to the DSS state headquarters, normal activities were on except that the teachers did not teach. Most of them expressed anger and shock at last Thursday’s invasion of the school by DSS and the mother of a student to assault the teachers because a student, Grace Asuquo, was flogged by a teacher, Mr. Owai Owai.
The Chairman of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and member of the Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, Comrade Ogunyemi Akinwunmi, said: “As a union, we have written a petition and as a body we have sent a message to our national headquarters in Lagos. The union is not taking this lightly. Our slogan is injury to one is injury to all. If we don’t tackle this now, we don’t know where it will happen next.”
Akinwunmi, who is also a teacher in the school further said: “We plan to carry out a peaceful protest on Tuesday to the House of Assembly and the Governor’s Office to drop our petition to the speaker and then to the governor. We want the world to know what happened here. It would not be swept under the carpet. Even though the ministry is doing something, the union cannot just sit down.”
The chairman of the workers’ union in the school, Mr. Victor Udofa said: “Immediately the incident happened, I called for congress and by tomorrow (today) we are going to do a peaceful demonstration so that they will not sweep the matter under the carpet.”
A female teacher who lost N80,000 during the incident and does not want her name published narrated what happened: “We were in school when the DSS people came shooting and harassing us. For some of us that had our cameras trying to take photographs they pounced on us. They dragged my bag, removed my phone with N80,000 cash. Later they returned the bag torn and my money and phone taken away. They later sent the phone back and had deleted the pictures and my money gone. We are very harmless, helpless and instead of security agents protecting us they came and even tried to kill us.”
The Vice Principal (Admin) of the school, Ogah Christopher, confirmed the incident and called for justice. “What we are curious about is that the following day when this appeared in the newspapers, the DSS said no shot was fired. Secondly, there was another insinuation by the DSS that some hoodlums entered the school and they came to chase them. I am stating categorically that no hoodlum came to the school, and several shots were fired.
“The truth of the matter is that it was the girl’s mother, the sister who is with the DSS and a young man that entered the school before the DSS operatives came. But if hoodlums entered the school, were we not the ones to complain and invite them and the police that we have hoodlums in our school?
“We had two scenarios here. Immediately the information came to me, I asked the chief security officer to inform the police. The first group that came in were not invited by us but were invited by their colleague, the lady, and the second batch that came in were invited by our CSO but when they came in, they just joined their colleagues without asking any of us what the problem was.
“They tried to make an arrest but our staff resisted them and they understood and left. Many of the staff were injured because they were using the butts of the guns to hit them. The pellets of the bullets were handed over to the police.
“Altogether, about 15 shots were fired and there was confusion. As we were talking, another batch arrived and they all came down with guns again. They came in three vehicles. So anybody found answering a phone call or trying to capture the scene they threatened to hit with the butt of a gun.
“After destroying the padlock on the gate, they opened it and when I insisted to know the identity of the men that were destroying our door, one of them said they were DSS operatives.”
The Federal Ministry of Education has said it would investigate the incident.
The Director of Press and Public Relations, Ihuoma Chiyenre, told The Guardian yesterday that the principal had reported the matter to the ministry. According to her, the Director of Basic and Secondary Education will have to forward the report to the Permanent Secretary, who will in turn notify the minister.
The Guardian’s inquiry at the headquarters of the DSS hit a brick wall with the inability to get the yet to be “unveiled” spokesman, Tony Opiuyo, to brief the press in person.
But a source within said the headquarters was yet to be briefed on the incident. He said the story sounded like one of the usual cases between security operatives and members of the public, and so could be handled at the state level. “But to say the school was invaded by a truckload of operatives shooting sporadically on the premises is unheard of,” the source said.