The response from Nigerians over alleged invasion of the Federal Government Girls’ College, Calabar, on Feb. 2 by some armed operatives of the Directorate of State Services (DSS) has no doubt gone viral.
The federal agency’s operatives, otherwise known as State Security Service (SSS) by Nigerians and residents of the Canaan City, reportedly manhandled some college staff who mediated in an in house matter involving a junior student and her senior colleagues.
Whistle blowers say beatings, brutalisation and show of force involving bullets and gunshots within the school environment were perpetrated by the so called intruders.
One of the whistle blower, First Baba Isa, a Legal Practitioner, said a college staff contacted him on the eventful day.
He also stated that his informant had narrated how Mr Owai Owai, a Civic Education teacher of several years was brutalised by armed DSS’s operatives during school hours.
Isa said Owai came to class that fateful Thursday morning and found a junior student sweeping the class of the Senior Secondary three (SS3) students when classes was going on in the class of the junior.
According to him there are standing rules including that junior students should not be found sweeping the classes of their senior colleagues during school periods.
He said Owai identified 10 seniors who flouted the rules and punished them by administering two strokes of cane on their respective palms.
Isa alleged that one of the seniors, Grace Loveth Asuquo, apparently offended by the action, grabbed the teacher by the collar of his shirt, an action which attracted more stroke of cane from the teacher.
According to Isa the aggrieved student called her mother, who also called her sister – a DSS operative in the Federal Government’s agency located on the same street with the school.
The duo in company of a man whom Isa did not identify in his narrative came to the school, confronted the teacher and took the cane used on the student and thereafter administered on him more than a of strokes he gave to aggrieved Grace.
All these happen before other staff and students that Owai was teaching to at the time.
According to Isa’s account, when the cane was no longer useful the intruders descended on Owai’s frail frame and inflicted more blows. The on looking students screams attracted other teachers who came to the rescue.
According to the account, the intruders called for reinforcement and in no time three Hilux vehicle load of
DSS operatives arrived the school.
“The operatives went berserk and started shooting sporadically and hitting teachers with anything they could find: blows, kicks, stones, gun butts! Several teachers sustained injuries from the assault and battery.
“Some ran into adjoining bushes and farms to save their lives. Some of the teachers started taking pictures and videoing.
“When the DSS operatives found out, they went after them, forcefully collecting their phones and further brutalising them. Phones, monies, glasses and other valuables were taken away by the operatives.
“When they were driving out, they found the gate locked. They beat up the security men and shut the padlock open! They abducted the student, Grace Loveth Asuquo and left the school premises.
“The entire staff and students of Federal Government Girls College community are traumatized and frightened. Classes didn’t hold on Friday, February 3 because of this,’” Isa stated.
Torrents of reaction by members of the public had since followed the ugly incident. The affected teachers have been reportedly threatened with queries for engaging a lawyer to seek redress.
Isa said he took up the case pro bono when one of the teachers called to inform him of the Federal Ministry of Education’s reservation for involving his chambers.
The lawyer had articulated a seven-point remedy: a written public apology from DSS to be published on NTA, Radio Nigeria and four national dailies, an oral apology given at the Assembly Ground before staff and students
He also sought for outright dismissal and prosecution of the operatives involved in this barbaric act, that the DSS should pay N10m to the school authorities in damages, tender an apology and fix the vandalised school gate.
Other remedies from Isa on behalf of the victims were that the Nigerian secret police should pay their hospital bills and return the valuables the officials allegedly seized.
The lawyer stated that he would monitor the case to ensure justice was served if it was taken over from his chambers by the government.
The Cross River State Police Command said it had started investigation into the matter.Irene Ugbo, the command’s Public Relations Officer, said the police visited the school to gather information that would aid their investigation.
The teachers are not done as their colleagues in public schools in Cross River took to the streets of Calabar on Feb. 7 to protest against the assault of teachers at FGGC by some overzealous DSS operatives in Calabar.
The teachers, who protested under the aegis of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria (ASCSN), demanded justice over the DSS unwarranted assault of their colleagues.
The protesters peacefully went in a procession to the governor’s office and the State House of Assembly to serve their demand.
Their procession, however, caused unprecedented traffic snarl in some parts of the Calabar metropolis.
Members of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT) in the state also joined in solidarity.
They called on Gov. Ben Ayade of Cross River and Mr John Gaul-Lebo, the Speaker of the state House of Assembly to investigate the matter and ensure that justice prevailed.
The TUC Chairman in the state, Comrade Clarkson Otu, said: “We are here to protest against the brutal attack on our colleagues at the FGGC, Calabar, by officials of DSS on February 2. We know that the DSS are not under you, but we have come to register our grievances.”
Also addressing the teachers in front of the governor’s office, Mr Etam Eno a Director in the office of State Security Adviser, assured that a meeting would be convened between the management of the school and DSS to resolve the matter amicably.
Eno said the governor was aware of the development and further assured that justice would be done.
Very reliable sources within the DSS in the state told our correspondent that the State Director of the DSS, Mr Fubara Duke, was on top of the matter.
The sources who spoke separately with our correspondent and pleaded that their cover should not be blown by mentioning their names said the teachers’ claims of brutalisation was not the whole truth.
They said that on the contrary, it was Grace’s mother and aunt who were attacked by the teachers.
One of them said they received a distressed call earlier that day that some hoodlums were harassing the school and they responded appropriately.
“We have been doing this on previous occasions when they needed help from us. We are good neighbours and we have never failed to rise to the occasion anytime we get a distress call from them. They called us that hoodlums have come to attack the school. By the time we got there to sort out the issue the hoodlums had escaped.
“Later that same day, a female staff member of the service went to investigate the harassment of her niece in the school by a teacher alongside the mother of the girl. There was no man with them.
“Think about it. Is it possible for one man to fight all the teachers in the school? Absolutely not! The women were rather harassed by the teachers and called for help and operatives went to the school to rescue the women, which they did and brought them to the office.
“There was no shooting in the premises. The school locked the officers and they had to demobilise the gate which led to the unfortunate incident of shooting at the gate. We are working with the management of the school to work things out amicably. We have had a very wonderful relationship with the school that has been mutually beneficial,” he said.
However, investigations had opened on the matter and our correspondent learnt that the DSS would definitely sanction those found culpable.
Our correspondent also learnt that five DSS operatives have been arrested by in connection with the “embarrassing incident”.
The affected personnel were arrested almost immediately after the incident. Our sources said their conduct breached service rules and regulations since the acted independently and without official directive.
Our source who did not disclose the identity of the arrested DSS personnel said the school authority had not lodged official complaint with the DSS over the alleged incident.
“As were speak, five of our security personnel are in detention because we have commenced investigation into the incident that happened in the federal girls school. Those who went there did not have official directives to go there.”