The Police Command in Rivers State has launched a manhunt of the mob that beat to death four male students: Ugonna, Ilyod, Tekana and Chidiaka of the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) on Friday morning and later set them ablaze, after putting car tyres on their necks, for allegedly stealing mobile phones and laptops.
The incident occured at Aluu community, beside UNIPORT, where most of the students who could not secure accommodation on the campus reside.
Residents of the community have started fleeing to avoid indiscriminate arrest by policemen, especially of innocent persons.
The Rivers Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ben Ugwuegbulam, a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP), in a telephone interview confirmed that four persons were killed on Friday at Aluu for allegedly stealing, but could not ascertain if the victims were students of UNIPORT or not.
Ugwuegbulam also stated that the police command was investigating the unfortunate incident, while warning residents of the state against taking the law into their own hands.
The police spokesman urged members of the public to always make useful information about criminals in their midst available to the command, while assuring that their identities would be well protected.
It was learnt that the owners of the expensive mobile phones, including BlackBerry and the laptops at the off-campus hostel, complained to their friends over the loss of the items, thereby raising the alarm, which attracted indigenes of Aluu and passers-by.
The missing phones and laptops were later reportedly traced to the killed students, who were young men in their early 20s, and were said to have denied knowledge of the development. Without being given the opportunity to defend themselves, they were beaten to death and set ablaze by the angry mob.
The horrible and blood-soaked corpses of the victims were later deposited at the morgue of an undisclosed hospital in Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital.
UNIPORT’s Deputy Registrar, Information, Dr. Williams Wodi, when contacted yesterday for his reaction on the incident, said: “Right now, I am not in a position to confirm to you that the alleged victims are bona fide students of UNIPORT, as is being widely speculated.
“The alleged incident took place at Aluu village, about two kilometres outside our main campus. We do not have responsibility for security in Aluu communities, which are beyond our jurisdiction. The relevant security outfits are working with our security department to establish the true identities of the victims and what actually transpired on the day of the reported incident.
“The Dean of Student Affairs of UNIPORT is also working round the clock to establish their identities as students of UNIPORT. The university will certainly issue a statement once preliminary facts are laid on the table.”