|Asu Okan at the Cross River State Job Centre|
Efio-Ita Nyok|30 May 2017
... However, it’s unfortunate that what happened, happened. I blame the officers on duty for daring to take arms against students. I myself, I have been a student union leader, I have been President of Cross River Youth Assembly, I have protested on the streets like that especially on issues. So, I understand.
So the use of force, at that point, to the extent of using bullets, I mean, shooting at the students regardless of the situation, regardless of how agitated they were, regardless of how violent they were, is unacceptable and I totally condemn that. I didn’t have any idea, I heard it the way you heard it when I was at Channel View that the students were shot. It’s unfortunate.
Yesterday, 29 May while fielding questions from journalists in Calabar, the Honourable Commissioner for Youths and Sports of Cross River State, Mr Asu Okan, has denied ordering the shooting of alleged three students in the state capital during the just concluded Saturday 27 May Children’s Day celebration in the state.
According to the youthful Commissioner, it would be contradictory to order the shooting of Nigerian students/youths particularly considering that he personally invited them to celebrate Cross River @ 50. He took out time to explain how agitated unidentified students couldn’t be patient with the bureaucracy of funds disbursement sequel to when His Excellency the Governor of Cross River State, Mr Ben Ayade, had made the promise of N10 million to them.
Mr Okan regretted the incident and blamed the coercive character of designated officer of the Nigerian Army not failing to blame the impatience of Nigerian students. He informed that his ministry had deposited the sum of N250 thousand as part payment for the medical bills of one of the affected students while directing that the other alleged two students suffering from gun shot wounds be returned to University of Calabar Teaching Hospital for adequate medical assistance as against the traditional medical orthopedic institutions they are in. Excerpt:
Journalists: Honourable Commissioner good evening. Please can you tell us did you order the shooting of the students we just went to see at University of Calabar Teaching Hospital?
Commissioner Asu Okan: The question in itself answers the question, because I couldn’t have ordered the shooting of the students and still go back to the hospital to visit them. Is it to go and see if they were dead or to be alive? I mean it sounds very abnormal.
Number two, those students came out in solidarity. In solidarity with our government, the government that I serve in as Commissioner for Youths, and therefore, it was not possible that I… In the first instance, I was the one who invited them anyway to say look, gentlemen, we are rolling out the drums for Cross River @ 50, so let’s come out in our numbers and celebrate as young people of Cross River State. Basically, that’s what we did.
We all came out as young people to say, look, regardless of any other thing, Cross River State is not where it’s supposed to be but it’s certainly not where it used to be. So, I think we just came out and were having fun with ourselves.
Of course, you know I was the person who led that team. I trekked from my office which was the solidarity point in Ministry of Youths and Sports and led them into the stadium. I tried to also coordinate and ensure that everybody was not unruly. So there was no need for that.
Secondly, you know the way this thing happen: His Excellency the Governor out of his magnanimity saw the turn out of Cross Riverians, young people in solidarity with the state, and in the euphoria, you know, with the joy in his heart said, ‘I’ll give you a wholesome N10 million’. And we all clapped and all that. It was a statement the governor had made. The promise he had made in the stadium.
Now, because that was made at the stadium, it wasn’t something that was premeditated, it was impulsive and then it is just normal that you allow the governor the liberty of ordering whoever was involved to release the money.
The governor does not say, ‘I am giving you N10 million’ and then takes money from his pocket and gives out. So, he had actually ordered the Commissioner for Finance to make the release of that money to the students through the office of the Commissioner for Youth.
Granted that that was done, I marched the students back to the solidarity point which is the Ministry of Youths and Sports where we had actually taken of from earlier in the day. Eventually, by the time we got there, you know the process, the bureaucracy that is required to draw out money you know. I had called the Commissioner for Finance a number of times for over 30 minutes apparently, like he would explain later on, he said, he was on a long call with His Excellency the Governor, he wasn’t then picking up,
So, it was at the point where I needed to leave from there when I had gotten a clear go ahead that the money is ready, you can now come to so and so place that I moved to the Presidential Lodge to pick up the money, but the Commissioner for Finance was not there and he wasn’t picking up like I said. Eventually, when we got clearance, he said he was somewhere at Channel View.
At the point we needed to kick of payment, you know that we left the stadium at about 4PM, so youths were already waiting till about almost 6PM. Some of them who heard the promise of the governor started getting agitated because the money had not come out at the time, but, I know that it was a small process going on, you know movement of cash from Accountant General to Commissioner for Finance before release to us and all that.
So, what I simply did in my own thinking which I think was the right thing to do was that, since I had about N3 million that was due for payment of the contractor who supplied the computers at the Cross River State Job Centre in my car, I had to pay. It was just normal that we at least, I should just take from there to start palliating the situation… While the other process was still on. So, I started payment.
… However, it’s unfortunate that what happened, happened. I blame the officers on duty for daring to take arms against students. I myself, I have been a student union leader, I have been President of Cross River Youth Assembly, I have protested on the streets like that especially on issues. So, I understand.
So the use of force, at that point, to the extent of using bullets, I mean shooting at the students regardless of the situation, regardless of how agitated they were, regardless of how violent they were, us unacceptable and I totally condemn that. I didn’t have any idea, I heard it the way you heard it when I was at Channel View that the students were shot. It’s unfortunate.
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