The recent disturbances on the campus of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) which resulted in the destruction of the university’s property by some youths of a community in Owerri West Local Government Area are capable of affecting the existing cordial relationship between both parties.
The youths, according to newspaper reports, went on demonstration in protest against alleged non-payment of due compensation for their land acquired by FUTO.
It was further learnt that they were demanding the return of part of the land acquired for the development of university.
The peaceful demonstration became violent and led to the destruction of buildings, equipment and some other valuable property estimated at hundreds of millions of naira at the university.
FUTO authorities had denied the allegation of not paying adequate compensation for the land it acquired from the neighbouring communities and added that they have no power to cede any portion of the land to their original owners. That power rests with the Federal Government which negotiated the acquisition of the land with the owners, the V.C said.
FUTO, as a federal government institution, owes certain community relations duties to the host communities, just as the later should be humane in making genuine demands, and pursuing same in the best traditions of civilized people.
Destruction of FUTO property has its boomerang effect on the hosts: one, FUTO contributes a sizable amount of money into the State Treasury as tax.; two, the repairs might cost FUTO a lot of resources capable of stalling further development of the institution and the host communities.
One would have expected such an issue in dispute to be resolved amicably instead of resorting to violence.
The law courts are there to adjudicate on the issue; the traditional rulers council is another important forum available to the host communities.
We therefore appeal for restraint among the land owners and university authorities, especially at this time of national distress.
Let commonsense prevail.