On April 11, 2016, police forces attempting to quell a protest at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) reportedly shot at student protestors, killing one student, Peter Ofurum, and injuring several others.
Reports indicate that students gathered in the early morning of April 11 at UNIPORT to protest an alleged hike in tuition fees. As the protest grew and some students reportedly began destroying university property and attempting to disrupt exams being held, UNIPORT officials called on the police to disperse the students. Police officers arrived on the scene and reportedly shot live rounds at the students, injuring several severely and killing Peter Ofurum, a fourth-year student and president of the Faculty of Management Science Students.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about violent and/or destructive acts on university campuses, including the apparent use of disproportionate force by police against student protesters. While students have the right to free expression, that right does not extend to violence or destruction of property – on-campus expression must be undertaken in a manner that is consistent with university values including social responsibility. Likewise, while authorities have a legitimate interest in maintaining order and protecting property, they must do so in ways that are proportional to the situation, minimize the risk of physical injury, and otherwise respect institutional autonomy, academic freedom, and other applicable human rights standards. Use of excessive force in response to alleged campus unrest unnecessarily increases risks of physical harm to individuals and undermines academic freedom and institutional autonomy.