Within few minutes of settling down in a secluded place – off the campus – where Bimbola (not real name) agreed to narrate her ordeal to our correspondent last Monday, the dry white handkerchief she was holding became soaked with tears.
She tried to stop weeping for a while, but she couldn’t resist it, and the more her friend – who followed her to the meeting – tried to calm her down, the more she struggled to hold back her tears. What she passed through in August was painful, unimaginable and dehumanising. In fact, she might not be able to forget that night in her life.
Ever since the incident, everything about her has changed, according to her friend.
In the night of August 13, 2015 – around 12 midnight – she said she and her roommate had returned from a night reading class in preparation for their forthcoming exam in November, locked their room and were about to sleep when they heard their hostel mates jamming their doors, screaming and walking up the hostel stairs.
Before they knew what was happening, the men were at their door and expectedly, they forced the door open. “Come out now or we will kill you,” she recalled what the men told her and her roommate, and with fear and trembling, the girls did their bidding.
Three hefty fearful-looking men, clad in black polos and jeans, armed with guns, machetes and axes had stormed their hostel – located in the Under G Area of Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State – and demanded that all the students, both male and female, should gather in one room.
While one of the hoodlums stayed with the students, pointing guns at them should they ‘misbehave,’ the other two locked the entrance to the hostel, ransacked all rooms one after the other, stole the students’ laptops, money, debit cards, tablets and mobile phones.
But even after stealing all their property, the robbers were not done. The next command they gave the students was what Bimbola has not yet got over with.
She narrated, “They raped some girls in our presence, but not only that, they asked us to start having sex with ourselves. They called from among us a guy and a girl and asked them to have sex with themselves, right in everybody’s presence. They threatened to use their weapons on us if we didn’t cooperate. Then they asked all of us to strip naked. Since it was in the night, most of us ladies already had only our night gowns on, while most of the guys were just putting on boxers. They said we should all be naked. When they were satisfied, they called another pair of students to do the same thing and told everybody to watch.
“For about three hours, they dehumanised us, humiliated us. Unfortunately, nobody in the next hostel knew what was going on; if anyone knew, they would have helped us to call the police or the Student Union Government officials.”
But what was more pathetic about Bimbola’s story was that she didn’t just witness the whole action; she was also asked to have sex with a guy she never dated. “Everything happened like it was a dream. They pointed at a guy I knew as my junior and asked him to do ‘it’ with me. When I refused, they slapped me and I fell. I had no option than to do it. I looked at my roommate and she was already shedding tears for me. How humiliated I was!” she cried.
She further told our correspondent, “It was not a night to remember. I wish I could erase it from my memory. My friend and I returned to the hostel that night after reading in the school because our exam is fast approaching. If I knew something like that would happen, I would have stayed in the school till the morning, but I needed to prepare for the following day’s work. I had just finished having a shower when my roommate and I observed something was wrong. There was no light, so we couldn’t see properly, but we observed that our hostel mates were all jamming their doors at some men’s command.
“They cramped all of us in one of the rooms upstairs and we were all frightened. My parents are not yet aware of this incident and I don’t wish to share it with anyone again. I only agreed to speak to you because my friend here encouraged me to and I feel something should be done by the authorities concerned to stop this barbarism. I know I’ll be fine soon.”
Since July when they resumed for the semester, the students of LAUTECH have been witnessing robbery attacks and rape by the same set of unknown men – who call themselves ‘Three MOPOLs’ each time they barge into their victims’ hostels.
Though the institution is non-residential, individuals and private organisations provide accommodation for the students around the university.
The Welfare Officer of the Student Union Government of the institution, Ridwan Okedara, said he could not count the number of calls he had received ever since the incident started occurring in July up till about two weeks ago. He said it was unfortunate that the hoodlums had yet to be apprehended.
He said, “I’ve received calls in the past four months almost every passing night about this incident. Victims and eyewitnesses usually say the robbers were always three and they would tell them they were the ‘Three MOPOLS,’ but we are not sure if they are not even more than that. For instance, there were some nights when I received calls that the robbers were operating in the Adenike Area (a popular students’ residential area near the school) and I would quickly call our security officers to go to the said hostel, but few minutes later, I would receive a call that they were operating somewhere else.
“Before the security people could get there, the robbers would have left and we would hear they had started operating somewhere else. We don’t know their tactics yet. From what we have heard from eyewitnesses, they would enter a hostel, pretend as if they were looking for somebody and before the students knew it, they would threaten them with guns and machetes and ask all of them to be inside one particular room after collecting their phones, laptops and money. They ask the students to strip off their clothes – both male and female, then ask them to start having sex with themselves. They could call a male from say 200 Level and ask him to have sex with say a 400 Level female student.
“These robbers rape our students and then ask the students to have sex with themselves. We’ve heard a case when the robbers used white handkerchiefs to wipe the private parts of the students after the act. We are also suspecting ritualism here. They go to hostels anytime from 8pm to 1am and from eyewitnesses’ accounts, there was usually no light anytime the hoodlums carried out their operation.”
This is exactly what another victim of robbery in September by the same ‘Three MOPOLs’ said, who spoke with Saturday PUNCH on the condition of anonymity at a restaurant outside the school premises.
Meanwhile, Okedara has information about some of the hostels where the incidents [rape and robbery] had taken place, but pleaded to be kept secret to avoid undue stigmatisation of the victims, which is perhaps understandable.
The other victim who spoke with our correspondent said, “It was very dark and there was no light to see their faces when they came to our hostel. They told us they were the ‘Three MOPOLS,’ and mere looking at them, we could not imagine how they were able to gain entry into our hostel and ordering all of us to go inside one room. We were told to take off our clothes and they raped some of the girls. They didn’t rape me and they didn’t ask me to have sex with anyone, but they stole my laptop and phone. It was traumatic. It was like experiencing hell that night.”
The President of the school’s chapter of the Women Against Rape, Sexual Harassment and Sexual Exploitation, who is a nursing student in the institution and also the Vice-President, the National Union of Campus Journalists, Israel Fawole, said the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and the national body of the Women Against Rape organisation had already been informed about the issue and that they had taken interest in the matter.
He further said some of the victims had been taken in for rehabilitation at undisclosed locations due to the trauma they had experienced.
He said, “Not all of them are willing to open up, but some have come forward and they are being taken care of. Rape is an epidemic and it must stop. Some of the victims are undergoing rehabilitation now. Most of them are shy to talk about it, but recently, we organised a peace walk against rape, where female students had to protest against the incident.
“It is so unfortunate that unwanted visitors would barge in, threaten our students with axes and guns, ask the opposite sexes to start having sex in their presence and other students. They collect the students’ property, rape them and still tell them to commit sex with one another. We are tired of this mess.”
Forced into lesbianism
Another terrible aspect about the incident is when the hoodlums ordered female students whom they had taken hostage to make love among themselves, thereby practically forcing them to commit an act of lesbianism. An official of the institution, with whom some of the victims and eyewitnesses had shared their ordeal with, told Saturday PUNCH.
The official, who pleaded anonymity, said some female students confided in him that they were asked to have sex with other female students during the robbery operations.
“I believe it is more than what meets the eyes. This is not an ordinary robbery. Normal robbers take what they want and leave. They would not ask students to all be in one room, tell them to go unclad, rape the female ones and still tell their victims to have sex with one another. It is a disgusting thing and as a parent myself, I have been unhappy since I started hearing the bad experiences of some of our students,” he said.
Bimbola had also told our correspondent that the robbers called a female student and asked her to have sex with another female student in the night they attacked them.
When students become vigilantes
This situation could perhaps be ascribed to poor insecurity for the students of the institution, with some of the students blaming the situation on both the police (for allegedly extorting and not protecting them) and the school management (for not intervening on time when the crisis started).
For several weeks, the students became their own security personnels. While the male ones carried planks to scare off the ‘unseen’ criminals and burned tyres in the night, the female students cheered up their male colleagues.
The SUG Welfare Officer, Okedara, said, “The insecurity in the school is unfortunate. This started a week after we resumed for this semester. On the first day of our resumption, we had an issue with the police, which led to a serious misunderstanding. The SUG had a confrontation with the police then. They used to patrol hostels and in the process did extort our students, according to victims. They would stop students on the road and probably if they saw expensive phones or tablets on them, they would ask where they got them from. Their mentality is that those using ‘big’ phones are ‘Yahoo-yahoo’ people (internet fraudsters).
“We got several reports from our students on this issue and we couldn’t take it anymore. The president of the SUG challenged them and this led to a fracas. We went to the station at Owode to report to the DPO, but they attacked us. We went to the Soun (the traditional ruler) of Ogbomoso and the resolution there was that if we didn’t want them to be coming again, they wouldn’t come because we really didn’t see any impact they were making then apart from extorting students. We wanted them to stop coming because of the bad eggs among them, but the Commissioner for Police has intervened in the matter.
“Few days after this confrontation with the police, the incident became rampant and this has turned almost all of us to vigilantes. We stay late at night, keeping vigil and burning tyres, just to scare off the perpetrators of this crime. When we started hearing of this act, all students usually went to bed early, but we found out that it was giving these ‘three MOPOLs’ an advantage. We sensitised ourselves and we decided to stay late at nights.”
The President of the SUG of the institution, Olatunde Bakare, said he had been personally leading a team of student vigilantes since July due to the alleged nonchalant attitude of the police and the school management previously.
He said, “It is a bad experience and it saddens my heart that something this disgusting is happening to our students. When it started, we thought it was something we could curb on our own, so we took to the streets. I led a group of students who became watchmen overnight. We constituted a security committee on our own to be our own security personnels.
“We have both the male and female students keeping vigil. We don’t carry guns, but only burn tyres and we hold planks, just to let the robbers know we are not sleeping. We stay up till 3am and this has affected students, especially those who have lectures early in the morning, but we cannot rest until we apprehend these criminals. The exam is starting next month and we hope this will not happen again.
“We found out that anytime the operation was going on in, say Area A, we would get a call that it was going on in Area B. We would have apprehended the criminals, but for the diversion in reports. We couldn’t involve the police initially because the bad eggs there were just extorting our students. The aspect of ritualism is more disgusting to me.
“Because the school is non-residential, it has exposed us to many hazards. We protested that the school management should do something and we told them we want the school to become residential so that there could be more security. We believe if the management could work on our resolution in reviewing the edict which established the school, it could become residential. Hostels could be built on the campus so that the school security would help a lot in protecting our students.”
Bakare, like other students Saturday PUNCH spoke with, also said protests had been staged against the school management on the issue because rather than the school looking deeply into the issue and responding appropriately, they responded that because it is a non-residential institution, they had the responsibility of protecting students only when they were on the campus and not when in their hostels.
The response of the management did not in any way sound sensible to the students.
“The management’s claim was that the school is non-residential, but when it became unbearable, they called a meeting of all the stakeholders and they have started doing something. The DSS, SARS, OPC and local vigilantes too are now with us. We called on the Ibadan Electricity Distribution Company and they too have improved on supplying electricity to hostels. If those criminals try it again, we will apprehend them,” Bakare boasted.
‘We’re beefing up security’
The Public Relations Officer of the institution, Mr. Lekan Fadeyi, said the insinuation that the university management didn’t do anything on the rape and robbery incidents was far from the truth. He said the school had, before the incidents, teamed up with landlords of students’ hostels in hiring security officials to patrol the hostels.
He, however, said it was a challenge providing security for the over 4,000 students of the institution, being a non-residential one.
He said, “We seek the understanding of the students to know the challenge facing the management. The edict establishing the school does not in the first place allow us to have hostels. Be that as it may, we would like members of the public to know that long before the recent ugly happenings, there was a standing security committee of the university – members include representatives of all security agencies and I can state categorically that all the main security arms of the government have served diligently well in this committee.
“Even in the most recent incidents, the management summoned a meeting of all landlords, agents and students to brainstorm on ways of increasing security awareness and combating crime. It went further to call an emergency meeting of the university governing council.
“As parents themselves, the members of the council frowned at the appalling situation and granted all requests of the management aimed at putting immediate stop to any crime against the students. The university has long before now been funding a joint patrol of security in areas popularly inhabited by its students and the management is not willing to stop at anything when it comes to guaranteeing the safety of lives and property of our students.”