…as Mbah assures students, parents of safe learning environment, orders thorough investigation
The Enugu State Government has described the report of the sudden death of students of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT), Agbani, over alleged negligence of the institution as fake and fabricated.
This was as the state governor, Dr. Peter Mbah, assured that a thorough investigation into the matter was ongoing, stressing that his administration was ever committed to a continued safe and better learning environment at the institution.
Speaking during a visit to ESUT, the governor, who was represented by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Chidiebere Onyia, said the government was genuinely concerned about the welfare of students, hence the decision to go beyond the report of the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Emmanuel Obi, who was earlier directed to do a sting investigation of the institution and its medical facility, to additionally visit the institution for a firsthand assessment of the situation.
“The governor is concerned and has asked that we come here for a preliminary fact-finding mission concerning what we have read on the social media, and a few of them was also communicated to us directly as it regards the concerns they have about the medical facilities.
“He has asked us to find out what is going on with the state of the facilities and the veracity of a few comments made on social media through the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS). So, we have decided as a government, to visit, to make sure that we are open to getting information from students, and from the citizens generally.
“The governor is very determined and interested in making sure this university reflects the standard of a world class university, and that the health and security of lives are treated as sacrosanct.
“We are, therefore, going to work diligently to see if there are gaps, and we will work with the VC, the Commissioner for Health and the Commissioner for Education, as a team, to come up with recommendations that can address any gap identified.
“We have inspected the facilities now, and from what we have seen and heard, we are clear that the intention behind the social media post may have been to mislead members of the public. But one thing is important, the state government is committed to the safety of lives of students, and to provide them a conducive learning environment.
“Let me also make this very clear: every life matters to the Government of Enugu State. We want to ensure that parents that sent their kids to study here will also receive them back in good health. So, the governor is dedicated to providing robust health facilities as stated in his manifesto,” the SSG said.
On his part, the Commissioner for Health, Prof Emmanuel Obi, described the rumour of students’ death in the university campus as one of unverified reports on the social media, stressing that people, who had no experience on health, rushed to the social media to push the falsehood.
Prof. Obi further revealed that his infodemic team at the Ministry of Health swung into a sting investigative operation immediately what turned out to be fake news of death of students broke.
“We have the state epidemiology unit, a department of public health that looks into such stories. The state has an extensive disease surveillance network in all the local governments. The moment the information came, we started by sending the disease surveillance and notification officer in Nkanu West Local Government of which Agbani is one. The officer has investigated and reported to the Ministry, and the Ministry has also done its own preliminary investigation. For this time, the report is that we still have independent unrelated cases of deaths that have included students of ESUT as a university,” the commissioner added.
He appealed to members of the public to eschew fake news and equally desist from claiming expertise in areas they lacked knowledge.
In his account, the Vice Chancellor of ESUT, Prof. Aloysius Okolie, linked the fake news to the outcome of the July 17, 2023 election of ESUT chapter of NANS, saying some students, who lost out protested their loss and decided to resort to fake news and blackmail against the institution.
The Vice Chancellor, however, acknowledged loss of lives both from students and non-students who died outside the school environment as a result of varying factors such as accidents and terminal illnesses, among others.
“We have been providing medical equipment, and we have evidence of the expenditure in that place. We have also been purchasing critical drugs and manpower. We have a committee overseeing that. We have also moved them into primary healthcare provider, and they are with HMO now in ESUT. The students have been making use of that, with two functional ambulances procured for them.
“We kept asking them if there is anything we could do to continue to improve the situation and welfare of the students. We even set up a committee last year comprising students’ leadership, Dean Students Affairs, and a few medical officers that should be reporting to the management on the day-to-day activities of that place.
“We had to improve on what we met on ground by promising that we need to bring in more people such as two more medical doctors, two more nurses, a pharmacist and a medical laboratory technologist. We said we must look for the money to pay them because life is more critical and we value that.
“We had to trace the deaths. Formerly we had a case of two deaths, and we are aware of what happened at off campus at GRA, ESUT College of Medicine, where a lady and the boyfriend were in a room and one of them died and the other survived. The provost said as soon as they finish autopsy, the report will be on my table.
“The one that the Registrar also reported to me was said to have died somewhere in Abia State, and that she had been away for three months. We got the contact of the family, wrote condolence letter and approved the sum of ₦100,000 for the family.
“Then there was a former National Youth Service Corps member that reported from the South West and left on ground of being sick, and three months later, she died. We sent our condolence letter and some sum of money.
“The other one that happened was an accident in Enugu. The student went to church in Enugu and had accident on the way back and died. Another lady that had been battling a terminal disease, anemia, died and we saw it on social media.
“So, we have to be careful about the things we read on social media,” Prof Okolie noted.
Lending her voice, the Director of Medical Services in charge of the medical centre, Dr. Njideka Kenneth-Njoku, said she was surprised at the news, saying no single death had been recorded in the school premises since her assumption of office months ago given the proactive responsive of the school management.
She displayed some of the records of patients, mostly students who had been treated and discharged, and challenged anyone with any evidence to the contrary to provide it.
The Students Union Government (SUG) led by its President, Comrade Donatus Okoye, who joined in inspecting the medical facilities, dispelled the rumours making round on social media as false, malicious and a calculated attempt by some factional NANS leadership to tarnish the image of the institution.
Comrade Donatus expressed appreciation to the governor for paying an unscheduled visit to the university, adding that they would continue to support the university management for a healthier and more conducive environment for learning.