A 300-level student of Entrepreneurship at the University of Benin, Austin Okafor, has died as a result of what students and staff described as lackadaisical attitude by officials of the institution.
According to Premium Times, it was gathered that Mr Okafor, who lived with sickle cell anaemia, died on October 2 at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital (UBTH) following health complications.
Students and staff of the institution told our correspondent that his death was caused by the directive of the management that official clearance be sought before a student can be transferred from the health centre to the teaching hospital.
An eyewitness and student of the institution, Timothy Agwu, told Premium Times that the deceased had gone to the university’s health centre on October 2 for medical attention and was referred to UBTH.
“He died due to the negligence of the school management,” Mr Agwu said.
“He went to the health centre for medical attention but was referred to the university teaching hospital having discovered that he was urinating blood.
“Despite the pathetic situation, the ambulance taking him to UBTH was stopped at the Division of Students Affairs for clearance permit.”
Another student, who spoke to Premium Times under the condition of anonymity for fear of being victimised by the school management, said it took the Division of Students Affairs 35 minutes to issue clearance permit before the deceased could be taken to UBTH.
He said, “We learnt he would not be attended to without the clearance permit from the Division of Students Affairs. On getting to the Teaching Hospital, he was left alone at the Accident and Emergency Ward for another 15 minutes without any doctor attending to him. This was followed by students agitation.”
Premium Times learnt that Mr Okafor eventually died at the hospital ward despite the efforts of the doctors.
His corpse was later taken to the mortuary.
A university staff and member of the Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) who asked not to be named for fear of victimisation, also spoke on the situation.
“The deceased would have survived; but you know the delay in the system,” said the staff, who was involved in the process of transfer of the student.
“Even if he will later die, he should have been treated with emergency.”
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in a statement signed by its president, Bamidele Danielson, on Saturday condemned the manner the university and hospital management handled the case of the student.
Mr Danielson said: “It is so pathetic that due to the insensitivity of the University of Benin Health Care Centre, we lost another promising youngster.
“Among the responsibilities of the school, management is to protect and advance the interests of her students which include the delivery of high-quality health care services which unfortunately we are not enjoying even as students.”
The students demanded that the school management set up a committee to investigate the death of Mr Okafor.
When contacted, the spokesman of the University, Micheal Osasuyi, told Premium Times in a telephone interview that the death was not caused by anybody
“It is very unfortunate,” he said. “We were made to understand that the student was a sickle cell student. Knowing the complex nature of the sickness, he was attended to at the health centre and later referred to UBTH.
“The sudden nature of death is not predicated upon any premise. When the child was at the health centre, he was attended to and when they saw that he needed referral, he was referred to UBTH.”
Mr Osasuyi however declined to comment of the allegation that the deceased’s ambulance was delayed, by over 30 minutes, from getting clearance before heading to UBTH.
The incident at the University of Benin appears to be a pattern emerging in Nigerian universities where the suspiciously poor attitude of staff cause deaths of students.
Last month at the University of Abuja, Precious Joshua, a 100-level student of the university died due to poor implementation of mandatory National Health Insurance Policy for students.
In the case of Ms Joshua, students and staff alleged that that the inability of the school clinic to offer her emergency treatment caused her death at the university teaching hospital despite the efforts of doctors.
Also, in May, a final year Pharmacy student of the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Yusuf Abidoye, died of abdominal pain.
His close friend, Oluwasanya Akanmu, a 500-Level Pharmacy student, recounted how the deceased battled to stay alive, blaming Mr Yusuf’s death on the then strike by university health workers who are members of the Joint Health Sector Unions (JOHESU).