By Amos Aar
THE BENUE State University Medical Students Association (BESUMSA) has revealed how medical students were brutally manhandled by a combination of security personnel and hired thugs at Government House, Makurdi when they embarked on a peaceful march to register their grievances to Governor Hyacinth Alia on October 25, 2023.
BESUMSA, in a press release dated October 26, 2023 but obtained Tuesday by National Record, said it became imperative to debunk some misinformation about their peaceful march and to present to the public what truly transpired at the gate of Government House on that day.
The press release, signed by BESUMSA’s Charles T. Imenger and Okochikwu E. Ekoja, President and Secretary General respectively, the association said the peaceful march to Government House became necessary owing to some long-standing challenges they faced in the College of Health Sciences of the Benue State University (BSU).
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BESUMSA said medical students face serious challenges of accommodation, pointing out perennial crisis of overcrowding of students in the college’s hostels.
According to the students, authorities of the college indiscriminately allocate spaces meant for medical students to other students in hostels that are already in dilapidated conditions.
Among other challenges include lack of water during dry season, students contributing personal funds to buy water for their daily usage in the teaching hospital’s hostels and multiple payments of accommodation fees in a particular class or session.
Other grievances noted by BESUMSA include irregularities with regard to prospectus, sudden change in the promotional requirements for medical students without explanation, a situation the association said, “is foreign to medical training”, and alleged illegal withdrawal of medical students.
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The association also said its members are also weighed down by increase in school fees, irregularities in the academic calendar and abrupt administration of examinations, constant threat to medical students and victimisation, threat of closing the College of Health Sciences following peaceful expression of their grievances and lack of lecture halls for medical students, which compel “Medical Students [to] stand to receive lectures.”
Alleged Molestation at Government House
The medical students said they were shocked when government officials and security blocked them not to see the Governor when they marched peacefully to the gate of Government House, Makurdi.
“After being accompanied by the Police Department from the College of Health Sciences to the Government House, we were denied entry. Outside the Government House, some government officials including the Commissioner of Police and the Chief of Staff addressed us. We stated our desire to see the Governor and Visitor to the university, but we were given mixed information regarding his presence in the Government House and availability to address the students. We opted to wait patiently and peacefully outside the Government House until the Governor was present and available to address us.
“We were asked to send delegates, who would interface with a committee inside the Government House and another government official told us to go back to the school and that they would come the following day to interface with the students. We declined to send delegates to dialogue with the committee without the Governor, but continued waiting quietly and peacefully until we were addressed by the Governor”, the association narrated in its press release.
It further recounted: “The government security pushed us back away from the entry to the Government House, pepper spray was used on some of our students. Suddenly, some thugs arrived on the scene, and the police and other security operatives withdrew from the scene. The same thugs harassed and beat us with large sticks, chasing us away from the premises until CBN, Makurdi even though we were unarmed. We remained peaceful and did not fight back, rather bringing out our phones to video in hopes of discouraging their violence or securing evidence of the perpetuated act. We were able to put ourselves together, regroup and check our wounded and lost belongings”.
BESUMSA further noted that after the protest, they went back to the BSU management and had an interactive session on the challenges and the management promised to look into the issues within two weeks, adding that they had exhausted all avenues to get the university’s management to meet their demands before embarking on the march.
While BESUMSA appreciated the Governor for promising to reintroduce bond scheme between the state government and medical students of Benue origin, they appealed to the governor to grant them audience and to bring to justice the thugs who allegedly attacked them when they went to see him at Government House on October 25.