By Amos Aar
GOVERNOR Hyacinth Alia cannot talk on the suspension of medical students of the Benue State University (BSU) because the institution is autonomous, says Sir Tersoo Kula, the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the governor Wednesday morning.
Sir Kula said this in response to enquiries by National Record on the suspension of about 450 medical students of the College of Health Sciences of BSU following their peaceful march to Government House, Makurdi to complain about what they described as increasingly hostile and poor learning condition being faced by medical students.
The students also alleged that during the peaceful march, they were manhandled and brutalised by security personnel and government-backed thugs, but Sir Kula also did not speak on this allegation.
Responding to National Record’s enquiry via a phone call Wednesday morning on whether the governor was aware of the suspension and other allegations, and what the government was doing about the development, Sir Kula said the students were suspended by the university’s management and not the state government hence it was needless to drag the governor into the matter by asking him for a response.
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“If the federal university that we have here that has been renamed Joseph Sarwuan Tarka University suspends students, will journalists go and ask President to respond? The state university is autonomous, how can you say governor should talk about the suspension it has given to its students? If Zaria rusticates students, will you say president should talk about it?” Kula queried!
National Record had reported how the medical students staged a peaceful protest from the campus to Government House, Makurdi on October 25, 2023 and how they subsequently alleged being manhandled and brutalised by a combination of security personnel and government-backed thugs.
There are fears in some quarters of creeping tyranny in Benue against the backdrop of the manhandling allegation and the offhand suspension of the students over a peaceful expression of grievances on poor learning condition in the institution.
The students, under the aegis of Benue State University Medical Students Association (BESUMSA), said they had exhausted all avenues to get the management of the university as well as the College of Health Sciences to get any positive response.
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The issues include inadequate and unconducive hostel accommodation, lack of water, overcrowding of lecture halls, prospectus irregularities, hike in school fees, especially for repeating students among many other challenges.
According to BESUMSA in a press release dated October 26, 2023, during the peaceful march, the medical students were addressed at the gate of the Government House by the Chief of Staff to Governor Alia, Mr Paul Biam, along with the Commissioner of Information, Culture and Tourism, Mr Matthew Abo, and the Commissioner of Police (CP), Mr Bartholomew Onyeka, who asked them to go back to BSU so that they would go to the university to address them the next day but they refused, insisting on seeing the governor who was said to be unavailable at the time of the protest.
Sequel to their insistence to wait ‘quietly and peacefully until we were addressed by the Governor’ the students alleged that the government officials who addressed them withdrew back and sent thugs in addition to using police pepper spray to drive them out of the premises up to CBN where some of the students were allegedly injured by the thugs.
Following the protest, the university’s authority on October 30, 2023 announced the suspension of the medical students with immediate effect till November 29, 2023 being a period of month.