COVID-19: Akwa Ibom student drowns, as parents fume over university ‘refusal’ to shutdown

Late Godwin Okade
Late Godwin Okade

Parents of students at Akwa Ibom State University, Ikot Akpaden, Mkpat Enin, have accused the authorities of the school of negligence and refusal to close down the school as ordered by the federal government over the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.

The parents’ criticism of the university authorities coincided with the news about the passing on of a student of the university who drowned in a local stream close to the school on Monday.

The victim, identified as Godwin Okade, was a final year student of Marine Biology at the university.

Nsikak Akai, a lawyer in Uyo, on March 24, did a petition to the National Universities Commission (NUC), Abuja, accusing the authorities of Akwa Ibom State University of disobeying the NUC’s directive that universities in the country should be shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Akai said the petition was filed on behalf of the “aggrieved parents”.

He cited an internal memo of the university dated March 20 in which the university community was informed about the postponement of the first semester examinations because of the coronavirus.

Mr Akai said in the petition that the parents were worried that the university authorities ought to have announced that the school has been closed, instead of “merely” postponing the examination since “their children and wards are still expected to be seen on campus in groups and clusters, thereby exposing them to great risks of contacting the deadly virus”.

He asked the NUC to immediately order the vice chancellor to close down the school and get the students to vacate the campus.

Akaninyene Ibanga, the spokesperson of the university, however, told PREMIUM TIMES that the university is not in session as alleged, even though non-teaching staff have been reporting to work.

Mr Ibanga said the school, after the postponement of examinations, later directed the students to vacate the campus. “Lecturers can’t come (to the school) since the exams have been postponed, except those who may want to come and do something in their office,” he said.

He said he has heard about the student who drowned but that it is only the university registrar who could comment on the incident.

A student of the university told PREMIUM TIMES, Thursday afternoon, that she was yet to leave the university town, Ikot Akpaden, because her lecturer was still “looking at” her final year project topic, therefore confirming that some academic work could be going on, unofficially, in the school.

A lecturer who did not want his name mentioned in the story gave an insight into the situation in the university.

“My school has not asked lecturers to leave the campus, they haven’t complied with the NUC directive,” the lecturer told PREMIUM TIMES.

“After NUC had sent the information that all schools should close in Nigeria, the first circular that came on Friday merely said the exams have been postponed.

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“So, a few days ago they insisted (through another circular) that staff should come to school. The only leverage lecturers have is that we don’t sign time book. So, it may be difficult for them to evaluate the lecturers but staff, all the staff, are still going to work compulsorily in my school.

“In fact, yesterday, a certain dean convened a faculty board meeting, he said he had the vice chancellor’s instruction to do so,” the lecturer said.

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