They set ablaze items they could not steal

The peace of the sleepy Iree town was shattered on the first day of June when the health facility which served the Osun State Polytechnic community was heavily vandalized and consequently set on fire allegedly by some students of the institution. TUNDE BUSARI reports.

 

While the Rector of the Osun State Polytechnic, Iree, Dr Olusola Agboola was gradually winding up his two-term tenure and indeed looking forward to an historic valediction scheduled for next month, the June 1 incident in which the school Health Centre was invaded and burnt, has fouled his mood, thereby making him a host to friends and associates who call to commiserate with him.

As a tested tertiary institution administrator, however, Agboola is on top of the situation having mobilized his principal officers- the Registrar, Bursar, the Public Relations Officer and the Chief Security Officer -to get to the root of the matter with a view to restoring sanity to the school. His first effective stride was the immediate closure of the institution soon after the fire was put out, a response that has changed the outlook of the campus to that of a community hit by natural disaster.

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When Saturday Tribune took a tour round the school, only a few workers were sighted with security department in particular keeping an eagle eye on every corridor of the campus which used to be a beehive of academic and non-academic activities from morning till evening. Our correspondent’s inspection of what is left of the medical facility was a revelation of massive loot of property and drugs conservatively totaled about N100 million.

Window burglaries were forcefully removed and carted away alongside diagnostic laboratory equipment. Files, medical records as well as other useful documents littered the floor in a spectacle not different from rage of thunder. School vehicles were not also spared of the rage.

It was gathered that the destruction, which was carried out in the early hours of Saturday, followed a script to get back at the institution as a result of the death of a student, Aminu Sehu, whose demise occurred the previous day after he had rounded off his examination held in Prelim Theatre Hall 2.

Scene of the incident

An insider who craved anonymity expressed her shock at the incident, corroborating that the Health Centre was attacked at the dawn before the official resumption of workers at 8 am. The source reasoned that the suspected arsonists had spent the night on the drawing board plotting an hitch-free looting with maximum success, stressing that what she saw during at the scene was beyond vandalisation but a total loot of the whole facility.

“They only set ablaze those items they could not carry. One of them was arrested in the bush when he returned to carry another item. It is a sad development which was not expected from students who are supposed to know the value of those stolen and burnt items. Conservatively, what they have destroyed cannot be less than N100 million,” she lamented.

It was learnt that the students lost their cool when the late Sehu was taken from the school Health Centre to a private hospital in the town, raising an eyebrow that the medical facility was ill-equipped to deliver adequate care to the students’ population.

Yet, according to them, students registered for an health scheme known as Tertiary Institution Students Health Insurance Programme (TISHIP) which requires each student to pay a sum of N2000 for their health need. The scheme, which was effective from 2017, provides students’ medical services, covering what is categorized as primary and secondary service levels for an academic season.

It was also learnt that the President of the Students Union Government, Comrade Bolaji Ezekeil, is a member of a committee put in place to administer the implementation of the TISHIP programme with a verifiable record of his active participation in the deliberations of the committee.

On account of the aforementioned finding, the school authorities picked a hole in the allegation by the students that the Health Centre lacked enough capacity and equipment to provide its service to the students under the TISHIP scheme. According to the provost, the staff strength of the Health Centre met the standard requirement for such facility in academic community.

Dr Agboola made available a statistics of the medical personnel including two locum Doctors, one volunteer Doctor, one NYSC Doctor, one Chief Nurse, Two Staff Nurse, one Medical Laboratory Scientist, five medical Laboratory Technicians, two medical Record Officers, eight Health Assistants.

He also revealed that the Doctors are drawn from the Hospital Management Board, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) Teaching Hospital and Private practice, clarifying that the Health Centre opens by 8am and closes by 5pm on weekdays. The closing hour, he added, is usually extended during examination periods to 6 pm while the institution’s Ambulance and, of recent, the State Government’s O’Ambulance are on stand-by for emergency cases.

“Given this record, it is laughable to claim that the Health Centre lacked equipment. The fact that about 1,849 staff and students were attended to between January and March 2019 is an indication that there are adequate drugs and equipment in the clinic. As a matter of fact, the Health Centre was comprehensively rehabilitated by the institution early this year.

“Since the implementation of the TISHIP, adequate drugs and equipment have been provided for the Health Centre. The last batch of drugs worth over N2.5m were purchased a week before the ugly incident. It may interest you to note that on the day of the incident, an HND II Marketing student named Esther was brought to the Health Centre by her HOD for emergency treatment a little after 4pm,” he said.

In his reaction, the 25-year-old students’ union president washed his hands clean of the burning of the Health Centre, saying he was addressing students at the campus main gate, for a scheduled protest from the gate to the town, when the act was perpetrated. He said no students sought and received his permission to go violent during the protest, let alone torching the school facilities, pointing out that the suspected arsonists found their way to Health Centre through a different route.

A vandalised school bus

The president, thus, urged the management to conduct a thorough investigation to bring to book the brains behind the act. “We don’t condone such violent act in the union and we cannot accept it for any reason because violence cannot address the problem. We want the school to be reopened so that the exams would continue and semester rounded off. I want to also say it that banning the students union should not be an option because those who committed the crime did not do it in the name of students union,” the HND 2 Accounting student said.

Told of his membership of the TISHIP monitoring committee, he confirmed it but said that on three occasions had he sensitised the management to open another clinic outside the campus to cater for service after school hours.

“We know that our school is non-residential which means health centre cannot operate beyond school hours but I had called on the management to make that arrangement to prevent incident as this we just had.

It was also gathered that the late HND 1 Applied Chemistry student had been interred in his home town, Oba’agun, Osun State after the management had paid a condolence visit to the bereaved family. The management team to the family included the Dean of the Students Affair, Dr Gbenga Olamide, Dean Faculty of Science, Dr Rafiu Adeleke and others.

Though the Commissioner of Police of Osun State Command, Abiodun Ige was said to have visited the campus on the day which the incident occurred, the command seems to be exercising caution in handling the matter in order to not exacerbate it apparently because students were involved.

Nonetheless, the Public Relations Officer of the institution, Mr Tope Abiola said the ban on students union activities subsists indefinitely.“

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