The massive students protest that shut down activities at the University of Lagos, Akoka following the accidental electrocution that killed Oluchi Anekwe, a 300-level first-class student of Accounting, has raised pungent questions.
What are Unilag students protesting; is it alleged negligence or nonchalance of university authorities in not taking steps like doing structural repairs that could have prevented the electrocution incident. Or their outright wickedness in handling the incident such that Unilag students were incited by it.
On the other hand, are the protesting students who grounded varsity activities to a halt just over-reacting?
Oluchi Anekwe and her sister were returning from a church service Tuesday night September 8 when a high-tension wire fell on her. Oluchi particularly had entered her hostel, New Hall, through the neighbouring Eni Njoku Hall. She was walking out of the hostel when the live wire fell on her.
She died a few minutes after she was rushed to the Unilag medical centre, five minutes drive from the incident spot. Oluchi’s sister was unhurt. She raised an alarm for help that attracted other students.
But as early as 8.00am Wednesday It was gathered that angry students, who heard of Oluchi’s death shut both gates that led in and out of the university, calling on the Vice-Chancellor to address them.
Students were seen brandishing brooms and cudgels, some walking others driving around the campus with chants and songs of protest at the top of their voices. Policemen were drafted to the trouble spots to restore calm to the community.
Witnesses said Oluchi died before the doctors and nurses on duty could attend to her.
The Students’ Union President, Abiodun Martins, opined that Oluchi’s death could have been prevented if Unilag repaired and upgraded facilities on campus.
He said, “Oluchi, till her death, was a first-class student. While we condole with her family and friends, we say the event that led to her death is avoidable. We therefore call on concerned authorities to prevent a recurrence. We declare that academic activities are hereby suspended for today in honour of the departed soul.”
The VC, Prof. Rahamon Bello, later drove in with the university security officials to address the students in front of the student union building.
The VC, while appealing to the students not to aggravate the situation, promised that enquiries would be made into the matter by the university authorities, the police, and the electricity distribution company.
He said, “To the entire students of our institution, what happened was an accident. The wire that fell does not belong to the university. It serves the Onike area. We have communicated the electricity distribution company on the need to have their cables underground. All Unilag cables are under the ground.
“But there will be full enquiries into this, as the police and the state government will be involved. Let us not aggravate the issue as we do not want to lose any other life. Today has been declared as a day of mourning and no lecture will be holding.”
The VC delegated representatives of the university to visit and condole with the Anekwes on Wednesday evening at their Okota, Lagos home. Leading the delegation, the Dean of Students’ Affairs, Prof. Tunde Babawale, conveyed the institution’s condolence to the family, promising that inquiries would be made on the cause of Oluchi’s death.
There is really nobody else to blame than the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) which refused to respond to Unilag calls to repair their on-campus drooping poles and wires. May afflictions like this not rise a second time.
Oluchi Anekwe. Adieu.