If you are a Benson Idahosa University (BIU) student in Edo State, Nigeria, you know about the institution’s tense and chaotic atmosphere. Angry protests have erupted, destroying property while mournful students hold candlelight processions. Other students are fleeing the university in droves and returning home until the tension calms. But what is the root cause of this chaos?
To fully understand the cause of the turmoil, you have to know what exactly happened that led to the tragic death of Bruno Chigozie Ezeonye, a 21-year-old final-year student from the faculty of science at the university. His case has shed light on a concerning pattern of poor healthcare systems in many Nigerian tertiary institutions and pervasive medical negligence.
Bruno Chigozie and a tale of medical negligence
On May 22, 2023, final-year BIU students started a week-long series of events to celebrate their last days in school. The week, popularly tagged “final year week,” included a football match in which Bruno participated at the school’s Legacy Campus.
Citizen spoke to an eyewitness and friend, John*, a final-year student at the faculty of science, who shared his account of the incident that led to Bruno’s death.
The events that led to Bruno’s death
With a subdued voice and sad spirit, * John told us that “Bruno wasn’t feeling too well and was complaining that he was weak, but he still participated in the football match. During the match, he slumped and started convulsing. Doctors and other medical personnel arrived late to the football pitch. They tried to give him first aid, but to no avail. To make matters worse, the oxygen tank was empty, and the school could not use the ambulance due to a lack of fuel.
A private car had to transport Bruno to a nearby hospital (Faith Mediplex). When they got to the school gate, the security men on duty didn’t allow them to leave the school without a permit, and they had to call the Head of Life Campus before they could leave. Before they could get to Faith Mediplex, Bruno died. He was a very jovial and popular guy, and I can’t believe he is no longer with us”
Unfortunately, Bruno isn’t the first to die due to medical negligence at BIU. Two sources say the school’s healthcare facility has always been at an all-time low, with doctors and nurses “doing nothing” but “watch TV and chill in the clinic.”
They also alleged that a similar incident occurred in 2018, resulting in the unfortunate death of a student due to delayed medical attention. According to their account, students reacted by setting fire to the school’s clinic in response to this incident.
What are the authorities doing about it?
The day after, the school’s registrar circulated a memo announcing the immediate closure of the Legacy Campus. The management determined that this closure was necessary to look into Bruno’s death and repair the damages the protest caused.
The school made a statement on Bruno’s death. This was posted on their social media page. However, it quickly became controversial due to the claim that he was “promptly attended to by the medical doctor on duty.”
It was quickly taken down, and a new post was made, but it was noticed that the same claim was still made.
Unfortunately, there are more victims like Bruno
This incident might have happened at a private university, but Bruno isn’t the first victim of medical negligence and a lack of accountability across Nigeria’s higher institutions. Here are three victims of similar circumstances:
In 2015, Mayowa, a student at the University of Ibadan, was in a tightly packed common room with 100 or more students when he suddenly fainted. People called the Jaja clinic emergency hotline, which had promised to send an ambulance that never came.
His friend, Egbe, had to rush him to the clinic on a bike, or okada. He later died after nurses tried to resuscitate him.
On October 2, 2018, Austin, a University of Benin (UNIBEN) student, went to the health centre for medical attention. This was after discovering that he was experiencing hematuria, which is the presence of blood in the urine. He was referred to the university’s teaching hospital, and there was an attempt to get to the hospital via ambulance.
Unfortunately, the ambulance couldn’t go past the school gate without clearance. It took nearly 35 minutes for them to get one. When they arrived at the teaching hospital, Austin was left alone at the Accident and Emergency Ward for another 15 minutes without any doctor attending. He eventually died.
On January 28, 2023, a 22-year-old University of Calabar (UNICAL) student, Precious Mheneuter, fell ill in the hostel and was rushed to the school’s medical centre. She was denied medical care simply because she had no medical card. It was impossible to get a card. This was because the incident happened at 5 a.m. and the records office hadn’t opened yet.
She died two hours later at 7 a.m. Precious was later taken to the mortuary at 8 a.m. without the school informing her parents.
What actions must be taken to stop the trend of medical negligence?
From all indications, the authorities of higher institutions are not paying close attention to the medical needs of their students.
We are calling out all school authorities to ensure all medical facilities in schools are up and running. They should also discipline erring medical practitioners and remove bureaucratic systems in cases of emergency.
If you are aware of someone who has suffered from medical negligence, you may sue them and even receive compensation from the High Courts and the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria. Find out how to do it here.