On Saturday, aggrieved medical students of the Benue State University, Makurdi, deposited a coffin at the office of the Vice Chancellor, protesting the death of their fellow student - an incident that raised their suspicions.
Nicholas Itodo died in a car accident which some his friends and colleagues believe to have been deliberately caused by the deceased. They demanded answers from the university authorities as to why an excellent student was expelled at the clinical stage of depression. The Punch reports that the students obtained the coffin of their colleague from Benue State University Teaching Hospital mortuary and marched to the VC’s office, vowing not to leave until their grievances were resolved.
Prior to the fatal incident, Mr Itodo had received the news of his withdrawal due to failed resit of an exam, after spending some ten years in medical school. According to Daily Post that also interviewed Mr Itodo’s friends and classmates, Itodo got withdrawn over “poor performance” after resitting for a particular professional course for three years.
The protesting students link Mr Itodo’s death to his dismissal, arguing that the deceased drove himself recklessly to death. Over a hundred protesters caused traffic gridlock, made bonfire and blocked one lane of the Makurdi-Gboko highway with the coffin, showing symbolically that the action of the university led to the student’s death.
"He had been talking about it; that he wished he died a painless death, that the school had finished him,” Mr Itodo’s anonymous friend told The Punch, "There is nowhere in the world that a medical student is withdrawn after spending ten years."
According to his best friend, the deceased was heading to his uncle’s house in town, driving his black Honda Hennessy. While on the road, he saw a parked trailer and swerved off in an attempt to dodge. The car rammed into the road demarcation, hitting one passer-by. Both the driver, who was not wearing a seatbelt, and the passer-by died on the spot.
Another group of students, including best friend Prince Dekeh, have dismissed the reports of “suicide”. As a medical student, Itodo had at his disposal the necessary means to commit suicide not through a car accident. According to them, the deceased had been suffering from depression, and that was what prevented him from being fully alert in the traffic.
Friends describe Mr Itodo as not only as a brilliant medical student, but "a well-rounded human being," a graffiti artist, basketball player and church-goer.
Mr Dekeh spoke in the effect of endless wait without graduation: “One problem we can’t dispute is the fact that these students are not even motivated academically, bearing in mind that they don’t even know when they will graduate. This is a sad development that management has to urgently address."
The educational institution had been shut down for over four months because lecturers insisted that the state government must pay their salary up-to-date. The medical students have not been able to graduate for the past 13 years due to non-accreditation of the course.
The protesting undergraduates were calmed and dispelled by the policemen deployed to the scene, and normalcy was restored after the Vice Chancellor, Prof Charity Angya addressed the students.