Benue School of Health Technology Agasha (BSSHT) has been loomed by crisis recently with youths believed to be students of the institution calling for the removal of the Principal, Mrs Esther Menger, JP over alleged cases of non-accreditation and corruption which led to the state House of Assembly inviting the Principal and other persons for questioning.
Sequel to that, the embattled Principal in an interview with newsmen in Makurdi last week debunked all the issues raised against her by the protesters whom she tagged as hoodlums instigated by the Registrar of the School, Mr Clement Awuawe to unseat her because of clannishness.
She emphasized that the protest was not carried out by the real students but hoodlums orchestrated by the Registrar to cover up illegal fees he allegedly collected from unsuspecting students whom she said were mostly indigenes of the area.
Mrs Menger explained that the trouble started when she demanded to know the exact number of the legitimate students in the school.
But the Registrar, Mr Awuawe in his reaction while speaking with newsmen in Makurdi dismissed all the allegations levelled against him by the Principal. He said the students protested because the Principal collected thirty five thousand naira each from over ninety students but did not index them. Another reason for the protest he said was the non- accreditation of departments in the school which made it impossible for the students to graduate.
Principal’s side of the story:
According to Mrs Menger JP, her appointment as BSSHT sustantive Principal on the 14th February, 2018 by Governor Samuel Ortom was due to the fact that she was the most qualified and Senior staff of the institution and before her elevation to the position of Principal from Head of Community Health Department, the school was headed by people who were not professionals, hence the challenges like non-accreditation and other issues which she met on ground.
“His Excellency the Executive Governor of Benue state, Dr Samuel Ortom (Nyamkyume i Nzorov) gave me this appointment on the 14th of February, 2018. It was because people who were running that school before were not professionals. I’m a professional a Primary Health Care Tutor, a Nurse and Midwife, a Public Health Nurse, CHO and I have BSc in Health Education. When the time for this appointment came, they requested for files, the most Senior person and those that were capable to handle the school. So he gave me that opportunity. Before I resumed that office, the school had lost accreditation for five to six years. The students were still being admitted in these cadres that are still on ground which are Environmental Health, Medical Lab and Community Health. The Community Health is in two ways; two cadres you have Diploma students that have spent three years and then you have the certificate that deals with just two years which are also known as the J-CHEW. So when he gave me this appointment, he supported, then the Commissioner of Health was Dr Mrs Ojabo. He facilitated the accreditation through her by provision of those things that were lacking in the school including employment of the staff which was the most difficult aspect of it because the staff were not there on ground. I want to be specific on the issue of Community Health because Community Health has been in existence starting from Makurdi to that place. So he employed the six Primary Health Tutors as demanded by the Community Health Practitioners Registration Board of Nigeria with head office in Abuja, after which we also made sure that offices of those staff were also furnished because it was also the criteria that the staff would not only be employed but offices would be furnished before they would come for inspection which the Governor did, he gave money in that respect. So they came and inspected. After inspection they gave partial accreditation which was to last for just two years and they would be called back to come again to see other things that were left undone that those things should be done. They said for the fact that other things were not on ground would not stop them from giving the partial accreditation and so they gave. There have been improvement in so many areas we are working on in the school. So that’s how far. But the issue of other two Departments is still there: Environmental and the Medical Lab. That one the staff are there, what is left out is the infrastructure. The infrastructure is not there but the staff are there. We just need more like Lab Scientists and Environmental Health Tutors like two because at the time the Governor said they should employ staff for the school, they employed a lot of staff which was in 2017. So many of the staff in this other areas are there. For the Primary Health Care, it is very complete we don’t have any problem as regards that. Few issues like Hostel accommodation is what is still pending which is very crucial as when they come next, they would have loved that these students are there in the hostel. The hostel has already been in progress, what is left is just the completion of the Hostels which one will be for the boys and one will be for the girls. The female Hostel is 98% completed.
Asked what caused the crisis despite her laudable efforts, Mrs Menger JP said, “the crises were ignited by somebody because even as much as I said, I did not cover all….. I was talking about other departments not getting accreditation; Environmental Health Department, we still graduated the students before the governor gave me appointment to become the Principal of BSSHT, this Environmental Health students would go for their final exams in Osun state. So when I became the Principal, I said the distance was too far. I now sourced where they would be taking their exams here. I taught as a Lecturer with the NKST College of Health Technology Mkar where I left for this place, so I still maintain a good relationship with them and before I left that place, we had accreditation in Environmental Health so I went to them. They agreed that if I have students in the final year I should bring them so tha they would graduate them. I have a sister who owns a school in Gboko, Ransome Kuti College of Health Technology at Akaajime. I went to her to be sure so that that time I don’t have issue of whether at last we have decided that it is no longer for us to accommodate your students. All of them agreed. So where to go is now my decision. This decision was still made on the fact that the course; Environment is not too high. So the students are no longer going to Osun state. I can dash to Gboko anytime to see them. It is very unfortunate that this group of students were among the hoodlums that were protesting at the gate. When the Commissioner got there, they were like they had not got their indexing, they had not got that, and their indexing was ready. The only problem that the HOD was to go in there when he was informed to bring the list of the students we indexed, they refused to open the gate until the Commissioner had to go there. I told the Commissioner I have indexed the students, the list is ready. They even want the students to go down, it is because the gate is locked, that is why the HOD cannot have access to her names to go with it to be sure that it Corresponds with what they have there. So when the Commissioner sent people there, they opened the gate. Now the HOD went in there, took the names, went to Gboko, got the list, came down and met here. We went to the Commissioner and told him that those people protesting at the gate are hoodlums they, were not uniforms. Those people from the local community were mobilized there to do that. So when I gave him the list, he said the students were complaining that they we’re not indexed, I said look at the list…
At this juncture, Mrs Menger went straight to the main issue on ground, “when I became the Principal, I started having issues with the Registrar. We sell forms at the Ministry, after we had finished selling forms at the Ministry, it was at the peak of the crisis between the Fulanis and the community there, so a directive was from the Governor that academic activities be suspended temporarily but meanwhile, the Registrar is an indigene of Agasha so when I returned to Makurdi, he continued to sell forms.
“At the Ministry, we sell forms using POS, he was just collecting money because when he came, he said he is the one who is supposed to be doing admission, that was in 2017. So when they appointed me the principal of the school, I was like let me watch and see what was going to happen so I allowed him to continue but in ideal situation, is it the Registrar that is supposed to be responsible for the conduct of common entrance and admission in any institution? NO. It is the work of the Vice Principal Academic or examination members but in this case, the Registrar Mr. Awuawe was doing admission, collecting excess money.
Mrs. Menger further explained that the irregularities at the school caused by the Registrar attracted the attention of the Benue State House of Assembly which prompted them to investigate. She said “the members heard of this and sent their secretary on health and he went there quietly and the Secretary also being a young man too, he disguised and went there as a candidate so the Registrar didn’t know.
“So he went to the office, I came to submit my form and the Registrar told the House of Assembly member that he was going to pay the sum of two thousand naira and when the Assembly member questioned the fee for the submission of form, the Registrar sent him out of his office”. Mrs. Menger said.
According to the principal, the house of Assembly member still went to the school on the day of the conduct of examination “they had already heard what was happening so when he got there, the Registrar mobilized people to still collect various sums of money from students.
“I was aware of those monies that day because the Registrar has said he would collect money but I told him that it is not correct when the candidates have already paid for examination and the Ministry has given enough money to conduct exams so there is no need. We have sufficient money to conduct that exams but Mr Awuawe gave a deaf ear to my explanations”.
Mrs. Menger also explained that she called on the Director in the ministry of health for intervention. “I called a Director and informed him of this problem and I pleaded with him to help me and intervene in the case, you people have given us enough money to conduct the common entrance and I have given this money to the Registrar and he is still insisting on collecting money from the students. The Director called him and told him not to but he went ahead collecting money from students.
“The next thing he told me was I and Bursar should be in Makurdi that the time this thing was happening, we did not know then he will do what he wanted to do because he is an indigene. In fact, if they come asking I should tell the person to ask him. I shouldn’t worry that I am not part of it, that I am too afraid and that we should stay in our offices that there was nothing happening. The Secretary of the committee on health was there”.
The Principal said that when the Secretary House Committee on health concluded his investigation and came to her, she now sent for Registrar, Mr Awuawe and told him,”the Secretary brought his report to me and said Madam, we have received our report and this is what we have seen. I told him sit there and I will send for the person responsible for that to come because he has earlier on told me that if there is anything concerning that, he will answer.
“So when he came, the Secretary started presenting the complaint to the Registrar and Mr Awuawe interrupted him saying that young man I don’t even know your identity and I don’t know what is wrong with the principal that she is entertaining who she did not know. For me, I am going to do what I want, if you want, go to hell. Mr Awuawe replied house of Assembly member. He bounced my office and left”.
“At the end of it all, I ended up in the Benue state House of Assembly and he was always afraid of going to that house of Assembly. I was given a query by the former commissioner for health and human services , Dr Mrs Ojaboh for not doing the work I am assigned to do and in turn, I gave him to answer which he admitted selling extra forms in the school amounting to the tune of four hundred and thirty-four thousand, three hundred naira which he collected without the use of POS. He said that the school is their own and the money is their ‘Atuur’ (okra) and you ‘Kparev’ Should not come and be dictating to us.
“He continued to admit until the number stipulated for Diploma classes was over. In the diploma class, you have to admit seventy five while the certificate class of two years is fifty. He continued to do admission at the end of semester, another second semester and the classes were highly populated especially in the issue of diploma classes and that was the Genesis of the over population in that school”.
” The same thing happened in 2019. The most recent is even the worst of all. Up till today as I speak, I can not tell you exactly the number of students in that class. What I decided to do that resulted into the hoodlums at the gate (because they are not my students), they are not my students, they are indigenes there whom he admitted wrongly in that place, took money from them without using the POS, took money from them without giving the government the twenty-five percent, without giving the Ministry ten percent of which they take from the admission of students, he now mobilized them. Mobilizing them because I now said that I must find out who my legitimate students are. My legitimate students in the sense that there will be proper documentation. Bring your receipts, bring your letter of admission, all that you have paid because he collected all these money. He sold admission forms, he gets money, he collects interview, he does everything monetary form and then he goes on to collect the real fee the students are supposed to pay. Most of them are his people in that place.
“So when I now said that let me know the students I have through this documentation, that was where the issue of hoodlums came because he is the Deputy Registrar admin (she pointed at the man who was with her during interview) So I asked him to put up a notice. You are starting documentation from this day to this day and it was that very day of Monday that the documentation was to start the hoodlums started. He ignited because he has their money and he knows. How do I know he has their money? There are a lot of records here with me”.
During semester, I said they should do clearance in his unit. Many of them have given him money. I was not even able to get all the information I needed from the students. I have known that he collects money from the students. I said that before you go in for exams, you write a letter of undertaking as when you are coming to pay and where is the money? There are so many letters that are here. Some that he has even given the sponsored bank account, they paid directly into his personal account (look at one of the samples, just one of them). So they wrote. That was where I began to understand what was really on ground, I gave so so to Mr Awuawe and many of them are indigenes of that place and they are the hoodlums he mobilized so that they will not now go and ask him of the money. He is thinking of eating the money, so that is the genesis of what he is talking about there.
“You collected this money and then, you are now saying that the principal should be doing this, be doing that, how can the principal do that? Even the government it is the little support of the twenty-five percent we give that it should add and make up things for us. Is it not so? You collect this money and eat it.
” Mr Awuawe because he is an indigene of that place, he is trying to have an upper hand over me and not only having an upper hand over me, he is also spoiling my name and then even putting my name in the mud. That is the genesis of what you saw there. There should be no documentation because it will expose him so they locked the gate”. Mrs Menger said
The Principal also disclosed that she had created a website for admission and it stopped the Registrar from accessing funds and it was one of the things generating heat in the school.
“It is one of those things causing the heat because these are the times he makes a lot of money from unsuspecting students. The worst aspect is that he is not a professional because he studied English Language and he is in a professional school but he doesn’t want any professionals who are the genuine professionals to be part of whatever he does. Get the HODs and Exams Officer he says no, get the VP who is a professional he says no. So this is what is even causing the heat that I have stopped him from generating funds, getting excess funds because admission from people can earn with fifty thousan (50,000), sixty thousand (60,000) or people will come complaining, I gave…, I gave that one, I don’t want to talk about it because there is no evidence to that effect. I just heard it but now it has been brought under contol so there is nothing of such. If for any reason you find yourself with him and he gives you one of these old forms that he has produced and you bring it, I say no, we are selling on the website and it was kept under the strict supervision of the Director of Public Health until we started the admission process. With the VP Academic and the Deputy Registrar here, everything went on very well. As at now, we have no issues, we are mostly supervised by the Commissioner, the PS, Director and the Boss. So it was very successful.
Reacting to their alleged resistance of a planned visit by the Benue state House of Assembly Committe to the school to investigate the crisis, the Principal said, “in fact, the issue of stopping the visit is not even in line with the issue of the hoodlums at the gate because the issue of oversight visit started in September the Hoodlums started their something on the 5th of October, so it is not going to the same line with what we are trying to say. Like almost a month gap that they applied to inform to come to the school, I’m not in charge of the school, they put me there, people are watching. Just like you have a home, you have a wife, somebody just dash the wife every time, is it right? If something happens and they ask me, you receive visitors and now this is what has happened and we were not aware you are receiving visitors. This is just the bone of contention. Tell us you want to go to the school of Health Technology because to me, I am supervising that. This is the simple thing, this has no linkage at all with the protest because this their letter they wrote was on the 6th of September, the hoodlums did their own this thing on the 5th of October after we had finished communication, so there is no linkage at all. Tell us you want to go to Agasha we will not prevent you even if any of the Directors is not going, anybody can be appointed. These people; very important visitors are going to our school, go there and see what is happening there, be with the Principal. This was just it. Do you understand? So it was not preventing, it was like let us know you are going to a facility where we are supervising.
When Mrs Menger JP was asked if she had reported the alleged excesses of the Registrar to the Ministry of Health, she replied, “I reported it severally to the Ministry and the Director was sent there to have meeting with us. He tried to settle it amicably but the most important thing is that I am from that place and nobody can stop me. That is just it.
The Registrar’s defence:
When the Registrar of BSSHT Agasha, Mr Clement Terwase Awauwe was contacted to explain what he knew about the crisis that took place in the school and the accusations against him, he said, ” on the 2nd of October, all of us were in the school to attend to our normal duties, only to discover that the students had blocked the gate to the school, there were a lot of placards. They were very vehement in their argument with us when we wanted to know what was going on, they told us they had two major problems that the school management had to attend to: the first one they mentioned was the issue of indexing, that they were not indexed. They showed that they paid thirty five thousand naira (N35,000) to the Bursar and she gave them that paper, the piece of paper contained the amount. Another one is refusal of the government to accredit their departments that we are fully aware especially the departments of Environmental Health and that of Medical Laboratory. It has been long, students have been passing out wifhout, graduating there. That of Community Health, the partial one we got expired last March so it has been their concern. In fact, they couldn’t give us attention to control them so some of us had to go back. They were calling on the Principal to come and explain to them what was actually the problem and the protest persisted for a complete week without the Principal coming to address the students. It was the Honourable Commissioner and NUBESS that intervened. That day, NUBESS came, the Honourable Commissioner came first to discuss with the students, they did their own presentation, they gave them everything they required. Their emphasis was on the issue of indexing and accreditation. Then, before the Honourable Commissioner, they also mentioned the issue of facilities in the school as simple as toiletries and the rest. So the Commissioner now collected what they wrote and went back to Makurdi. Then, later NUBESS came and had a discussion with the students. That one I wasn’t around so I don’t know they discussed. But the last time they came, NUBESS insisted we should also be there with the Representative of the Commissioner. So we discussed with NUBESS President and he pleaded with them that now they have taken it up this issue with the Honourable Commissioner and he promised to make sure that all the students’ requests are attended to. After a lot of argument, the students gave the keys to the NUBESS President who gave it to the Representative of the Commissioner, he now opened the gate. That is exactly what happened.
Then some few days after, this one I only heard it over the Radio that a motion was moved by a Representative of the area, Guma Constituency to see into what actually happened in that school that led to the protest. This one was live because the Radio reported very well, that person who seconded the motion who also doubled as Chairman Assembly Committee on Health raised alarm that he wrote to the school asking for permission to visit to know what was going on and the Principal replied him that PS said before anybody goes to that school for any oversight, such a person should pass through the Ministry. So when the issues were raised, they debated and later summoned the PS and the Principal to appear. The outcome I don’t know because the Principal didn’t mention anything to me, nobody has informed me about what transpired there. Few days back, we learnt that the state government had set up a Committee headed by Prof. Tony Ijohor to investigate and come up with what actually led to the students’ protest. That one we are yet to hear any information concerning how they want to handle it. But we know that it is not a hidden thing, as soon as we appear and do our accreditation, you people will also hear from us. So that is what took place.
Responding to the allegations that he over admitted students and some people paid school fees directly to him and those who were not given the receipts of the school and were denied being students of that school for not being registered became angry and they were the ones protesting, the Registrar said, “as soon as I have finished admission which is also jointly done by all the management staff because everything I do, I have to present to them for ratification. So once it is done, issue of indexing becomes the responsibility of the Principal, the Bursar and the HOD Community Health. For now, this is the only department that is doing the issue of indexing because these other departments, until they go to another school, whatever they do is in that school. So the issue of over admission does not arise because I have evidence to prove that we did this thing together, the Principal endorsed I endorsed. The students were three hundred and something, those in Community Health: One hundred and fifteen (15), Fifty (50) in Diploma and Community Health are the only areas we are indexing. So it was the responsibility of the Principal and the HOD to determine who is indexed and who is not indexed. The issue of paying school fees before indexing does not even arise here. Once somebody has not paid, such a person will not be indexed. That is her own condition accepted, but the question now is why do you have to collect money from those who are not due to be indexed? That is the bone of contention. Those whom their money was genuinely collected, they were indexed, 75 Community Health, 50, Certificate in Community Health. The people who were protesting were those who were not indexed, it was the people whose thirty five thousand (35,000) was collected without indexing them. These were the people that were making noise there. So this thing is not the issue of somebody doing over admission. I was in Kano when they collected their money that they were going to index them but nobody indexed them, that’s why they were protesting. They talked about school fees, if they have evidence of school fees collection fine, I stand to defend it because there is no way you will collect some body’s money up to ninety thousand naira (N90,000) without single evidence to prove, even the parents will not accept it.
This case was taken to EFCC and I went there, they brought what the students wrote. You know, when I was sick, it was an opportunity for them to manipulate things, I just laughed. Students wrote: they gave ninety thousand, I gave Wuawe 90,000, I gave this one 90,000 and this one will say… Do you know that when we went to EFCC, they presented this thing that that is what led to the non-indexing of the students, that thing doesn’t have anything to do with the indexing of the students. Students there would have not talked if their N35,000 was not collected. That money is much because I think part of them were the Environmental students, those ones they indexed them and they are already there. But then, what about those ones in Community Health? About ninety something of them! Now, our accreditation has expired, you cannot index again and in Community Health you cannot take students to another school as far as in Nigeria here. If you take, they will close your school. The only question is where are we taking them now? I was reliably informed that, even those failed who pre-matriculation exams were indexed, leaving those who passed very well. So the issue of Nongolism doesn’t arise o! Those students who were protesting were not t only Nongov students because the other students were Idoma, Igede, zone A, everywhere. How many Nongov are there?
Fielding questions in respect to his encounter with an Assembly young man who allegedly disguised as a student, Mr Awuawe said,
“That person didn’ t disguise himself to be a student. He introduced himself as the Secretary of the Assembly Committe on Health and I knew him before; one tall Idoma guy, I knew him before. What was our argument is, we didn’t know you very well, can you identify yourself? That one is normal anyway, that was why the guy now burst! But let me tell you, that was shortly after I fell sick, they now went to the Assembly and said I am collecting money. Principal was there, everybody was there. How would I be collecting money when you Principal is not aware of it and you are the head of the school, you sat there and watched Awuawe doing what he wants to do, could you believe that?
But when the Registrar was told about the backing he was said to have as son of the soil, he said ” you see how people can lie? Backing? When the Ministry is there? I’m a staff of the Ministry of Health. The Commissioner is there, the PS is there, they have the right on me, that is not a community school, this is a government school. If the Commissioner cannot handle me, the PS cannot handle me, they will take me to the Governor and say, it is your own brother that is spoiling the school. Let them bring evidence to the Governor. Commissioner can give Governor a call, let us not run away from reality. Do you know that I told somebody all of us are involved in this? If the Principal collected N35,000 from students, let us not run away from all these, all these ones we are bringing are not the issues at stake. Let us face the reality that we committed an error, so let us tender apology and look for a way forward. That is what I want to tell the Committee.
Principal, you are the Head of the school, if Awuawe is not doing the right thing, you will petition him in the Ministry and it will be looked into. Let them bring the petition that they petitioned me in the Ministry.