The sad and unfortunate rainfall that claimed the lives of four students of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, (ATBU) when a pedestrian bridge collapsed will not be forgotten in a hurry by staff and students of the institution. Beatrice Gondyi writes.
The collapsed bridge had continued to generate comments from both private and public individuals who were touched by the incident. The tragedy had occurred while the four students were returning from night prep.
The heavy downpour, that fateful Monday lasted for hours till late in the evening, and caught many of the students who were still on campus at the time unawares. It was when the rain subsided, that some of them decided to rush back to their hostels, but sadly some of them were not destined to make it alive.
An eyewitness recounting the painful event, said the incident occurred around 11:45 pm in the night due to the volume of traffic on the bridge. Unaware of any danger, some of the students were taking selfies when the bridge gave way.
The eyewitness described the heartrending cries of those that drowned and those that jumped into the water to save them as better left to the imagination.
One of the students who simply gave her name as Pollum said she spent several days having nightmares of the incident and she kept recalling the futile efforts of those that tried to save the drowning students.
Most of the students however blamed the school management over the alleged negligence and failure to heed their calls for a better bridge, a good road network.
A student, Musa Mohamed, who spoke with our correspondent said, “The university is faraway from Bauchi town, the place is still a bush. We have bad roads and we see wild animals every day.
We Have no fence and the security is poor. “
Speaking on the bridge collapse, Musa said, “It was a sad experience the students will not want to have again; you see the river flows to the dam and it will take God’s grace to survive that dam.
“Our school looks like a bush but I believe with time, development will come to the area and the issues of reptiles and wild animals everyday will be over.”
On its part, the management of ATBU said that all the students were accounted for, and none were missing following the bridge collapse in the institution.
The school management has nonetheless expressed sadness over the incident and declared 12 days of mourning. Addressing a press conference, the Vice Chancellor of the institution, Professor Muhammad Ahmad AbdulAzeez pointed out, “I regret to announce the death of four of our students. The unfortunate accident that led to the demise of the students occurred late last night (Tuesday) at Gubi campus of our university.
“While the full details of the occurrence are being awaited, the university senate, at an emergency meeting, has decided to close the school in honour of the students. The reopening date has been fixed for August 19.”
However, some of the management staff, who spoke to our correspondent, said the pedestrian bridge was constructed in 2010 to carry between 10 to 15 students at a time, but because of the rain, between 20 and 40 students tried to access the bridge at the same time.
Meanwhile, one of the victims of the incident has been identified as Salamat, a 200 level student studying Chemistry Education. Salamat was the only female, who died in the incident. Salamat’s sister had earlier on, gone on Twitter to ask for help in locating her sister after the bridge collapsed. She, however, later tweeted that her sister was among those who died.
In its reaction, the National Union Of Bauchi State Students (NUBASS) have requested the state governor, Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, to immediately come to the aid of the students by constructing the collapsed bridge at Gubi campus of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi.
National President of the Union, Comrade Ibrahim Hashimu Abdullahi, made the request when he led members of the union on a courtesy call to the governor at the Government House, Bauchi, where he appealed for the provision of health facilities and construction of boreholes in the university in order to alleviate the sufferings of the students.
In his response, Governor Bala Abdulkadir Mohammed, who spoke through the Speaker of the State House of Assembly, Abubakar Suleiman, appealed to members of the union to consider the recent collapse of the bridge as “an act of God” and assured them of government’s immediate action on their requests.
Receiving the state government officials at the council chambers of the university, the Vice Chancellor, Professor Mohammed Abdulaziz, expressed gratitude to the state government for its immediate action. The Vice Chancellor said the university management has constituted a high-powered committee to work out modalities towards averting the reoccurrence of the incident.
Adamu Ahmed Itas, the Student Union Government President in the university, described the state government’s intervention as a welcome development.
Also the residents of Gubi, where the University is situated, who spoke to our correspondent, also sympathised with the families of the victims and called on the university authorities to commence immediate action on the area which is prone to flooding, due to its proximity to the Gubi dam site.
Meanwhile the Governing Council of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi has constituted a seven-man committee to investigate the causes of the bridge collapse that killed three students and injured seven others.
The Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the Governing Council of ATBU, Bauchi, Ambassador Nimota Akanbi, at a Press Conference held at the Gubi Campus said, “The University has constituted a seven-man committee to carry out a thorough investigation on the causes of the incident, recommend ways to improve safety on the campuses, ways to avert a future occurrence and to submit its report a week from the date of the letter.”
Akanbi, who was flanked by the Vice Chancellor, Professor Muhammad Abdullazeez and other top management of the University, sympathized with parents, families and guardians of the deceased over the unfortunate incident.
“I assure you all that we will do honest, sincere and critical self-examination and appraisal as a preliminary road map to preventing future occurrence.
“Our immediate action is to reconstruct the bridge by using reputable engineering firms so as to bestow on the university a bridge of global standards that would withstand torrents of heavy downpour that are direct consequences of global climate change.”
Also, President Muhammadu Buhari has given a strong and stern warning to governing councils and management of all Federal Institutions of learning in the country, to take the safety of their students serious or be reprimanded for any eventuality.
The President gave the warning through a Presidential Assessment Committee which visited ATBU, Bauchi, to assess the collapse of a pedestrian bridge on a Friday and commiserate with the university community following the death of four students of the University from a collapsed metal bridge on a Tuesday.
The Committee, which was led by the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Education, Architect Sunny Echono, with the TETFund Executive Secretary, Professor Elias Suleiman Bogoro among others, later entered into a session with the management and governing council of ATBU, shortly after inspecting the collapsed bridge.
While addressing the Pro-Chancellor, Ambassador Nimota Akanbi and the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Muhammad Abdulazeez, Sunny Echono conveyed the condolence message from the President, saying that he was deeply touched by the unfortunate incident that led to the loss of lives.
He indicated, “Mr President was deeply touched and has given a firm directive that this (what happened at ATBU) is a wake-up call for all of us in the Education sector. He sent the message across to all the Governing Councils, Vice-Chancellors of Universities, Rectors of our Polytechnics, and Provosts of Colleges of Education to henceforth ensure that they prioritise the safety and welfare of our students.”
Echono further disclosed that based on an earlier on-the-spot assessment of the scene of the incident by officials from the Ministry including the University Technical Team that carried out physical measurement and assessments, the Committee would make recommendations to the President in order to address the immediate and projected needs of the university community.
The Permanent Secretary, therefore, called on the students of ATBU to remain calm, and assured them that safety measures will be taken before the date they are expected to resume.