After he had spent about eight years on his academic sojourn at the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomoso, Oyo State, the parents of Benard Asefon and his siblings expected him to return home before embarking on the mandatory one-year National Youth Service scheme, The PUNCH reports.
However, sadly, that expectation was cut short in a cruel manner. Death took away Ashefon.
The late student, who studied Animal Nutrition and Biotechnology, was said to have died after an electric pole fell on a septic tank which caved in and he sank into the pit.
Some of his colleagues told our correspondent that the deceased climbed a ladder to change his hostel’s switch on a nearby electric pole. The changeover switch at the hostel where he had lived for eight years was said to be faulty and he decided to rectify it for the occupants to enjoy electricity.
One of the student who lived near the hospital and spoke on condition of anonymity said,” I heard that he lived in the hostel since his pre-degree programme days. There was electricity supply in the area but the hostel was in darkness. He thus decided to climb the pole to change the switch for them to have electricity. He had changed the power source and I heard that he jumped down from the pole. I don’t know what made him to jump down, maybe the ladder shifted and he jumped off in order not to fall. But he landed on a septic tank beside the fence, the cover broke and he fell inside.
“The thing is that nobody immediately saw what happened to him. It was after a while that some people knew what happened to him. How to pull him out of the pit became difficult. They placed a ladder inside the tank but he was said to have been too weak to climb and come out. Somebody later went inside and brought him out and he was taken to the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital. They said he was not attended to at the hospital and that was what was why students when on the rampage the following day.”
The Registrar of the university, Dr Kayode Ogunleye, in a statement announcing the death, said that the student didn’t die on campus contrary to the belief in some quarters.
He said, “It has just come to the notice of the university management that a 500-level graduating student of the Department of Animal Nutrition and Biotechnology Asefon Nifemi Benard, died off-campus yesterday, April 22, 2021.
“In sympathy with the student, friends and family, the university management hereby declared today, Friday April 23, 2021 as lecture free-day, while any lectures or tests that might have been conducted earlier today will be declared null and void.
“Management further appeals to students not to take laws into their hands. Appropriate steps will be taken to further get the facts surrounding the death of the students. Once again, management commiserates with the students, family and friends of the deceased. Meanwhile, the university administration has taken steps to take care of the burial of the deceased and convey his corpse to the family.”
Speaking with our correspondent, the late student’s father, Mayomi, said he was unaware of what happened to his son when he received a telephone call from the Chaplain of St. Thomas More Catholic Chaplaincy, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, Rev. Fr. Joseph Ogundipe. The cleric delivered the devastating message to the father. Saturday PUNCH gathered that the news left him brokenhearted and he sobbed uncontrollably. Members of his family also became inconsolable when the news was broken to them.
The father later summoned courage to have his son’s corpse brought home for burial when the cleric condoled with the family. Pained by the alleged negligence and indifference displayed by the doctor on duty the day he was taken to the hospital, the late student’s colleagues protested on the streets of Ogbomoso and later went to the teaching hospital where they vandalised vehicles parked on the premises.
The doctor on duty the day the late student was rushed to the hospital reportedly asked for the Dean of Student Affairs, Dr. Hashim Ige. He allegedly told the students who brought the student to the Accident and Emergency Unit that there was no oxygen. Our correspondent gathered that he was later rushed to the Bowen University Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso. Though it was too late by the time he was taken there, the way he was attended to was said to have pleased the angry students. They later dropped his corpse there having realised he was dead and mobilised to the campus.
Though the school management declared a lecture free-day to mourn the student, the students were not assuaged and thus vandalised the university’s clinic before security agents moved in to restore peace. Colleagues, church members and clerics were in attendance the day the remains of the student were interred.
The grieving father told our correspondent that though the death caused him great pain, he was proud of his son because he did not bring shame to the family. He said as a Catholic, he had accepted his fate and would not question his creator because the “the Lord giveth and He taketh.’’
Dwelling on how the news was broken to him, the distraught father said, “I was called by the Chaplain of St. Thomas More Catholic Chaplaincy, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, Rev. Fr. Joseph Ogundipe. We are Catholic. He told me what happened and the next thing I wanted to do. I told them to bring his corpse home for burial. I made arrangements for a burial place. His corpse was brought and he was buried the second day.
“To say his mother was devastated is an understatement. I am just trying to remain strong so that my family will not be more badly affected than this. It had not been easy at all. He had completed the clearance in the school and we were expected that he would return home before the end of April after spending eight years in Ogbomoso. But God knows best. He was a committed member of the church. Even the Bishop of Catholic Diocese of Oyo, Most Reverend Emmanuel Badejo visited us to commiserate with us and pray for us. I called his friend who also lived in the same hostel with him for eight years. He spent eight years at LAUTECH. He entered through pre-degree. His course was supposed to be five years, but incessant strikes prolonged the duration of the course. COVID-19 lockdown also wasted almost one year but he eventually completed the programme and it sad the way the whole thing ended.
“I spoke with his friend and others and they told me the same story that he fell from an electric pole into a ditch. Although the death of someone close is always sad, I am happy that he was not a cult member or an armed robber. He died but he didn’t soil the name of the family. More than 500 people have come to commiserate with us in Akure since his death. We are based in Akure though I am from Oka Akoko, Ondo State.’’
He said his late son was close to the head of his department and the chaplain, adding that the two had been in constant touch with him since the incident occurred on April 22.
Mayomi added, “His death was purely an accident and I believe it was his time to go. So we bless the name of the Lord. He always told me a day ahead if he wanted to travel.’’ Reverend Father Ogundipe, told our correspondent that the late student was a good Christian and an active member in the church. He added that the church was pained by the loss, adding that Reverend Badejo was also among those who visited the family to commiserate with them.
The chaplain stated, “Bernard was a good young man from a good home. He was very lively and always did things to make others comfortable. I had known him for five years. He was close to me but unfortunately, death snatched him from us. His set did their thanksgiving service in the church on March 7 after completing their programmes at the university. He met me after that and told me that he was planning to go into politics to teach others about service to the people and not using position for personal enrichment. I realise that he was always positive and ready to do something for others. His father even said so and as a Catholic, the father said he could have died the same day even if he was at home. It has not been easy but we thank God for their faith in Christ.’’
He added that students protested against his death because they accused the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital of negligence, but the doctors said that he was brought dead to the hospital. He further said that Asefon was taken to the Bowen Teaching Hospital, Ogbomoso from the LAUTECH Teaching Hospital and the hospital attended to him promptly though it was too late.
He said, “He climbed a pole to change the source of electricity supply to the hostel because the hostel doesn’t have a changeover switch. After doing that, he jumped down and landed on a septic tank and sank into the pit. Nobody saw him, but a guy named ThankGod saw him and raised the alarm. They struggled to rescue him for almost 20 minutes. A Good Samaritan, an okada rider, saw how they were making efforts to rescue him and he volunteered to enter the pit. They tied a rope around his waist and he jumped inside to bring him out.
“He was cleaned up and was saying, ‘ please, save my life.’ He walked a bit and still able to talk. Many things happened and we heard that they couldn’t get an ambulance from the school to take him to the hospital on time. The students said the doctor on duty was not around but it was another doctor who saw them and rushed to attend to them. That doctor, they said, had obviously seen that he could not make it and asked to see the Dean of Students’ Affairs.
“By the time they got through to the DSA, they said it was then he told him that they did not have oxygen to support him to breathe. The students knew it was a bad case but they wanted him to be attended to and probably he could still make it. It was after that they knew there was no oxygen that they took him to Bowen Teaching Hospital and they attended to him promptly but after about three minutes, they told them that he had passed away.”
He said there had been cases of students’ death in the university but that of Asefon shook the university. He added, “ The message we keep passing to our students who are medical students is that their main duty is to save lives. But it must be stated that the school was not at fault. The university came to offset the expenses. They paid for the mortician, casket and other things. The chaplaincy had paid but they refunded us. The Dean of Students’ Affairs despite observing Ramadan did very well.
“I will tell the students and everybody again like the bishop always says that ‘in every aspect of our life, there are inherent dangers.’ The degree of the dangers differs. We tell them that they should remember their parents, the agony they would be thrown into if they die. If the owner of the hostel or the caretaker had installed a switch there, there would be no need to climb the pole. If he didn’t climb, maybe he might not have died. But there is nothing we can do to bring him back to life and we pray God will uphold the family.’’
The Head of Department, Prof. Vincent Ashaolu, who supervised Asefon’s final year project, described him as a honest and dependable person.
Ashaolu said, “He was like my adopted son. I supervised his project. If one gave him an assignment, one could go to bed and be sure that the assignment would be perfectly well. He knew what he wanted and he was going for it. He was somebody any parent would be proud to have as son. Though he was not a genius, he was an above average student and dependable. He was so much liked by his colleagues. His death almost threw the campus into turmoil. His colleagues are working to do something at the department in his memory so that anybody who comes there later would know that one Asefon was there.’’