The untold story of ATBU bridge collapse: students groan, blame management for ignoring distress calls, repeated appeals to repair bridge

The tragic incident that claims the lives of three students of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi would have been averted had the school authorities acted urgently on distress calls and listened to the consistent cries of students regarding the situation of the metal bridge that collapses; WikkiTimes’ investigation has uncovered.

Described as bookworm by her colleagues and known for her resilience in solving ‘complex assignments’, Salamat Aliyu Akpaojo, a 200 level student studying Chemistry Education left the students’ hostel of the University for Classroom in preparation for her forthcoming examination.

Salamat had no idea that she was just counting hours to bequeath the ephemeral world despite the enthusiasm she had to finish the exams and vacate for her home in far away Kogi state as described by her colleagues.

Late Salamat

The tragic incident of Monday, August 5, 2019, that cuts the life of Salamat and 2 other students of the institution will remain ‎indelible in the memories of not only the parents of the victims, but the entire students and the institution’s community as a whole.

Some students of the University who spoke to this medium narrated how they put several calls to the management of the university to come to their aid when the collapsed roared its head at about 11pm, but their calls were ignored.

We’ve complaint about the collapsed bridge—SUG

The metal bridge that was constructed in 2015 as narrated by many students was visibly weak and the tragedy that ensued was eminent “in view of the cracks on the metal that was glaring”, says Saidu Atang.

The President of the students’ Union Government Comrade Mohammed Nazeer Ahmad also confirmed to this Medium that the union has written several letters calling on the attention of the management about the situation of the bridge.

Shoes of the drowned students

“That bridge that we are talking about has been faulty for long, you understand? We have lobbied the school management, pressured them to repair it but they could not repair it until the students union repaired it about five days ago, and then came the incident” said Comrade Mohammed Sagir Ahmad.

Saidu Atang also reiterated what the SUG President has said, “we have complained to the management of the institution on the state of the bridge. “I also learnt that the management never found it worthy to listen to the repeated calls of students to address the concerns.”

Many students who exclusively spoke to WikkiTimes narrated how the bridge indicated signs of collapse, citing cracks on the metal as evidence.

On what actually happened, Ibrahim, another student explained that, “last night, students came to the school to read, as they were going back to the hostel because of the weak nature of the bridge, it could not carry the weight of some of them and so it collapses while they were crossing the bridge.”

“Now that I am talking to you, there are some of our colleagues that are still missing, we have to make a head count to ascertain the number of students that were affected, a lot of them, their phone numbers are not going through, we can’t reach them, we have to do a head count so that every student can be accounted for before we can go further”, the visibly angry student was captured as saying.

Another student who pledged anonymity recalled that, “it was 11 to 12 in the night, we were coming from the school and it happened that the first set of the group, it was about raining, they were rushing to go to their hostel, suddenly, the bridge collapsed with them. “So, fortunately some of them were rescued by some of the students that know how to swim, but some could not be rescued, so it was then that we advised the rest of our colleagues to follow the other side of the road to the hostel.

Emergency calls ignored

Aliyu Adamu a 200 level student narrated how they placed several calls to the security unit of the university informing them of the incident and requested their emergency response—a call he says fell on deaf ears.

“I and my friend put several calls to the security office of the university, I was shouting and crying on top of my voice for them to know that it was a serious issue, so that they will come to our aid, and help us rescue our mates, but they didn’t respond even when they heard us crying”.

Another student who requested his name concealed told this medium how the Students’ Union Leader, the SUG president, Comrade Mohammed Nazeer Ahmad also ignored the students’ urgent needs to come to their aid. “Surprisingly, even the SUG President who is supposed to be more proactive when it comes to students’ matters told us that it was late, that he can’t do anything at that time since it was already 11pm”.

All emergency calls and cries by the students were ignored “at a very critical time—leaving us to resign to our fate and the mercy of our creator” another student has said.

Angry students staged protest, demands VC’s address—something they never got

The collapsed bridged that claims the lives of the students have raised dust, ignited old wounds and triggered protest at the University’s permanent side in Gubi Village.

The protesting students who blocked the entrance of the new campus demanded an explanation from the Vice Chancellor.

One of them, Mohammed Idris Ibrahim said, “we are protesting due to what happened last night, we have lost some of our colleagues, we are aggrieved because up to now there is no anyone from the school management that has come out to address us, no anyone, not even the VC. “So we are angry that there is no security in the school, we are suffering, and we need to see the VC right now. “He is supposed to address us; he is here because of us.”

Ibrahim revealed that the plights of the students have been neglected for long, insisting that they lack adequate facilities in the university.

“That bridge has been dilapidated for long, the strength of the bridge is weak and the management knew about it, it doesn’t have the capacity to carry the weight of the thousands of the students crossing it daily. “It collapsed because it has become weak, and lives were lost. “Now we want the VC to come and talk to us, he is our leader and a leader ‎must address his subjects, every life matters, these people that died are not chickens, they are not goats, they are human beings, it could have been me, it could have been anybody here”, he added angrily. 

The Collapsed metal bridge

The protesting students said the essence of the protest was to register their displeasure on how the management of the university keeps ignoring their demand to construct a standard bridge on the pedestrian road, being the only bridge that connects the students’ hostels to classrooms.

The angry students never got any representatives from the school management to address them, let alone their VC; instead, heavily armed mobile Police were send to cordoned off the entrance of the university and chase the students out of the campus.

NANS also blames the school authorities

The National Association of Nigerian Students, like the Students’ Union Government has also blamed the management of the University, saying the poor relationship between the school and the SUG regarding the needs of students was quite worrying.

The National President of the Association, Comrade Danielson Gbamidele Akpan while addressing a press conference on Friday in Bauchi said that the ugly incident could have been avoided if the management of the institution had responded to several complaints regarding the deplorable condition of the bridge by the students’ union. 

“We will start by condemning the poor relationship between the management and the students’ union of ATBU Bauchi. “The facts revealed that the students’ union had written letters ‎telling the management about the state of that bridge a couple of weeks, and nothing was done about it.

The NANS President added that “the students’ union had to raise funds on their own to do a little welding, but that did not help the situation because the downpour that happened that day and of course the students while trying to cross to their hostel were involved in the collapse, and this led to the death of very important members”, Comrade Akpan explained.

According to him, “we felt that the relationship that has been broken down, the communication gap that has been opened for a very long time, the management and the students union have to do everything possible to close it so that this can forestall future occurrence.”

The NANS President who said the bridge was of substandard quality, pointed out that, “we saw clearly that the bridge did not have the kind of metal it should have that can serve that purpose”.

The President called on management of ATBU to “immediately reopen robust communication with the Students’ Union Government, because when the relationship is sour, no positive result can be achieved.” 

Bridge collapses because students were taken selfie—ATBU

The management of the University has denied all allegations levelled against it by the students, the Students’ Union Government and the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS.

Dr. Andee Iheme, the image maker of the university told WikkiTimes on phone that “the bridge is a dynamic one, people are not supposed to stand on the bridge, but because it was raining and the rain subsided a little bit, they were now running to their hostels. “When they got to that bridge and discovered that the water was so high, more than 30 or so of the students now stayed on the bridge and started taking selfie”.

When asked how could the students whom he said were running to their hostels because of the rain stayed on the bridge for selfie around 11pm, Dr. Iheme said “the rain has subsided, are you getting me; and of course you know our cameras have light, my own camera too has flash light”.

Dr. Iheme who denied the allegations that the school authorities did not respond to distress calls described the incident as an act of God.

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