Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Protest erupted in Umuahia, Abia State capital on Monday, as nursing students protested their exclusion in the re-scheduled Preliminary Test Screening (PTS), exam.
This is coming barely two months after the State Government cancelled the PTS exam following initial protest by some of the students.
The students had during the initial protest, cried foul as only 75 out of the over 400 that sat for the exam passed.
After the initial protest, the State Government promised that a fresh exam would be conducted and investigation into what went wrong carried out.
The state government also promised to deal with anyone found culpable, restating the the Alex Otti-led administration has zero tolerance for corruption.
During Monday’s protest, the visibly agitated students invaded a Computer Based Test ( CBT) centre at Olokoro Road by Old Timber, Umuahia, where the exam was holding.
Tension mounted and almost got to a boiling point as the students almost became restive, demanding immediate cancellation of the rescheduled exam.
But for the presence of security operatives including police and Department of State Services, DSS, personnel the situation might have gone out of control.
Some of the overzealous protesters forced their way into the premises of the exam centre and switched off the generating set.
They demanded that the exam be halted and cancelled alleging foul play.
The protesters claimed that only about 250 students out of the over 400 students that wrote the initial PTS exam were shortlisted for the exam.
They also alleged that none of those who were among the 75 students that passed the cancelled PTS was shortlisted in the rescheduled exam.
The protesters further accused the Ministry of Health of selling over 3000 forms after which over 400 would be admitted after the entrance exam.
They also alleged exploitation, claiming that fees were paid without receipt issued.
One of the students said:” I spent over N270,000 just to enroll into the school. The payments were not receipted except N30,000 Development fee and N10,000 Government revenue. There was no other receipt issued to us.
“We were meant to stay for six months but after about three months they said we should sit for PTS. The result was supposed to be out after two weeks but it took about two months before it was released.
“They picked those they wanted to favour and dropped others. That was why Government cancelled it after the initial protest.
“Why should they admit over 400 students since they know they have only 75 slots?”
Similarly, a parent, Engineer Onyebuchi Ndukwe, said he had spent over N1.5 million for his child and a ward in the school of nursing only for them to be excluded in the end.
He called for thorough investigation.
In her response, Commissioner for Health, Mrs Ngozi Okoronkwo, who was present at the centre to oversee the situation, said only those whose O’Level result had been authenticated were shortlisted for the test.
The Commissioner, appealed for calm, assuring that nobody will be shortchanged.
“There is no need for agitation because we are following due process,” she said.
According to her, everybody with authentic O’Level result would be allowed to participate in the rescheduled exam.
“I myself want to make sure that anybody with authentic WAEC result will participate in the exam. That’s why I’m here. I have been here since 7:00am and will be here till the end. They should calm down because everybody will pass through the process.
“Everybody knows there is a process and we are following the process. The Principals were to bring the list of their students with their WAEC results for screening. And what we have here is the first batch. Some of the students had fake results and were screened out.
“Understand that they protested before the exam was cancelled. We did not decided on our own to cancel it. And the Nursing Council is involved and due process must be followed.
“We have even taken further precautions in the CBT exam to make sure that once any student finishes writing, the result comes out immediately. The student will sign so that tomorrow the person will not claim anybody has changed his result.”
On why the schools admitted more than the slots allocated to the state, the Commissioner said it was done by the previous administration.
She said the current Government had already stopped outrageous admission to avoid the unnecessary heat.
“This was what we met on ground. If you look at the new admission we have done, it was not this bloated. It was around hundred and something so that even if we have failures it will still fall within the alloted number. But admitting over 400 is outrageous. Even the classroom where the students stay cannot take 400 students.”