Young people who have passion for the medical profession usually know how high the stakes are and, on account of this, do all that is necessary to maintain high grades. So, when the University of Lagos (UNILAG) denied some students admission into the College of Medicine to continue in their chosen departments, because the school said it already had the number it required. The aggrieved students could not hold back tears of anguish, particularly because the university did not give them a reason for the action. This week, they dried their eyes and, have resolved to have their day in court, Bennett Oghifo and Uchechukwu Nnaike report

People usually have feeling of letdown when having a good dream and are suddenly roused. The gravity of disillusionment can only be imagined if the person involved is living his or her dream in real time and has it erased.
The dream of 105 students of the University of Lagos of pursuing careers in their chosen departments in the College of Medicine is about to crash before their eyes, as the university’s management has denied them admission despite meeting the requirements stipulated in the students’ manual.

The requirements…
According to the hand book of the Pre-medical students, Faculty of Science, students in the Departments of Medicine and Surgery, Dentistry, Medical Laboratory Science, Physiotherapy and Nursing are required to score an average cumulative score of 50 per cent in biological, chemical and physical sciences; while students in Departments of Radiography, Physiology and Pharmacology are to have a minimum Cumulative Grade Point Average (CGPA) of 2.0 to cross over to the college of medicine.
The students, however, said they began to suspect foul play when, about three weeks to their second semester examination, precisely on August 28, 2015, the sub-Dean of the Faculty of Science informed them that the criterion had changed. They were told, to their dismay, that they would be considered based on their CGPA, which was not known.
Their appeal to the school authority to abide by the criteria stipulated in the hand book was obviously not heeded, as the list released early this month denied them admission.

Rude shock…
On the fateful day, the affected students, unaware of what was to come, went about their normal activities; some of them had started attending lectures at the various departments in the College of Medicine.
Narrating her ordeal to THISDAY, one of the affected students of the Department of Radiography, who made a CGPA of 3.7, said with her grade she was confident that she would make the list and had started attending lectures.
She said when she discovered that her name was missing from the list she did not believe it at first. This shock treatment was given to 104 others.

Piling dilemma…
In search of an explanation, she went to the main campus, but the sub-Dean of Sciences, who was said to be unapproachable, did not provide any satisfactory answer.
The students’ dilemma is getting even worse as those affected have also been rejected by the alternative departments they were assigned to because these departments claim they have concluded registration for the academic year. For the students, going to register for another UTME when they have a valid admission letter is not an option.

Reason for the action…
According to the Radiography student, the university management’s explanation was that the move was in compliance with the directive of (Medical Council of Nigeria (MDCN) to admit only 150 students, which she said is only applicable to the Departments of Medicine and Dentistry; adding that she does not see why it should be extended to other departments.
She stressed that her admission letter has Radiography and that no one can force her to study any other course she did not apply for.
The university, she said has reneged on the promise it made to them in their first year that anyone who meets the 2.0 CGPA requirement would proceed to the college of medicine.

Parents’ action…
Her mother, who identified herself as Mrs. Adebayo (not real name), said she feels cheated and disappointed in the system, which she said does not recognise merit, but prefers to give preference to foundation students who didn’t even pass UTME.

She said when the list was not released in December 2015 as they expected, by January 2016, her daughter started lectures at the College of Medicine because they were hopeful, as she was the 18th in the merit list of her department. “We already bought textbooks, lab coat, dissecting set and other materials she will require for her programme.”
Their joy was, however, short-lived when her daughter did not make the list despite her 3.7 CGPA. She said the sight of her daughter weeping when she got home on the fateful day broke her heart.

She alleged that the problem caused by an undue priority given to foundation students “because they pay about N400,000 to the university,” saying, “no Vice-Chancellor can determine the destiny of my child.”
According to her, several letters were sent to the Vice-Chancellor and other stakeholders without any reply, adding that the affected parents, under the aegis of ‘Concerned Parents’ are determined to get justice, so they would proceed to court if the university does not reverse itself at the expiration of the seven-day ultimatum issued in the letter sent to the Vice-Chancellor on February 17.
For Olu, a student of Medicine and Surgery, who had turned down two admission offers in Pharmacology and Physiotherapy because “I will not find satisfaction in other courses”, he was so confused and hysterical when he didn’t find his name on the list.

“I was just running to nowhere in particular and screaming ‘what did I do, they should have told me that the only way to study medicine in UNILAG is through foundation programme. She should not have allowed me to work so hard for nothing’.” He said his mother also took ill for a whole week after hearing the news.

He alleged that the university gave 70 per cent of the slots to foundation students, while UTME students, who are bona-fide students of the institution, got 30 per cent despite assuring them that they would all proceed to the college of medicine if they met the 50 per cent aggregate score in each of the science divisions.
Olu said he would channel his anger to the quest for justice through legal means because he believes his right was trampled on, adding that he cannot bear the stigma, particularly from those who rebuked him when he rejected the previous admission offers.

Another student of the Department of Medicine and Surgery, said the psychological trauma he experienced after receiving the sad news led to sleepless nights and constant nightmares and even hallucination, adding that his mother also fell ill.

He stressed that the university did not treat the UTME students fairly by giving more slots to the foundation students who are not even matriculated, adding that ideally, foundation students are used to make up the number after admitting all UTME students that met the requirements.
“We want our course back and we must be given justice,” he said.

After the students’ protest at the main campus of the university, which yielded no positive result, the affected students who felt cheated by the university, with the support of their parents, sent a letter to the vice-chancellor, the minister of education and the NUC through the Jiti Ogunye Chambers, calling for the immediate reversal of the university’s decision.

Protest letter…
The letter to the Vice-Chancellor titled ‘Unlawful Denial of Admission to Qualified Students into the University of Lagos, College of Medicine- Demand for Immediate Remediation’, signed by the Principal Solicitor and Counsel, Jiti Ogunye, stated that the affected students were severally admitted into the university upon successfully participating in and passing the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) and the mandatory post-UTME test for the 2014/2015 academic session,

It stated that at the time of their respective admissions, the university and in particular the faculty of sciences entered into an agreement with them that if they met certain minimum academic requirements in their first year, as stipulated in the brochure (Pre-Medical and Pharmacy Programmes 2014-2016), as they would be automatically be transferred in the college of medicine.

“Upon meeting the requirements to cross over to the college of medicine from their respective departments, however, the university administration (and in particular the Faculty of Sciences and College of Medicine) disallowed or prevented them from proceeding to register and be enrolled for the MBBS and other medical programmes by arbitrarily revising upward the academic qualifications or entry requirements into their respective courses in the college of medicine, which was possession of cumulative score average of 50 in the groupings of courses for medicine and surgery, dentistry, medical laboratory, nursing, and physiotherapy; and a 2.00 CGPA for students in pharmacology, physiology and radiography in the 100 level examinations of the UTME classes of these departments.”

The letter accused the university authority of revising the requirement to the possession of a minimum CGPA of 4.11for MBBS; 3.25 for medical laboratory science; 3.06 for physiotherapy; 3.00 for nursing; and 3.06 for dentistry. It said the 2.00 CGPA requirement for pharmacology, physiology and radiography programmes was reviewed upward to a minimum of 2.2 CGPA for each of the courses.

Thus, it noted that in the Department of Medicine and Surgery, 147 students were admitted into the 100 level UTME class was allocated a quota of 150 students into the college of medicine’s MBBS programme provided they met the academic performance requirements. “Under the original and subsisting entry requirements of cumulative score average of 50 in the three courses groupings, 110 students in the 100 level UTME class met the requirement but only 60 students were selected based on the revised qualification. This means that 50 students in the class who were qualified to proceed to the MBBS programme in the college of medicine were denied admission.”

In the Department of Medical Laboratory Science, only 33 students were admitted, out of the 50 students that met the requirements, denying 17 students admission. In Nursing, 35 met the requirement, but based on the revised requirement for entry, only 27 students were selected, leaving out eight students.

In the Department of Radiography, 39 students met the entry requirement, but only 16 were selected, while 23 students were denied admission. In the Department of Physiotherapy, 40 students met the requirement, but 33 students were selected, leaving out seven students.

The students alleged that the university administration and in particular the Faculty of Sciences and the College of Medicine did not carry out the said revision with noble and genuine intentions to enhance academic standards in the MBBS and other medical programmes in the college of medicine; or for the reason of adherence to the admission quota of either the NUC or the MDCN.

They alleged that the move was for the purpose of creating admission spaces for foundation course students, who are given (or more appropriately sold) admission into the MBBS and other medical programmes upon participating in a one year programme organised by a Joint Unified Preliminary Examination Board for which they pay to UNILAG a minimum total fee of N400,000.

“The said payment is part of the internally generated revenue of the University of Lagos, a stream of revenue which has attracted wide criticism in the university system in Nigeria, for lack of transparency and accountability in its management.”

The letter noted that the inequality and injustice of the revision of qualification into the college of medicine is demonstrated by the fact that in the admission into the MBBS and other medical programmes for the 2015/2016 academic session, whereas only 60 students out of the 110 qualified students were admitted from the MBBS 100 level UTME class, 90 students were admitted from the MBBS Foundation Class.

Also, it stated that 19 students instead of five were admitted into the Medical Laboratory Science programme from the foundation class; 19 students were each admitted into the Radiography and Physiotherapy programmes from the foundation class; while students (and six registered nurse students) were admitted into the Nursing programme from the foundation class.

The letter accused the university management of procuring admission into the college of medicine for a category of students who might have had difficulty in passing the UTME and UNILAG post-UTME test at the expense of the students who passed through that crucible.

While calling on the university to rescind its action by allowing the affected students to register for the various programmes in the college of medicine and commence attending classes, the letter said:
“If the university fails, refuses or neglects to accede to our demand within seven days of the delivery of this letter, we shall not hesitate to initiate a legal action against the University of Lagos, her Faculty of Sciences and College of Medicine in the Federal High Court, Ikoyi, Lagos for the judicial review of their administrative actions, bring an application for the prerogative writs of orders of certiorari prohibition and mandamus, on the ground of unreasonableness (amongst other grounds), ventilating our clients’ grievances thereby, and securing remedies for our clients.”

Reacting to the plight of the students, Ogunye said, “Our understanding is that the university has not done what it did to the students with reasonableness; lack of reasonableness is also a legal ground for nullifying the decision of any administrative body because that body has a duty to conduct its affairs in a reasonable fashion.
“In the case of these students, they did not admit themselves into UNILAG, they were admitted having passed the UTME and the very difficult and problematic post-UTME test. They were admitted, they were registered and were properly matriculated and they were given a brochure in the university requiring them if they want to go to the next level to meet certain academic requirements.”

He promised to appeal to the court to allow the students to keep attending lectures while the case is ongoing. “That is very feasible because when a matter is taken to court, it is within the right of the litigant and within the power of the court to look at that matter in a way that will put the matter in status quo, the situation of things or state of affairs before dispute.

“The status of the students before the problem was that they were going to be registered and attending lectures and so we feel that the court acting can be persuaded to intervene and grant them temporally relief pending when the matter will be inclusively litigated because if the court doesn’t do so, then the students stand to lose everything, even if they are vindicated at the end of the day.”
He said the case would be taken to court next week because the seven day ultimatum expired on Wednesday.

UNILAG’s reaction…
Meanwhile, the university in its reaction titled ‘Cross-over of Students to College of Medicine’ said: “The health professions courses at the College of Medicine are regulated by their professional bodies, and these bodies regulate the numbers to be trained, to ensure the quality of the health workforce, based on the availability of facilities and resources. They all, therefore, have quotas that are applied at the 200 level.

The university said these quotas are now being enforced by the assignment of student index numbers when they cross over into the professional programmes in the college of medicine.

“This year the professional bodies have insisted on the enforcement of the quota upon which accreditation is hinged and hence the college has had to conform. What this means is that only students that are indexed will be registered by the professional bodies to practice after graduation.

“Senate at its meeting held on Wednesday, January 27, 2016 had approved the implementation of the re-arrangement to conform with the professional bodies quota in order not to lose accreditation. This has regrettably meant that we have been only able to receive students into the college only up to the number the College of Medicine is allowed by the quota.”

The institution said it recognises and regrets that this has led to some students being unable to cross over into the college of medicine or their course of choice, adding that consequently: “All candidates who were not successful to be placed in programmes in CMUL have been allocated to appropriate programmes on the main campus in Akoka; these students will be allowed to register immediately for their new programmes on the university portal without any penalties.

“Any student who does not want the programme allocated is free to seek permission to transfer to any other programmes/departments where they can be accommodated by completing the appropriate internal transfer forms in the office of the director, academic affairs.”

THISDAY also sought the view of the MDCN and was told by the Registrar, Abdulmumini Ibrahim that the council could only speak about Medicine and Surgery and that the quota for UNILAG College of Medicine is 150 students. He said the quota system is not new to universities in the country as each institution is assigned a quota.

According to him, UNILAG should have admitted only the number of students it can cater for, knowing that they have a quota approved by regulatory authority.