The earliest idea to set up a medical school was mooted by Reverend Father Orshio Adasu when he became Governor of Benue State in 1992. He called the academics of Benue State origin to advise the government about setting up a university and Dr. Gyoh was in the subcommittee to advise on setting up a Faculty of Medicine to train doctors. It was an enormous undertaking in a State with hardly any income of its own; a State heavily reliant on the allocations from the Federal Government. Although Reverend Adasu succeeded in setting up the University, nothing was heard of a medical school until the idea was revived by Governor George Akume in 1998.
He got the Jos-based Architect John Ameh to produce the preliminary drawings of the “Faculty of Medicine”. Governor Akume took Dr Gyoh and the architect one afternoon to the present site on which the College stands. The College edifice was designed by Architect John Ameh; but he apparently fell out with the government and another architect supervised the completion of the construction. After all these preliminary activities, the Governor got Professor Charles Vajime, the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Benue State University (BSU) to set up a Steering Committee to advise the University on establishing a Faculty of Medicine.
This Committee was inaugurated on 06 April 2001. It had very wide terms of reference.
a) Implement in all its ramifications as circumstances permit, the report and recommendations of the Steering Committee for the establishment of the Faculty.
b) Identify suitable core staff and make recommendations for their recruitment.
c) Monitor closely the development of the site (Government Secondary School) to meet the needs of the new faculty.
d) Identify and supervise the appropriate fitting and furnishing of the Faculty complex in tune with the needs of a Faculty Medicine.
e) Oversee the equipping of the laboratories and lecture halls for the Faculty;
f) Oversee the upgrading of the Faculty of Science to the standard or level recommended by the Steering Committee;
g) Obtain the permission of the Federal Government for the use of the Federal Medical Centre, Makurdi as the temporary Teaching Hospital.
h) Explore the satellite hospitals in Gboko, Otukpo and Katsina-Ala to be used as Temporary Teaching Hospital Complex and identify relevant areas of improvement.
i) Recommend to the Vice Chancellor as appropriate any desirable review of the recommendations of the Steering Committee.
j) Evaluate the level of implementation of the report and recommend to the Vice-Chancellor the appropriate date for commencement of the programmes.
Membership was as follows;
1. Dr. Shima K. Gyoh WHO Consultant (Medicine) Chairman
2. Prof. Abraham O. Malu University of Jos (Medicine) Member
3. Prof. Innocent O Ujah University of Jos (Medicine) Member
4 Prof. E.C. Agishi BSU (Science) Member
5. Prof. G.A. Adoga University of Jos (Science) Member
6. Prof. JOI Ayatse BSU (Science) Member
7 Prof. S.I Abaa BSU (Science) Member
8. Prof. Matthew A. Araoye UniLorin (Visiting Professor) Member
9. William Mozeh, Esq Registrar, BSU Secretary
It should be noted here that the University Senate accepted the setting up of a College rather than Faculty, and the subsequent use of the word “Faculty” in the terms of reference and any other document connected with the College was accepted as a mistake.
These wide terms of reference were purely theoretical. The Implementation Committee was not empowered to do anything. As a committee, it did not participate in the choice of contractors or the supervision of anything safe for the odd occasion when the Governor grabbed the Chairman and they together went to the construction site. The Governor would then order the contractor to implement all the alterations recommended by the Chairman. The Implementation Committee interviewed and recommended the appointment of a large number of staff, but none was appointed two years after the interview. The Committee often went to the Vice Chancellor with complaints of its being sidelined by lack of empowerment to implement its terms of reference. In response, the VC too would plead that he was not better informed than the Committee.
A team consisting of the Vice Chancellor of BSU, (by this time Professor David I Ker), the Chairman of Governing Council, Professor Ochapa Onazi, the Chairman of the Implementation Committee Dr. Shima Gyoh, and an investment expert Mr. Stephen Amase went on a tour of some medical institutions in the USA in August 2001 to determine which school might be linked with the new College to assist it take off and possibly look for external funding. The team visited the following institutions:
1. The University of Massachusetts, Boston
2. Simmons Graduates School of Health Studies
3. Boston School of Medicine
4. Austin Community College
5. University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
6. University of Texas Medical School, Houston
7. The Baylor College of Medicine
The University of Texas, Galveston Branch was selected by the team as the most suitable and willing institution to work with the new Benue State College of Health Sciences. The VC submitted a report to the Visitor, but nothing was heard further of this project.
THE STEERING COMMITTEE
The Steering Committee for the Establishment of the Faculty of Medicine for Benue State University was inaugurated on Wednesday 27th October 1999 with the following terms of reference: -
* Work out the modalities for the establishment of a Faculty of Medicine for BSU;
* Ascertain the existing facilities in the University and work out a strategy as well as the financial requirements for the take-off of the Faculty.
* Make recommendations on the commencement of the take-off of the Faculty
* Examine any other matter(s) arising from or incidental to any of foregoing terms of reference and make recommendations.
Membership was as follows;
1. Dr. Shima K Gyoh - WHO Consultant - Chairman
2. Dr. Pius Ochefu - Private Practitioner - Member
3. Dr. Ameh Idoko - Private Practitioner - Member
4. Dr. Joshua Adagba - Private Practitioner - Member
5. Dr. Nelson Bur - Private Practitioner - Member
6. Prof. Abraham. O. Malu - Jos University - Member
7. Dr. Innocent Ujah - Jos University - member
8. Dr. Terna Yawe - FMC Makurdi - member
9. Prof. David Ker - BSU - member
10. Prof. JOI Ayatse - BSU - member
11. William Mozeh, Esq - Registrar BSU - Secretary
Four months later, the report of the Steering Committee was ready. It had considered the pros and cons of Faculty against College and had decided on College. It had decided that the institution should train all the professionals in health. This would tend to minimise costs and perhaps build bridges between the members of the sub-specialties in health and thus reduce the rivalries and conflicts so common among them. Moreover, Benue State needed Pharmacists, Physiotherapists, Community Health Officers, etc. to run its health services, and it would be ideal to have a College with various arms training most of the professionals in health. It would start with the training of doctors, but the other arms would be added on as resources permitted. The cost implication and detailed proposal of Staff and Equipment were provided in the final report, with the important advice that under no circumstances should the project be started without adequate funds needed to complete it. A poor initial reputation would be exceedingly difficult to subsequently correct.
ADMISSION OF STUDENTS
The political steps were always miles ahead of the physical realities, and pressure was mounted on the Chairman for the admission of students ahead of the physical development. The Implementation Committee reluctantly gave the permission with the following proviso:
1. The establishment of the Preclinical departments must be implemented immediately;.
2. The Teaching Hospital must be started and commissioned before the students finish their pre-clinical studies.
3. Staff recruitment must be completed ahead of needs.
4. The Provost should be appointed immediately.
5. The Medical Library must be established immediately.
6. The time was right for establishing external linkage if it was still on the cards.
7. A stiff warning was given about the authorities getting only the immediate stage ready without considering other stages ahead. “It is important to keep the total picture in view,” stated the letter from the Implementation Committee dated 17 January 2004. “Failure to get the next stage ready would present the university with scandalous problems”.
In February 2004, the Vice-Chancellor – Professor Ker negotiated with the University of Ilorin for release of Professor Matthew A. Araoye to assist in setting up the College. He assumed duty as “Visiting Professor of Medicine” he recruited staff and started the College and the Preclinical course. Using his experience of the Collegiate Systems of the Universities of Lagos, Ibadan and Ilorin he produced a draft of the Statute and Regulations of the BSU College of Health Sciences. This was approved by the Implementation Committee and the Senate (July 2004). Before approving the Statute, the Governing Council was dissolved.
It took up to 2005 for another to come on board and the controversy about the status of the medical school resurfaced. The Vice-Chancellor – Professor Ker, succeeded by Professor Akase Paul Sorkaa and the Visiting Professor - Araoye mounted a relentless battle to educate the Council until it approved the Collegiate status in 2006. The statute was signed into law by Governor George Akume in 2007 thereby enabling the appointment of Professor Matthew A. Araoye as the first Provost of the College in 2007.
With the provost in place, events began to move logically but slowly owing to lack of funds to complete the essential areas. In January 2007, Prof Araoye moved the Staff and Students to occupy the College site; and in February, the buildings were commissioned by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
This history would be incomplete if the CHS fails to acknowledge the role of BSU Council in the actualisation of the “Collegiate System”. Up till 2008, most of the administrative activities in the college were handled by central administration with a very slow pace of response. In 2008, the BSU Council was reconstituted with Prfessor Ode Ojowu as the Pro-Chancellor. Under his leadership, the new Council set in motion to energise the Collegiate System. Accordingly, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Akase Paul Sorkaa was mandated to inaugurate the Court of Governors (COG) of the College. The membership includes: -
1. Professor Akase Paul Sorkaa - - Vice-Chancellor/Chairman
2. Professor Abraham O Malu - - Chief Medical Director, BSUTH,
3. Professor Tony Edoh - - Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Administration),
4. Professor Tyohdzuah P. Akosu - Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
5. Professor Matthew A. Araoye - Provost, CHS,
6. Professor Bem Angwe - - Representative of Council,
7. Dr. (Mrs.) Joy Odeligbo Agi - - Representative of Council,
8. Professor Prince E. O. Nwokedi - Dean of Basic & Allied Medical Sciences,
9. Professor Margaret O. Araoye - Dean: Clinical Sciences,
10. Professor Timothy Gyuse - - Representative of BSU Senate
11. Professor Shima K Gyoh - - Representative of CHS Staff Academic Board.
12. Dr. E. K. Awambe - - - Representative, Ministry of Education,
13. Mrs. Ann Anweh - - - Representative, Ministry of Health.
14. John O. Idikwu - - - College Secretary/Secretary
15. Celestine T. Saawuan - - Financial Controller
In Attendance: -
Joseph Asema - - Senior Assistant Registrar.
The COG had its inaugural meeting on 3/6/2008. Up till date, the COG has made the following outstanding achievements for the College: -
i. Acquisition of the structures of the CHS, which hitherto had remained under tight grip by the Ganza Construction Company;
ii. Financial semi-autonomy whereby the Government of Benue State makes direct allocation of fund to the College for Salaries & Wages and Recurrent & Capital Expenditure;
iii. Administrative semi-autonomy in compliance with the NUC directive 0f 1989 and in consonance with the Statute that established the College.
iv. Furnishing of the College Auditorium;
v. Recruitment of both Academic and non-academic staff thereby meeting the Accreditation requirements of the Medical & Dental Council of Nigeria.
vi. Activation of the College Sewage system under the expertise of Engr E. A. Adeyemo
The CHS appreciates the immense role of the Pro-Chancellor in this endeavour. Also in the forefront in the emancipation of the College was Bem Angwe, Esq, Professor of Law, University of Jos. He was not only a legal adviser; he also bore the divine torch that guided both the Council and COG on the rights, powers and operations of the College. The last, but not the least is The Vice Chancellor, Professor Charity Angya, the fourth VC of BSU and the second Chairman – COG of the college. She took the mantle of leadership of BSU, resolved the teething problems of decentralisation of CHS from the Central Administration and the semi-autonomy of the College. She pursued the problem of ensuring the readiness of the priority areas of the BSUTH.
THE CLINICAL STAGE
The biggest challenge facing the CHS was the hospital where students would start their clinical work once they complete their preclinical programmes. The idea of “farming out” the students to existing Medical Colleges was at first considered; though it was a stage it could not have been done because the College had not yet got its first accreditation from the Medical and Dental Council. A college not yet accredited does not exist and cannot have students! By 2008, the College had admitted 5 sets of students, 3 of which had stagnated at 300 level and were awaiting MDCN accreditation and the first Professional MBBS Examination.
The College achieved an unprecedented milestone in November 2008 following the accreditation of the Preclinical programme by the MDCN. Gladly, the first set of students sat their first professional examination in March and the Resit Examination in June 2009. Altogether 18 students qualified to proceed to the 400 level Clinical Programme.
The battle for survival had not ended: The quest for a BSU Teaching Hospital raged on. The latter had been sited along the southern bank of the Benue River by Governor George Akume in 2005; but its progress was disgustingly slow. Now that the preclinical departments have been accredited, it would be hard to find a medical school that has not yet admitted students to their full capacity for which it was accredited. In fact, nearly all the medical schools have exceeded their quota. It had become a matter of grave concern to the MDCN and the latter was planning to apply sanctions on defaulting medical schools. Besides, the number of accumulated students in the CHS is too large for any other college to absorb without exposing itself to possible sanctions by the MDCN.
In August 2008, Governor Gabriel Suswam inaugurated the BSUTH Management Board with Professor Abraham Malu as the Chief Medical Director. That did not help matters. The College must therefore look inwards. The choice is between completing the new Teaching Hospital and upgrading the Federal Medical Centre and its annex at Apir to act as temporary Teaching Hospital until the new Hospital is ready. Either option would require a considerable amount of funds and rapid action, as the successive classes of students are presently concentrating into one large class, to the embarrassment of the Provost and his staff.
The above not-withstanding, the MDCN appraised the College structures and lay-out as among the best in Nigeria. In fact, it was common practice for the Technical Committees of new Medical Schools to make “Pilgrimage journeys” to Makurdi with the aim of emulating the good sense of beauty by Governor George Akume and his Architect – John Ameh. For the College itself, both the staff and students continue to pray for divine intervention that “Things may not fall apart”.
The divine torch has started to beckon: It is gladdening to note that Governor Gabriel Suswam, the successor to Governor Akume, has embarked on continuing the legacy from where his predecessor left the banner by pursuing the agenda that “the kingdom of God is like unto a man, who finds a treasure in a field; and he sells all he had to possess that field” (Mat 13:44-46). Accordingly, he has sourced for money to complete the Teaching Hospital. He shall not fail. Amen.
Profssor Shima K. Gyoh, FMCS, FRCS Eng. Professor of Surgery.