By Sebastine Ebhuomhan
Tuesday July 13, 2004- Daily Independent Newspaper

A student wishing to read Journalism has lost his admission into a tertiary institution after it was discovered that he was infected with the dreaded HIV/AIDS.

The incident happened on Monday, June 21, 2004 at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ) in Ogba, Ikeja, Lagos, when the student, Mr. Frederick Kunle Adegboye, of No. 1, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Offa, Kwara State, was prevented by the school’s management board from entering the classroom for lectures after he had disclosed his HIV/AIDS status.

The case, which had since been taken up by the Positive Life Association of Nigeria (PLAN), a non-governmental organization that advocates care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS, after it received Adegboye’s formal report, has now become a subject of controversy.

It is else generating reactions from members of the public especially the human rights community and anti- HIV/AIDS advocates in and outside the country following a complaint lodge with the Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) and the NIJ by PLAN.

It was learnt that Adegboye applied to the NIJ for admission to read Journalism so as to fulfil his dream of becoming a journalist. After successfully making the required marks at the examination and interviews mandatory for admission into the nation’s premiere journalism institution, Adegboyega, a patient on the Federal Government funded anti-retroviral (ARV) programme at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, was offered provisional admission to read Mass Communication by NIJ, and he promptly paid all the requisite tuition fees that amounted to about N50,100. He was thereafter offered a two-year provisional admission documented in an NIJ letterhead notification dated May 25, 2004, under the heading: “Provisional Admission into National Diploma in Mass Communication 2003/2005” signed by Busola Eniola, the school’s acting registrar.

But Adegboye’s ordeal over the eventual withdrawal of his admission by NIJ, as narrated by Adegboye himself at a JAADIS Roundtable, in company of Mr. Obatunde Oladapo, the programme co-ordinator of PLAN, Ibadan, only began when he resumed for studies. He explained everything thus:

“I am Adegboye, Kunle Frederick, a member of the Positive Life Association of Nigeria (PLAN), who has been nursing the dream of a fulfilling career as practicing and professional journalist over the years. In pursuit of this dream, I applied to the Nigerian Institute of Journalism (NIJ), Ogba, Lagos, for admission as a student. After scaling through all admission requirement, I was overjoyed to have received a letter offering me provisional admission to read Mass Communication as a student of premier specialized journalism institution in Nigeria. I promptly paid all the requisite fees.

“On resumption for studies, I reported just like all new intakes and we were addressed by the institution’s provost, who stressed the importance of punctuality, devotion and strict adherence to the institution’s academic timetable. He informed us that any student found guilty of frequently skipping classes would be shown the way out.

“In view of the fact that I am a patient on anti-retroviral (ARV) programme at the UCH, Ibadan, I was aware that I would have to be travelling to Ibadan on monthly basis to collect essential drugs at the clinic. Not wanting to run foul of the laws of the institution, I went to the provost to explain that I would have to be travelling to Ibadan once every month to collect my drugs, and begged a concession to be absent from school on those days. That seems to be the greatest mistake of my life!

“I was asked to obtain a letter to the effect from UCH, which I passed through pains to do promptly. However, to my greatest surprise, when I returned to Lagos and tried to enter classes on Monday, June 21, 2004 I was told by the lecturers and my colleague that there is a directive that I should not be allowed to enter any lecture room in the institution. I was directed to the office the acting registrar of the school where a letter withdrawing my admission was waiting for me. Furthermore, the cheque I had paid into the school’s account with ECOBANK for my tuition totaling N50,100 as an acceptance of the offer was also refunded with a letter withdrawing the admission,” Adegboye lamented.

The letter, a copy of which was made available to Daily Independent, was entitled: “Withdrawal of
Provisional Admission 2003/2004” dated 21 June, 2004, and signed by Busola Eniola, the Acting Registrar. It read: “I am directed to inform you that the Academic Board of the Nigerian Institute of Journalism, Lagos has withdrawn the provisional admission offered you by the institute to pursue a two-year ND Mass Communication with immediate effect. The Accounts Department of the institute has been directed to raise a cheque of N50, 000 to refund your school fees. Please, see the cheque attached, and acknowledge receipt of this letter and the cheque on the duplicate copy. We wish you the best in your future endeavours”.

It is noteworthy that the letter did not state any particular reason why the student’s admission was withdrawn. However; According to Adegboye, he was given various flimsy excuses including that his admission documents were forged, when he insisted on getting an explanation from the school authorities. But Daily Independent learnt that the Academic Board of the institution decided to withdraw the offer of admission for n othe reason than the HIV/AIDS status of the student.

As expected, conscious and repeated efforts to hear from the management board of the NIJ was not quite successful, as it was learnt that the institution’s Provost, Dr. (Mrs.) Lizzy Ikem, was out of Lagos on official assignment. An official of school’s Exams and Records Department in Room 2005 on the second floor, who refused to give his full names but is known and addressed as “Mr. Adewale” by the student, did not deny the expulsion of Adegboye from the NIJ, just as he did not confirm the story of forged documents. He explained the processes for offering and withdrawing admission by NIJ, insisting that he was not the appropriate official to speak on the matter.

“Having explained the process for admission and that of withdrawal, I would like to add that what this school gives any student is provisional admission, that is, any admission is subject to the fulfillment of some conditions – those conditions that describe our admission process. If they are not fulfilled, then the school has the right to withdraw any admission. But I am very aware that before a student’ s admission is withdrawn, the case would have been discussed at management level. So, based on this fact, I can only ask you to come back another day to see the provost, who is in the best position to answer every question you want to ask. Right now, she is out of the state on official assignment, “Mr. Adewale stated. However, this is contrary to the view of a student who insisted that the provost was merely staying away from office to avoid the prying eyes of the media.

Efforts to also see the Acting Registrar, Busola Eniola, who was confirmed by his secretary to be in his office, was not successful as he refused to grant audience on learning why he was being sought. Two classmates of Adegboye, who spoke under anonymity, stated, however, that he had not shown any sign that he could not cope with the rigours of education at the NIJ before the withdrawal.