Obinna Odogwu, Abakaliki
A heavy rainstorm, in the evening of May 20, 2019 visited Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike Ikwo (AE-FUNAI) in Ebonyi State with fury. The downpour which was preceded by a heavy windstorm lasted for several hours and at the end, left a trail of pains and agonies.
When it started that evening, some staffers of the university who were still in their various offices and the students saw it as a normal rain until it began to unleash mayhem.
At various buildings, one could hear loud screaming and wailings from some staff and students with many of them running helter-skelter; seeking safe portions to take refuge while roofs, louvers, and ceilings were broken and flung off from the buildings.
As the roofs were blown away, heavy downpour invaded the affected facility, literally with anger. At the end of the commotion, no fewer than nine buildings including female hostels were badly affected.
It also pulled down about 15 solar powered security lights, many economic trees, and others. In the affected buildings, some equipment, documents, and other office materials were destroyed.
Some of the affected buildings are: University Library, ICT building, Pro-Chancellor’s office, Entrepreneurship and Employability Centre, and the main University Auditorium.
Others are: Faculty of Science Administrative Block, Needs Assessment building, solar-powered security lights stands, and the Female Halls of Residence among others.
At the University Library, the roof and the ceiling were badly damaged. Many books, documents, computers, and other gadgets, according to some members of staff of the university working in the library who spoke to Daily Sun were dampened by the rain.
When our correspondent visited the library, droplets of water were still dripping from the deck. Rubbles of the disaster were still scattered on the floor of the upstairs while some students who came to read squeezed themselves in the available space on the ground floor.
At one of the two female hostels, a part of the roof was pulled off while in the second one, minor damages were recorded. Some students who spoke to our correspondent lamented that they recorded huge losses in the natural disaster.
One of them, Miss Deborah Okoro, who is a first year student in the Department of Banking and Finance, lamented that her books, foodstuffs, shoes and others were drenched by the rain.
“The situation that day was terrible and hectic”, she recalled, “I didn’t think I would experience that kind of thing in this building knowing full well that it is a new building. It was a very bad situation.
“The rain started and we thought that it was a normal rain like the other days. Everybody was in their room. People started screaming when the rain started coming from the louvers and the roofs.
“The roofs were scattering and were falling off. We were cleaning but along the line we found out that it was not something we could clean. As we were cleaning, the thing was increasing. So, we started packing out our properties outside.
“When you pack and try to keep it safe in another person’s room, you find out that the person’s room was also badly affected. So, it was not something to write home about. We were shocked that day.
“The rain soaked my books and shoes. My gas cylinder was affected because I was not even there when the rain started. I had to carry everything to outside. We had to shift our bunks. Foams in the up bunks were affected.
“Some spread cloths on their wet bed to sleep that night because the foams were touched by the rain. Some had to go to other people’s rooms to sleep with them. You know students now. You have to adapt to any situation you find yourself after all here is school”, Deborah narrated.
Another victim, Miss Chioma Ubeogu, a 100 level student in the Department of History and Strategic Studies; and the porter in the building, Ekette Nneka, corroborated Deborah.
Chioma bemoaned that the “rain soaked my textbooks and shoes. It also touched my garri and other food stuffs. My roommate’s books and garri were also soaked. It didn’t affect my other roommates because they were around when the rain started.”
At the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) building, a part of the roof was blown away and many computers and other equipment were damaged.
Head of Unit, Multimedia and e-Learning of the department, Mr Ilesanmi Fatoki, said some laptop computers were damaged even as some desktop PCs were affected too.
“We came to work on Tuesday morning and met floods in the offices. Some of our papers and documents were damaged. We have a store where we keep items that are not in immediate use and some of them were damaged.
“The roof of the building was removed. We had to move some of our equipment from this place to other places that are a little bit secure.
“Although that place is leaking too but it is not as much as this place. So, we have quite a number of damaged equipment but we are trying to manage the situation. We have a maintenance unit that is trying to fix the ones they can fix”, he stated.
Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Chinedum Nwajiuba, expressed shock over the devastation, disclosing that he had to call off his important meetings in Enugu and returned to the institution.
Nwajiuba said: “It’s scary and worrisome. The destruction is massive; not just in terms of the roofs and buildings but also laboratory, computers, tables, files and others. It’s not good at all.”
The Vice Chancellor, who appeared overwhelmed by the magnitude of the damage, also lamented that the disaster has badly affected teaching and learning in the institution.
“How do you learn when the roof is open in the classroom? It is either the sun is blazing or the rain is pouring. That is the reality. Learning is adversely affected; it is seriously, adversely affected by the extreme weather event we observed here on Monday evening.
“The library’s roof is gone. It looks like there was a bomb thrown there. So, learning, of course is impacted because our library is usually full with students. Books having moist and some are wet all over. So, it is a big loss.
“We have asked the Physical Planning Unit, the Bursary, and Procurement Unit to estimate the level of damage because we intend to formally inform government about it.
“I will come short of saying millions because it’s quite huge. I would not want to give a figure but I wouldn’t be surprised if it is in excess of N500 million”, he said.