High Cost of ABU Zaria Off-Campus Rent: Between Institutional Negligence And SRC’s Failure

By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim

I am sorry to say that education in Nigeria is in a sorry state. Just like several other people have opined. It is very sad that the federal government has failed to upgrade the dilapidated hostels on campus. This amongst other reasons is the cause of the plight of ABU off-campus students.

The ministry of education should not allow Nigerian students to suffer at the hands of these wicked villagers or landlords exploiting them almost all the time.

Definitely, these people (landlords) are aware that there are scarce bed spaces in the university’s hostel, that is why they are exploiting students. Should there be enough and comfortable hostels on campus, who will go and rent a room at N250, 000 not to talk of even N500, 000. I am sure, even that of N50, 000 will drastically fall to N20, 000-N30,000. This is in the case of modern rooms, not mud ones because no one will go for them again.

Some of the students that I have communicated with have complained of the increase in their rental price.  Despite the difficult situation we are facing. Some were forced to change rooms due to the economic situation of the country and the world at large, during the recent covid-19 lockdown.

The real situation on the ground is very sad. Instead of getting a discount of at least 50% or an extension of the payment period, these merciless people were asking for more money. Imagine! And no one can talk.

What people may not know is that there are many thieves and criminals in this country. But they are of categories. The first uses guns to get money while the second doesn’t. Why should a student room be paid at the rate of N250,000-N300,000? This is thievery.

I just learned that some of the houses are owned by top government officials. This is not surprising because they know that there are not enough hostels. But the saddest thing was to find a fellow abusite in this exploitative act who enjoyed full privileges during his or her own time.

 recently learned of a newly built house. Rooms are said to be rented at N500, 000. What? I know you are also surprised. This is not Abuja but a village. Let me tell you something in case you don’t know. School fees are around N19, 000-N30,000 or as the case may be. But students are forced to pay higher amounts for accommodation. Is this fair and just? If one pays N20,000 for school fees and pays N500,000 for accommodation, he is paying 25  times his school fees. 

If I may advise parents whose children are outside paying N250,000 and will soon start paying N500,000, it is better to sponsor their wards to private varsity with the amount spent on rent. Because I don’t see the rationale in paying a higher amount for rent than school fees.

Personally, if I have a son or daughter, I can’t do this. In a country where there is a private varsity for N500,000 or even less, what do you think will make me waste N2m for a four years course and N2.5m for a five years course or their equivalent?

Or if I happened to be a student myself, I will go to a private university. Because there are private universities for average Nigerians where N500, 000 will cover all the cost for one in a year. This is what I will simply tell my father. Instead of spending and wasting this huge amount of money in this village. Where the entire money can get lost in the name of the ASUU  strike and covid-19 lockdown due to the failure of universities to go online.

More worrisome, is that some of the owners of these houses in this village are owned by the alumni of the prestigious institution. It is indeed sad news of the day for every abusite. If the person that we expect to help in reviving the status and standard of the school is the one doing this, anyone can do the same.

However, these people during their time were schooling free of charge, with so many other benefits like feeding amongst others. But today they are the ones making life difficult for the children of the poor who are also Nigerians like them.

I am not saying they should not build houses for investment purposes, but why should they exploit students? Are students rich? Why not go to Abuja and build it for rich workers to hire? There, houses are even rented in millions. They can be stupidly rich there. Why here? Why students?

To be sincere, building expensive houses even in this village is not a  big problem if it only ends there. But it is not like that. The generality of the high prices is the problem. If there is a N10m house here it is not everyone’s concern so long as there are N30,000-N50,000 ones. But there are no good ones. The price is totally high. Even mud one. 

I was opportune to see one mud house, not surprising because it is in a village but do you know what annoyed me? The price was N70,000.  I don’t think bed size foam can enter that locomotive room with a small toilet and kitchen. If I am entering the room, I think I will have to bow a little to avoid being knocked by the roof.

In other institutions, the general prices of rooms are N40,000, N50,000, N60,000 and even below.

With your N50, 000, you will live there comfortably. Examples are Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, The Federal Polytechnic Bauchi, amongst others. But I don’t know the reason for paying more than N100,000 as a student to rent a room. More especially the one that didn’t worth the amount. I think even if some of us are living in rental houses in our various cities, the amount being paid for the family house (with father, mothers and children) is not up to the amounts here. 

Should students not see immediate actions following this, I will advise them to expose who are the owners of these apartments. Because they are also the enemies of education in public institutions.

This situation is really sad. I am afraid that sooner or later, education, as it is seen today, will be a big deal for the children of the poor. From what is on the ground, I am sorry to say that education in Nigeria is in a sorry state.

What will keep one wondering is whether the said institution has a students union or leaders. Yes, there is. But maybe they are posters or more of benchwarmers. The council is a total failure for students. As many have stated the usefulness of the council, it is better for students to take charge of things themselves because their leaders expected to stand for them have failed. They are sleeping or pretending to be unaware.

Since the problem have been identified, solutions can be derived. It is very simple. All students should come together and discuss. Agree not to pay anything higher than N100,000  for a room. When students get back to their senses, these people will become sensible too. All should say no to student exploitation.

One will say this is difficult. It is not in this era of social media. Just organise yourselves. Broadcast the resolutions widely. Select executive members that will return prior to school resumption next year. Their role is to monitor those house agents giving rooms to students. Giving special care to jambitoes making sure that no one rents a room above the agreed price.

My dear reader, if no one rents a room after three weeks of resumption at their expensive rate, the price will fall. Knowing fully that students have the money and are willing to pay but without giving room to exploitative. 

Also, this will serve as an opportunity for the students to drag the attention of the federal government and the school management over the lack of accommodation. Tell the world via social media. Create hashtags.  I am sure this will yield positive outputs. 

In a place where students’ welfare is paramount to their leaders, this can’t happen. I know other leaders in several tertiary institutions here in Nigeria, not abroad, but they are standing for their fellow student’s rights.

If this is the kind of people our country is going to have as future leaders, I can say that we are not going to see anything different from yesterday. ABU students have lost it as students.

The only thing that the council does is to issue press releases and spread propaganda on the media in the name of fighting for students rights. Let me cite an example with the issue of off-campus dispute. They released a press statement that made students happy just to learn that it was useless. But the council did it for name making.

This was manifested after school resumed and they released another statement in the name of their resolutions. You know what? No reasonable and sensible point was raised there except one or two. Students get to realise that when they resume and start receiving; renew your rent as a welcome from landlords.

Students Representative Council should know that students know what they are doing in case they don’t. It is a must for them to intervene not an option or as a matter of volunteering. Students pay SRC fees at N500 each year. Where does the money go? What are students benefiting from SRC? 

From the mere look of things here, one can say there are no comrades or they are just posters who don’t act. For, in institutions with comrades like Bayero University Kano, we know what is happening. They stand for students rights day and night. Unlike here where students are of no concern to them.

Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim is a journalist, fellow African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC) 2020, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa. He can be reached via awwalbinibrahim@gmail.com

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