By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim
The faces of students were smiling shortly after the school resumption date was announced. More especially, ABU Zaria, following the approval of the Kaduna state government. But the unsympathetic, unfair and inhuman attitude and welcome that was given to students living off-campus by the landlords is saddening.
These things that happened were not our fault. Did the students go on strike? Or did they impose lockdown necessitated by the global pandemic? If you realise these, you will see that students are also victims. There is no need for one, a landlord for that matter to be harsh on students.
Students deserved to be pitied. But sadly, in Zaria, students are turned to meat where every Tom, Dick and Harry can come and bite his share. My dear reader, if you are not an ABUsite or haven’t been to Zaria before, you will be surprised, but this is the reality.
In case you don’t know how much students pay off-campus, there are apartments where they pay N200, 000 for just an academic session. Even N250, 000 more especially female apartments. For male, it ranges from N180, 000, N170, 000, N160, 000 and the lowest maybe around N60, 000, N50, 000 or so. But there is no cheap room in this village for students.
I know a mud house with two small rooms, one parlour, and a small kitchen and a toilet where one’s hands can touch the walls if he puts them by his side due to its smallness. But do you know how much was paid for the house? N180, 000 for that mud house. Though I was later told that the house agent added about 30k as his on top of the real amount.
For you to rent a single room made with blocks, without even a toilet and a kitchen it will cost you about N60, 000 or thereabout as I stated above. Talk less of the one with a toilet and/or a kitchen. This category cost about N140, 000 and above. Come to Samaru village or community and confirm. This thievery is too much.
I have to rush and come to this platform to lodge my complaints as the so-called students’ representative council (SRC), ABU Zaria that prides itself with students’ welfarism failed to acknowledge nor reply messages sent to its official email address and that of its president’s including his WhatsApp line. WhatsApp has indicated that he has read the message.
This is coming seven days after waiting for their reply that never comes. If I may ask, where is the said ‘welfarism’? Or is it just on paper? Maybe it is for just writing purposes and for public consumption.
I don’t think that the apex students body in ABU can ignore emails or WhatsApp messages. Had it been a matter of emergency, what is the fate of a student. But I don’t even know if the council’s email is even that functional. If this is the case, then it is very unfortunate, because this is a digital era.
As SRC president I can’t expect him to attend to all students reaching for comment that’s why I copied him and his council’s address in the email. In case I will be attended by either of the two. But I was neither replied by him nor the council. All these could not establish communication between them and me.
Sincerely speaking, what is happening in the ABU Samaru community is not good. And this is not what is happening in other places serving as host communities to educational institutions. Below are a few examples of what is going in other places.
The Nation newspaper had reported that the management of Usman Danfodio University Sokoto (UDUS) and Students Union President, Faruku Barade Wamakko, at a meeting last week agreed that students should pay half of the new rent, which is 50 per cent.
UDUS students are too lucky to have a leader like Barade who had even appealed to landlords not to collect new rent from students but they didn’t agree. And also management like that of UDUS.
“The meeting between the management, students and landlords of private hostels has come to an end. We tried all our best and we came to the conclusion that students are to pay 50 per cent of what they used to pay.
“For example, if you have been paying N50,000 house rent before, be ready to pay N25,000 this time round, for the whole session,” he said.
This was evident in a news publication of The Nation newspaper of 28th January 2021. This clearly could make the student at least feel happy and less harmed during the long closure of institutions.
Not only UDUS SUG are involved in this kind gesture but also that of Abia state varsity. Taking into cognisance of “the effect of rampaging coronavirus infection, Students Union Government, SUG, Abia State University chapter, has pleaded with caretakers of various lodges around the school environment for 50 per cent reduction from various rent fees.”
The SUG made this available in a statement jointly signed by its President Com. Nwakanma John Chinyere and the Public Relation Officer, PRO, Com. Kingsley Okoro-Praise. The DAILY POST received this on Saturday.
“The union further said its demand for the reduction of rent fees was in order to halt the effect of COVID-19 pandemic on the students and parents economically.”
Unfortunately enough, in ABU, where it is said to be naturally ahead by most of the students, it was expected to cut the fees by maybe 60% or 70%. But all SRC could do was to inaugurate a committee which claimed to have negotiated with landlords chairman, traditional rulers amongst others. Despite all these, the sad thing was the so-called press statement of the council.
The only good thing I saw on that paper was the deduction of N60, 000 for those in Trust apartment. Though, I didn’t know how much they were paying. And also the agreement to add some months for students before new payment.
I was told that SUG showed more care, concern and love for students than SRC but I could not fully understand until when this incident happened. Take for example the schools I cited above all are having SUG not SRC.
SRC should do more. We honestly didn’t expect those things in their statement. We were expecting to see a good, concrete and fine agreement. Therefore, SRC should quickly act before it is too late.
Within the shortest possible time, I am expecting the council to act. Do the needful for us to fully comprehend their so-called students’ welfarism.
I don’t know if the council knows the number of students living outside the school. But doing more and something reasonable is what will show the students that they are of importance to the council. Not only by organising cultural events and other unnecessary events.
Moreover, should the council claim not to be aware, since it does not honour emails and messages on WhatsApp, I will therefore inform it that so many students I have interacted with have started making new payments. Payment in full without any sympathy or fairness to those students.
Worthy of note is the fraudulent activities of those villagers called agents. How they are cheating ABUsites is very saddening. What is the council doing? Not only these people but also okada riders and every other one who meet with innocent students mostly strangers to offer them service. That is when he will cheat them.
The simplest way to overcome these amongst many other frauds against students, the FG, management and alumni should build more hostels on campus to enable all students to occupy an independent space.
But in the meantime, SRC, management and traditional rulers should intervene immediately. Did SRC bother to write the emir of Zazzau if it was true that the landlords played a hard game with them? I think they can’t do that with his royal highness. Why did SRC fail to contact him?
But for now, something must happen. Or else the students will take actions into their hands. The earlier the better. ABU Zaria (Samaru main campus) is also a Nigerian university in Nigeria. So her students deserve all privileges given to others in other varsities. Enough is enough.
Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim is a journalist, fellow African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC) 2020, Wits University, Johannesburg, South Africa.