Adisa Abeeb Olalekan, a native of Ibadan, Oyo State, travelled to Sokoto State two years ago to study Business Administration at Usmanu Danfodiyo University, UDUS. Unable to get accommodation on campus, he was compelled to rent a room in Sharma, a village, at the cost of N45,000. Barely a month after, a COVID-19 lockdown was announced, followed by a nine-month industrial action by the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU.
“It was not more than a month that I paid the money, they asked us to leave the school for a month, as directed by the Federal Government, due to COVID-19 pandemic. My heart remains doleful whenever I remember the payment. If I had known, I would not have paid the rent and if I knew we would be staying home for this long; and (if it) was possible for me, I would have retrieved my money from the landlord,” Olalekan who is now in his 200 level lamented.
Another student of the institution, Hamid Fatimah, who also lives in a private hostel (Benjee Girls’ Hostel), said she paid the sum of N80,000 for her apartment in February, only three weeks before the imposed lockdown. Initially thinking she will be home for no more than a month before schools are reopened, Fatimah has had to spend the remaining part of the year away from school.
In a voice laced with disappointment, Fatimah wished her landlord would be considerate enough to allow her to stay in the apartment when schools reopen, without demanding for a new payment, to enable her to get value for the money already spent.
“I and my roommates paid the sum of Eighty Thousand Naira (80,000) to our landlord in the month of February. Barely three weeks to the payment, the school asked us to vacate the campus. We all left, thinking of resumption after a month, not knowing we would stay at home, this long. They (the Landlord) should allow us to enjoy the payment for the months we spent at home before paying another rent. After all, we haven’t completed the academic session which we paid for, so, the landlord should consider our parents and understand the current situation of the country,” she reasoned.
Olalekan and Fatimah are among thousands of students across universities nationwide who are worried by the persistent ASUU strikes that have become the most odious part of pursuing a university degree in Nigeria. Apart from the avoidable extra time these students have to spend in the universities, there is also an additional financial burden they or their parents/guardians are forced to bear.
As a means of addressing the problem of additional cost, both Olalekan and Fatimah urged the school’s management to intervene in the situation by calling for a dialogue meeting with landlords in a view to reaching a mutually beneficial compromise.
“We students should express our plights before the school management, to have a meeting with the landlords and landladies, plead on our behalf to let us complete the session we paid for before requesting for another house rent,” Olalekan suggested. “We expect the school management to intervene, by having a meeting with them and plead to them on behalf of the students since the apartments are also on campus,” Fatimah added.
Islamiyah Olayinka, 100 level Public Administration student of the school has also faulted her landlord for discarding their belongings and occupying their room before their arrival on campus.
Islamiyah has been to UDUS campus before the school released their academic calendar, only to discover that their landlord has already occupied their room and discarded their belongings.
“I was so shocked and amazed, seeing our room being occupied. I thought some of my mates have been to school before me until I met our landlord and his family in the room. He said there was no security in the previous house he lived in, so, he had to pack into our house, and our own room preferably, and since he didn’t have any of our contacts, he destroyed the security padlock and discarded our belongings,” Islamiyah reeled out her ordeal.
When asked about her present situation and where she stays, Islamiyah said the landlord has allocated another room for them and she is currently living in the room, waiting for her mates to resume and decide whether to remain in the room or take another step of action on the landlord’s act.
“Currently, I am living in the room he has allocated us, waiting for my mates to resume. If we decide to stay in the room, we won’t pay him this year’s rent and if we decide not to live there, we will make sure he refund our one hundred and Forty Thousand Naira (140,00) because we left the campus a month after the payment and neither us nor our belongings enjoyed the payment,” she concluded.
Student Union, University Management React
Student Union President of the UDUS, Comrade Faruku Barade Wamakko, says he is already working towards presenting the matter before the school management; stressing that the affected students should be ready to pay at least half of their rent costs.
“I’m planning to meet the school management, to discuss the issue of our students in the private hostels. The students should not have it in mind that they won’t pay any dime if they resume. They should be ready to pay at least half of their rent, if the landlords request and we will make sure that we try our possible best to discuss with the landlords too, to consider our mates in their apartments,” he said.
On his part, the Dean of Student Affairs of the university, Prof. Aminu Muhammad Mode, explained that students in the school’s hostels will not be charged another payment since the session which they paid for had not elapsed, but said the school cannot impose any directives on the owners of private hostels doing their legitimate business.
“We cannot give the landlords directives because they are not operating under the school management. It’s not our property but just for business to the owners,” he said, adding that “With the information I’m getting from you (directly telling this reporter), I will make sure I make my findings [and] make the school meet with the landlords if they will cooperate, for the betterment of our students in the villages before I make it official.”
Worries of Nigerian Students
Saheed Abdul Rahman, a 200-Level student of the University of Ilorin, also reeled out his ordeal, how the recent strike has imposed on him, another full payment of rent to the landlord of his apartment he lives outside the school campus.
Abdul Rahman said: “House rent has emerged as a pressing concern among students. Nevertheless, with a good negotiation from student union government of all universities, perhaps, landlords and student-tenants may reach a reasonable compromise of payment or a timeline for extension of payment or even a reduction.
“The students that dwell in the private apartments situated in our school can also be privileged to enjoy such, as the students union leaders have promised to intervene and negotiate with their landlords, but we students living off-campus, we have no choice than to pay another rent in full, following the terms of conditions of tenancy.”
A 400-Level student of Obafemi Awolowo University, OAU, Ile-Ife, Kehinde Faboade also added that partial or outright waiver of the 2021 rent and some percentage deduction from the rent are some of the options available to the landlords and the student – tenants.
“I don’t think either of the parties should dance to the tune of the other. Rather, this issue should be settled as a win-win. The student populace would want an outright waiver because they’ve suffered enough psychological stress as a result of the prolonged ASUU strike which was later suspended. The economic hardship facing many Nigerians has also not helped matters. Landlords would also want new rent to be paid because they are also feeling the pains of recession.
“With the intervention of the leadership of students’ associations, solutions can be proffered through constructive dialogue,” Kehinde illustrated.
In her own reaction, Ifeanyichukwu Miracle, of the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, she wants the landlords to slash the rent and allow students to pay half of their rents for the year 2021.
Miracle said: “It all comes down to understanding. If the landlords understand that the year has been wasted for no just cause and decide to have pity on the student––their tenants, then, it’s very commendable. I suggest that the house rents should be slashed, so that students can pay half of the year’s rent and the landlords bear the rest.”
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