Residing off-campus: Sad tales of ABU students after Covid-19 lockdown, ASUU Strike


By Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim

Apart from being the “most national institution” in Nigeria, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria; having won Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board (JAMB) awards recently in 2019 and 2020, like many other tertiary institutions in Nigeria, could not provide good, comfortable and sufficient hostel accommodation for all its admitted students.

This has been the reason for the plights of many students of ABU living in off-campus. The only way out for the students is to stay off campus, rent rooms at expensive rates which is not expected by a student.

This report has gathered the cries and worries of ABU students living in off-campus apartments most especially during the prolonged academic staff union of universities (ASUU) strike in 2020 and the lockdown necessitated by the global Covid-19 pandemic, Muhammad Auwal Ibrahim reports.

Poor, insufficient hostel(s) for accommodation make students uncomfortable

Sadly, many hostels in the prestigious Ahmadu Bello University Zaria are in dilapidated states. Such hostels include Danfodio hall, Icsa and Ramat halls amongst others.

Therefore, students are forced to leave this kind of old, poorly managed halls. From there, they roam around in search of a better accommodation (off-campus).

According to some diploma students in ABU, the institution have failed to provide hostel accommodation for diploma students. This amongst other reasons, compelled them to find other alternatives.

For Kenneth Shadrach, a law student, ‘stealing in the hostel’ has been his major reason to stay in off campus. However, he did not feel good when he received his rent expiration notice after the lockdown and ASUU strike.

Unavailability of accommodation for diploma students was the sole reason for his stay at off-campus, Abisoye Afeez Olalekan, a diploma student of mass communication has explained.

Afeez has paid N40, 000 for his accommodation during the 2019/2020 academic session which he could not use due to the shut down/halt of academic activities on campuses and the prolonged ASUU strike. Without fairness, his landlord sent him a notification on the expiration of his tenancy period.

Many students who spoke with this newspaper, found themselves living in off campus as their last option.

Expensive lifestyle, comfortability

Some students like expensive lifestyle. Everywhere, there are this kind of people. And this habit is also found amongst the young ones. Both male and female. For this reason, ABU students are not in exception.

ABU being nicknamed as naturally ahead, could not be said to exist without such kind of people. They prefer expensive houses off-campus to rent. The price and whatsoever is not their concern, so long as they will be comfortable and live an expensive life.

“I am the type that hardly stays with plenty of people, and the nature of hostel is worrisome. Insecurity of clothes, shoes and other valuables. It’s not easy staying in the hostel.” Agbo Michael Oche says.

Not only Michael, Umar Rufai Ahmad, who studies pharmacy, told our reporter that comfortability was the reason behind his stay in off-campus.

Student raises alarm

Despite the scourge of the global pandemic and ASUU strike which lasted for about a year, affecting the students, landlords have started sending messages to their tenants, herein referred to as ABU students about the expiration of their rent.

However, the angry student have no option than to take his cry in the streets of social media, in the first week of January, 2020.

“My landlord has issued us notice that house rent have expired on the 4th January, 2020. Now he has given us notice, all tenants to remit rent payment before Friday 8th, even though some of us stayed in for not more than two months before the strike.” An anonymous student says.
“Please, can’t the school talk to Samaru community to consider the plights of students and grant at least a discount? he asks. He continues “please share with the group and the page for opinion.” he requests the blogger of The abusites.

Students want 50% discount, sympathy from landlords

For Abisoye Afeez Olalekan, who is pursuing his diploma in mass communication, expressed his sadness over the expiration of his house rent, therefore called for sympathy from his landlord.

“They should allow us to stay for this new session without paying another rent or pay 40% of our rent considering the fact they might have no other means of earning aside from the house rent fee.”

“ABU Students Representative Council (SRC) should help us reach out to the Samaru community and plead with the landlords to be fair with us.”

Similarly, James Adakole Emmanuel, another student of ABU, faculty of law says “there should be some consideration and discount for the house rent because I barely stayed in the apartment after the payment”

“I felt so bad because I ought to have finished last year if not for the pandemic and strike. Now the landlord changed our padlock and said “no payment, no entry”. But I am optimistic things will be fine by God’s grace.” Agbo Michael Oche, a final year student says.

“He should have allowed us in then call for a meeting because we paid last year and stayed for a month and some weeks. He is supposed to understand we are all affected in one way or the other by the pandemic and strike,” he adds.

Umar Farouq Taheer wants the students to enjoy the last payment since it could not be enjoyed last year. “Landlords should have sympathy and let the students enjoy the pay they paid for last year, let them enjoy it this year,” Farouq says.

While for Maryam Gajam Abubakar, who paid the huge sum of N200, 000, sourced from her parents, said she is not happy with the message from her landlord.

” They should at least allow us to stay for five months before making another payment especially the 400 level students.” She explains. “If they won’t compromise anything for us then atleast they should allow us to stay and pay for a half year rent,” she adds.

Similarly, James Adakole Emmanuel, 400 level student of mechanical engineering said the news is “really bad because it will be expiring February and I barely stayed for up to a month before the strike.”

Abubakar Aliyu agreed with others opinion by saying “If they must ask students to renew their payment, they should ask for nothing more than 50% of the total amount.” The landlords should be considerate in their dealings.”

Students demand SRC, management intervention

Agbo Michael Oche called on the school management to intervene on the rent issues between students and their landlords.

“The school management should please call for a town hall meeting with Samaru leaders or house owners to look at the issue in a more mature way. Last year’s rent can be cut into two so we can pay half this year,” he says.

Also, a student who described himself as Musa Idris, called on the management to come into the situation. “Please, the school management or the school union should help us negotiate with the landlords,” he states.

Umar Farouq Taheer said “yes! If the landlords are not willing to let the students enjoy what they paid for last year, student leaders should engage the school management in order to take the matter to court.”

Hassan Hassan, a 300 level student of computer engineering, wants the SRC to “intervene and negotiate with the landlords for at least a 50% discount.”

Aliyu called on the management to come into the issue. “they should collaborate with the students’ leaders and landlords and find a common ground that would be a win-win for both the students and the landlords.”

SRC intervenes

Sequel to this development, ABU SRC have released a new presidential address which addressed this issue as matter no.7.

The highest students’ body of the institution has pledged to intervene in the matter and see how it could help settle it.

“The council has started negotiating with the chairman of landlords association. Even though the leadership of the association are playing hard game, we are still pushing to come to a middle ground.” The council says in a presidential address signed by the president, Abubakar Sadik.

“We also contacted the chairman of Sabon Gari Local Government and the member representing Sabo in the state assembly. We urge you to exercise patience and render us maximum support.”

Further attempts to reach the SRC committee chairman was not successful as he didn’t reply to Twitter messages sent to him.

In a bid to know what the school management has done, doing or planning of coming into this matter to help students, ABU failed to respond to both the email and the inquiry contact form filled on its website.

As of 25th January, when the State Government allowed ABU to resume, many departments immediately commenced lectures.

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