THE rot in federal universities is taking a toll on the hostels in the national ivory towers. Besides being overcrowded, many of the hostels lack basic amenities.
The PUNCH’s investigations in some federal universities across the country revealed that many of the hostels were filthy as the taps in the toilets and bathrooms were dry.
It was gathered that despite the poor conditions of the hostels, students still thronged them because of the rising rent in most university towns in Nigeria.
Findings indicated that the University of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which was founded in 1975, had 22 hostels. While some of the hostels take only male undergraduates, others accommodate only female students.
For the NDDC hostels, female students occupied the top floor, while their male counterparts took over the ground floor.
The university’s spokesman, Dr William Wodi, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said the newest of the hostels was the medical hostel built in 2018. According to him, the institution has a total student population of 35,000
When one of The PUNCH’s correspondents visited some of the hostels, he observed that a room, meant for four students, based on the university’s rules, had more than 12 occupants.
It was gathered that the situation was worsened by the fear of insecurity and high rent in the university’s neighbourhood, which had forced many students to move to the campus.
Findings revealed that a self-contained apartment in Choba community, where the university is located, goes for between N100, 000 and N120,000 per year, while a bed space in the university is N22,500.
This, it was learnt, had made many students, who could not secure bed spaces in the hostels, to squat with their friends, who had hostel accommodation.
Cult wars in Rivers force students relocate to varsity hostels
A student at the Mandela Hostel said some of his colleagues living outside the university had secretly moved in to squat with friends living on the campus without the knowledge of the university authorities.
The student, who simply gave his name as Mark, attributed the development to the security situation outside the campus, adding that most students loathed staying off-campus in order to avoid being hit by bullets during the routine deadly cult wars.
It was observed that the environment was dirty as students used the hostel galleries as refuse dumps, which helped to fuel the foul odour in the entire place.
Fear of building collapse in UNIPORT
One of the private security men in the school, Tony Samuel, expressed the fear that the situation could cause building collapse if nothing urgent was done.
On the situation at the NDDC hostels, UNIPORT spokesman, Dr William Wodi, admitted that the buildings had a structural defect, adding that NDDC, the agency responsible for the construction of the facility, had promised to address the problem.
He agreed that some of the students, staying off-campus, had come into the campus to squat with the original owners of the rooms because of insecurity outside the university environment.
Wodi added that the development had led to overpopulation in the hostels, which had continued to pile pressure on the facilities.
16 students cram into UNICAL hostel room
Also, at the University of Calabar, The PUNCH correspondent noticed the hostels, called Hall 4 and Hall 5, were in dire need of not only a coat of paint, but total clean-up due to the dirty state of the facilities.
Without water in the hostels when one of our correspondents visited the institution last week, the public conveniences were so dirty that the white marble in the bathrooms had turned green.
The correspondent observed that students had to fetch water whenever they attempted to use the dirty toilet.
Findings revealed that some students would not bother to fetch water to clean the conveniences because of the stress involved.
In addition to these problems, the rooms are overcrowded. It was learnt that a room, which is supposed to accommodate four students, had as many as eight or even 16 students due to lack of accommodation in the school.
Investigations revealed that each student paid N16, 000 for a bed space in a room per session.
A 300 level student, who spoke with one of our correspondents on condition of anonymity, said, “The challenges we are facing in Hall 5 are many. Some structures are damaged. There are spaces through which someone could come in and leave without the security personnel noticing. We don’t have water. Some students don’t flush when they use the toilet. They leave it for the rest to suffer.
“We still have the issue of the fee for hostel accommodation. Two years ago, we paid N8,000, but now, it has doubled to around N16,000.”
The President of the Students’ Union Government in the university, Raymond Moses, said, “I won’t be telling you that I am very comfortable with the state of things neither will I be saying that the management is not doing anything about them. There has been an increase in hostel accommodation fee because they want to effect changes.”
The university’s spokesman, Mr Effiong Eyo, said he would forward the questions sent by The PUNCH to the Dean of Students Affairs.
Eyo, later in his response, said, “As promised, I got to see the Dean of Students Affairs, Prof Enang Udah, over the issues raised by you.”
He stated that the dean said the administration of the Vice-Chancellor, Prof Zana Akpagu, had started confronting the challenges.
“The maintenance, according to the dean, is in progress. He added that it had been completed in Halls 6, 8 and 9. Work on Halls 4 and 5 will commence soon,” Eyo stated.
UNN male hostels dilapidated
At the University of Nigeria, Enugu Campus, hostels, especially those for males, are dilapidated.
One of our correspondents, who visited the Enugu Campus of the UNN last Monday, described Kenneth Dike and Mbonu Ojike hostels for the male students as filthy and uninhabitable.
It was observed that virtually all the windows were broken while most of them were covered with curtains.
The hostels, which are located at the end of the administrative and lecture blocks, are surrounded by bushes while the forecourt of the two hostels is water lodged.
It was observed that the paint on the buildings had faded, the walls cracked and the windows as well as sliding doors were half eaten by termites.
A few students, who spoke to The PUNCH, decried the varsity’s insufficient hostel accommodation.
A student, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said a one-bedroom flat outside the campus cost at least N250, 000, which had forced many students to seek accommodation on campus, making the hostels overpopulated.
A law student, Eke Ifeanyichukwu, said that the two hostels, which had had about 2,000 bed spaces, “now house about 5,000 students.”
At the Nsukka campus, a student, who didn’t want his name mentioned, described the toilets and bathrooms at the male hostels as disease-infested.
“Between eight and 20 students stay in one room because they cannot afford accommodation off-campus because of the Shylock Nsukka landlords. At the Nsukka campus, students go to the bushes to defecate because they can use the toilets where they can contract diseases,” one of the students said.
Also, a Medical Radiography student, Chinasa, who said female hostels were nice, complained about lack of water.
She stated, “In the university, we buy water. A gallon of 20 litres (of water) is N70. There is never a day you will not buy water. We accommodate our colleagues because accommodation is quite expensive in Enugu.”
However, the Student Union President, Tochukwu Onah, declined comment on the state of the hostels.
Also, the university’s Public Relations Officer, Mr. Okwun Omeaku, said he could not talk as he was attending an important event in the school.
“I am in an inaugural lecture; please let’s talk later,” Omeaku stated.
As of the time of filing this report, Omeaku had yet to call back or responded to inquiries sent to him.
Danfodiyo varsity hostel common rooms converted to rooms
In many rooms at the Jibril Aminu Hostel at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, the common rooms, meant for relaxation, have been converted to dwelling rooms due to a shortage of bed spaces.
It was gathered that each room in the hostel, originally meant for eight occupants at the rate of N7,090.00 per bed space, usually accommodated between 10 and 12 students.
A 300 Level law student, Gobir Habeeb, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “Bathrooms and toilets in the UDUS Hostel are not adequate. Apart from the odour that usually comes from there, the doors and windows are also damaged, leaving students to have their bath without doors to cover their privacy.”
Theft because of errand boys’ access
Also, some students lamented that errand boys and girls as well as hawkers had unfettered access to the hostels. This, they said, encouraged criminality and theft of students’ property.
But the UDUS Students’ Union President, Faruk Barade, described the situation of the hostels as “conducive” for the students.
Barade denied any knowledge of overcrowded rooms in the hostel, stating that the union would make the common rooms conducive for students.
Efforts to get the reaction of the university as of the time of sending this report did not succeed.
Several calls put across to the Dean, Students’ Affairs, Prof Aminu Mode, were not returned neither did he respond to enquiries sent to him via text messages.
Dirty halls, bed bugs welcome you to OAU hostels
In the three residential halls visited at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife, it was observed that the surroundings of the halls were dirty.
At the Adekunle Fajuyi Hall, refuse littered the front of the male hostel. Occupants of the two-storey building dumped refuse right in front of some rooms on the ground floor.
A resident of the hall, who preferred not to be named, said refuse collectors occasionally packed the filth.
According to him, students on the ground floor of the building have been the victims of the stench from the refuse dumped in front of the hall.
At the Awolowo Hall, toilets were in a bad state. It was observed that some bathroom doors were badly damaged while others had none.
Occupants of Awo Hall complained of bed bugs which they claimed had become a permanent feature in their rooms. Two of the beds were seen outside the hall.
It was gathered that both fresh and returning students paid N3, 900 per bed space every session at the OAU.
The Public Relations Officer of the university, Mr Abiodun Olanrewaju, told The PUNCH that all the halls in the institution were usually renovated before the commencement of every season, adding that the poor state of facilities noticed in some of the halls could not be blamed on the management.
Attacked UI hostel, others bushy
In the Obafemi Awolowo Hall of the University of Ibadan, which was built in 1986, it was observed that there was poor ventilation and that the environment was bushy.
Armed robbers had, three weeks ago, attacked the female hostel and carted away students’ belongings.
The PUNCH’s investigations showed that following the outcry that followed the attack, renovation work had commenced on it.
We queue to use toilets – ABU student
At the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, a 200 Level Political Science student, Usman Abubakar, said a room designed for four people was accommodating seven.
According to him, toilets on the campus are grossly inadequate.
“We have to queue to use the facilities,” he added.
Also, Mary Samuel, who resides in the Akenzua Hall, said living on the campus was supposed to be a blessing, saying the reverse is the case.
Dearth of bed spaces, bed bugs at UNILAG
In the University of Lagos,Akoka, a female student, at the Fagunwa Hostel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said students were the ones who spoilt the infrastructure put in place by the management.
Another female student told The PUNCH that the rooms were overcrowded because of a shortage of bed spaces.
She stated, “We should have four people in a room, but we have squatters in all the rooms. So, from four in a room, we can have eight students.”
Another student, who wished to be identified as Bayo, said most fans in the rooms at the Biobaku Hostel were not working.
He stated, “We still have the issue of bed bugs in our hostel; remember that was one of the reasons the students union was banned in UNILAG when the students protested against the issue of bed bugs.”
At the Aliyu Makama Bida Hall which was built in 1986, a student said the bad state of the rooms depended on the habitants.
We are worried, says ASUU
Meanwhile, the President of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, Prof Biodun Ogunyemi, said the group was worried about the state of the hostels in the federal universities.
Ogunyemi stated, “The situation has moved from bad to worse and we are praying it doesn’t get to the worst. You could also see some forms of intervention. The N220bn the government released made some impacts because there are some areas of intervention where you can see pockets of transformation.
“You can imagine if the government kept the main agreement between 2013 and 2019. The government was expected to have released the N1.3trn, but the government has only released N220bn.
“We are worried. We want the Nigerian public to be worried. Until we are ready to do a designed-team intervention, until we are ready to massively inject funds and until we come to a concerted agreement that our universities deserve an urgent intervention, we cannot turn things round in our universities.”
Hostel management should be outsourced – Utomi
However, a professor of Political Economy and Management, Pat Utomi, identified funding for the universities and prioritising between academic and non-academic goals as two major causes of the state of the federal universities.
He described hostels as classic opportunities for public-private partnership, saying, “But the enabling laws have not been there. Besides, hostel management is not the core function of the university and it’s better outsourced.”
Varsities should maintain hostels through rent they collect – FG
But the Federal Ministry of Education said it was intervening in public universities through the Tertiary Education Trust Fund, adding that N1.3trn was expended in the last four years.
The Deputy Director, Press and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Education, Mr Ben Goong, stated this in an interview with The PUNCH.
He said, “There is no university today that you don’t see a profound presence of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund. You will see a lot of building and development of infrastructure.
“The universities collect rent from students every year. So, these hostels are not given free of charge. After four or five years, that same university which collects and pockets the rent, comes back and submits a bill of N200m to the government to rehabilitate hostels.
“No university has the business coming back to the Federal Government to rehabilitate hostels. I agree that issues of electricity, water and the likes are included in the charges. But if the university collects rent, maintenance of the hostels should be their primary responsibility.”