As a result of incessant strikes affecting the country’s higher institutions, Nigerian students have lost millions of naira in housing rent.
The Guardian investigation revealed that those affected are mostly students living in private hostels, who rent choice apartments and self-contained accommodation in major cities across the country.
In the last five years, millions in rent had gone into the pockets of private hostel investors, as students are forced to leave their rental apartments due to a lack of academic work in public universities.
Suleiman Ebeiya, a 400-level student of the Department of Mathematics, Federal University of Gusau, Zamfara, is one of such victims. In April 2020, he had to travel home to his parents in Kwara, following the strike action in March 2020, as two weeks warning strike, which metamorphosed into nine months and ended in January the following year.
Two years later, Suleiman is also facing the same fate, following the February 14, 2022 warning strike, which is now rolling over into three months.
According to Suleiman, he has experienced this before and he is unhappy he is living this moment again.
“I am sad, unhappy, and worried about my properties in the hostel because of the recent attacks by robbers, who are breaking into hostels and looting the properties of hostel occupants.”
He not only has to worry about the possibility of spending an extra year as an undergraduate but also about his hostel rent, which he renewed in February, days before the warning strike was declared following the Federal Government’s failure to meet the conditions for which the 2020 strike was called off in January 2021.
A sum of N120,000 per year is paid by Suleiman even if he is away from the hostel for months. Mr. Kabir, is the caretaker of Walid Bread Lodge, a student hostel located in the Sabon-Gida axis of Gusau, which is a 10-minute drive from his campus.
Between February 2020 and January 2021, he lost a sum of N80,000 on rent after traveling home in April 2020 and resumed school in January 2021 only to renew his rent the following month after being away for eight months. Suleiman is meant to pay a sum of N480,000 between 100 level to 400 level but the strike has made him pay N600,000 already and has not graduated.
Other students in big cities like Lagos, Abuja, Owerri, and PortHarcourt are paying more in rent worth billions of naira yearly. In Abakaliki in Ebonyi State, students pay as much as N250,000 for a space in private hotels.
Just like Suleiman, thousands of university students affected by the ASUU strike have come to terms with this reality – losing months from their academic calendar and millions on rent by paying rent for hostels they may not reside in for a complete year.
In 2020, university students, who resided in hostels off-campus affected by the ASUU strike lost nine months from their academic calendar and lost money on rent as well.
In the last 21 years, the Academic Staff Union of Universities has spent no less than 1500 days on strike. While students were trying to get over the disastrous effect of the 2020 ASUU strike, which lasted nine months and universities were beginning to get back to running their normal academic calendar pre-2020, the union embarked on a warning strike that transcended into an indefinite strike.
Other students, like Isaac Chibuife, a 300-level student of Mass Communication at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka who pays N150,000 per year prefer to reside in hostels off-campus even if he has to pay a higher amount of money as rent for accommodation off-campus because hostels on campus are not enough for the entire student population.
For Isaac, he believes this is a small price he has to pay to avoid living in school hostels, which are in a pathetic state. The student, who paid N120,000 in March 2020 lost a sum of N90,000 on rent. After the strike was called off in January 2021 and Isaac resumed after nine months hiatus, his landlord increased his rent from N120,000 to N150,000 naira.