Students of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) Zaria, who live outside campus, have raised concerns about the high cost of houses and the insensitivity of landlords who collect new payment from them upon the expiration of previous rent, reports MUHAMMAD AUWAL IBRAHIM (ABU).
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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic led to a lockdown in March across the country. Students were forced to stay at home for some months.
With the lockdown still on, the longest strike in the history of the country further compounded the woes of students who were eager to resume school. The Academic Staff Union of Universities’ (ASUU) strike lasted for nine months before it was suspended.
The directive of the Federal Government that schools should resume on January 18, 2021 excited students who were bored by the long break; they started packing their belongings to return to school.
Students of the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, were not left behind. However, after battling the lockdown and the ASUU strike, they resumed school to face landlords who wanted them to pay their rent as soon as possible not minding the non-usage of the previous one.
Many of the students have, nonetheless, decried the poor hostels on the campus which made them go outside the school to rent houses at exorbitant rates. According to them, staying off-campus is the only guarantee for comfort.
“Students are not comfortable with the state of school hostels. In fact, they are not sufficient considering the number of students. It is sad that many hostels at the ABU are in poor condition. Such hostels include Danfodio Hall, ICSA and Ramat Halls.
Therefore, students are forced to leave the old, poorly-managed halls for better accommodation outside the school at high prices, a student who pleaded anonymity said.
CAMPUSLIFE gathered that diploma students in ABU are not provided with hostel accommodation. This, among other reasons, compelled them to find alternatives.
For Kenneth Shadrach, a Law student, stealing in the hostel’ made him leave the school hostel to stay off campus. However, he did not feel good when he received his rent expiration notice after the lockdown and ASUU strike.
“Apart from poor facilities, stealing in the hostel made me get accommodation outside the school. Now, despite not utilising my rent, I have been served a notice of expiration, and I am expected to pay another rent,” he said.
For Abisoye Afeez, a Mass Communication diploma student, the unavailability of accommodation for diploma students ensured he would stay outside the campus. He explained that he paid N40,000 during the 2019/2020 academic session which he couldn’t use as result of the coronavirus lockdown and ASUU strike. He complained that his landlord had notified him that another payment was due.
He said: “Unavailability of accommodation for diploma students made me secure an apartment outside the school.
‘’I paid N40,000 for accommodation during the 2019/2020 academic session which I could not use due to the halt in academic activities on campuses by the Coronavirus pandemic and the prolonged ASUU strike.
‘’Unfortunately, my landlord sent me a notification on the expiration of my tenancy.”
Another student, Agbo Michael Oche, said: “I am the type that hardly stays with plenty people, and the nature of the school hostel is worrisome. Insecurity of clothes, shoes and other valuables. It is not easy staying in the hostel.”
Not only Michael, Umar Rufai Ahmad, a student of Pharmacy, said he wanted to be comfortable, hence, he had to secure accommodation outside the school.
A student who refused to be named said: “My landlord has issued us notice, house rent expired on January 4, 2021. Now he has given us notice to remit rent, even though some of us stayed for not more than two months before the strike.
“Please, can’t the school talk to landlords in the community to consider the plights of students and grant us discount?”
Students want 50 per cent discount from landlords
For Afeez Olalekan, who is pursuing his diploma in Mass Communication, landlords should softpedal.
“They should allow us to stay for this new session without paying another rent or pay 40 per cent of our rent. They (the landlords) might have no other means of earning aside from the house rent, hence, they should allow us pay 40 per cent.
“ABU Students Representative Council (SRC) should help us reach out to the Samaru community and plead with the landlords to be fair to us,” he said.
Similarly, James Adakole Emmanuel, a Law student, said: “There should be some consideration and discount in 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, said: “The landlord should have allowed us in. Afterwards, he should call for a meeting because we paid last year and stayed for a month and some weeks. He should understand we are all affected, one way or the other, by the pandemic and strike.”
Umar Farouq Taheer, another student, 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 payment of last year. It will be good if they let them enjoy it this year.”
Maryam Gajam Abubakar, who paid a N200, 000, is not happy with the message from her landlord.
” They should at least allow us to stay for five months before making another payments especially the 400-Level students.
“If they won’t compromise anything for us then at least they should allow us to stay and pay half of the rent,” she said.
Similarly, Ahmed Tijani, 300-Level student of Mechanical Engineering said the notification sent by his landlord saddened him because his rent would expire at the end of February.
“I am not happy at all at the notification of my landlord. I barely stayed up to a month before the strike. My rent expires February ending,” he said.
Abubakar Aliyu agreed with others. He said: “If they must ask students to renew their payment, they should ask for nothing more than 50 per cent of the amount.
The landlords should be considerate in their dealings.”
Students demand SRC, management intervention
Oche called on the school management and the Students Representative Council (SRC) to intervene on the rent issue 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 said.
Also, a student who identified himself as Musa Idris, called on the management to step into the situation.
“Please, the school management or the school union should help us negotiate with the landlords.” he said.
Umar Farouq Taheer said: “If the landlords are not willing to let the students enjoy what they paid for last year, student leaders should engage the school management 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 per cent discount.
Aliyu Musa, a 200-Level student of Chemistry, urged the school management to collaborate with student leaders and landlords and find a common ground that would be a win-win for both parties.
Students Representative Council to intervene
The ABU SRC has pledged to intervene in the matter and see how it could help settle it. It was gathered that the council hasd started negotiating with the Chairman of Landlords Association. Abubakar Sadik, who said: “Even though the leadership of the association is playing a hard game, we are still pushing for fairness.
“We also contacted the chairman of Sabo Local Government Area and members representing Sabo in the state assembly.
“We urge you to exercise patience and render us maximum support.”