The setting up of three new universities in Delta State without proper preparation for accommodation facilities has started taking its toll on students who were displaced from former DELSU Campus, Anwai, Asaba to the main campus of the Delta State University, Abraka.
It would be recalled that Governor Ifeanyi Okowa set up three new universities in the state in April 2021. They are University of Delta, Agbor; State University of Science and Technology, Ozoro and Dennis Osadebe University, Anwai, Asaba. The site of the Dennis Osadebe has, over the years been a Campus of Delta State University, and to faculties of Agriculture and Business Studies both with a students population of well over 3,000.
At the conversion of the former campus to Dennis Osadebe University, The New Diplomat learnt that the management of the new university did not make provision for the integration of the existing students of the two facilities of Agriculture and Business Studies, but decided, on the instruction of the state governor, to relocate the old students to the main DELSU Campus in Abraka.
The New Diplomat learnt that the relocated students were left to their fate to seek accommodation by themselves in Abraka, where shortage of accommodation has long been endemic.
With over 3,000 students pouring into Abraka, landlords of private hostels and residential buildings have capitalized on the situation to jack up rents.
The New Diplomat survey indicates that the smallest form of living space known as bed-sitter which used to attract N120,000 in a year, now goes for N250,000 plus N50,000 refundable caution fees. On top of that, the agent will collect N25,000 agency fees aside N20,000 for the landlord.
In all, a student seeking such accommodation that is barely convenient for one student will have to squeeze out nearly N350,000 for accommodation in Abraka.
The New Diplomat investigation reveals that although the three campuses of the Delta State University, Abraka, lack accommodation for the size of its students before now, the few hostels available in the school are not only poorly maintained, many have actually been abandoned to rats and reptiles.
“The once popular Ethiope Hostels in Campus 2, which used to accommodate over 5,000 students some years ago, has become a shadow of itself.
“Facilities in the hostel have decayed while the school authority turns blind eyes on its maintenance,” a top official of the university who wants to remain anonymous, told The New Diplomat.
Concerned with the plight of students over the outrageous rent in Abraka, the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, met with the state Commissioner for Housing Mr. Festus Ochonogor, in Asaba recently.
The students body, led by the Deputy Coordinator, NANS Southeast and SouthSouth (Zone), Dio Oghale-Emejoereda Emeka Rex, put before the commissioner a three-point demand, urging the state government to:
a) through the State House of Assembly, establish a law to peg an accommodating and convenient price payable by the common man and also ensure its enforcement; b) establish and enforce a law that rents should be paid monthly so as to reduce the burden and heart attack of paying huge amounts of money by the ordinary citizens
c) partner with private sectors or take full responsibilities in building hostels which should be subsidized in our higher institutions of learning as this will automatically reduce the hike in the rents by landlords.
NANS urged the government to do everything possible to alleviate the plight of the students in terms of accommodation, adding that they should not be pushed to embark on protest.
“The Nigerian students who currently are battling with hostel fee increments wouldn’t love to come out en mass to the streets for a protest, but will be left with no other option than to take to the streets (for a) mother of all protests if the government fails to address the issues swiftly,” NANS Deputy Director said.
While responding to the demands of the students, Ochonogor thanked the students for their bold steps in trying to proffer solution to the accommodation problem.
According to Ochonogor, the “Delta State Government was aware of the suffering and exploitation of the masses by the landlords and the government is not quiet or comfortable about it,” adding that his ministry, Ministry of Urban Renewal and Ministry of Lands and Survey have resolved on modalities to curb this exploitation.”
The commissioner gave assurance that the government was “very ready to partner with investors who are ready to develop the state by building of houses and other projects.”