Some concerned parents and students of University of Benin, Benin City, Edo State have decried the high level of extortion and manipulation going on in the hostel allocation process of the university currently in process; and called on the Minister of Education and all relevant authorities concerned in the monitoring and administration of the university to intervene and save them from the those enriching themselves from the system at the expense of students.
They stated that the call has become necessary given the economic hardship facing the common man in Nigeria today, coupled with the burden of the recent increase in school fees
Speaking to our correspondent in Benin, the some of the parents who spoke with our correspondent stated that it is not only inhuman but also wickedness being perpetuated against the already impoverished parents who are managing to cope with paying the new school fees regime introduced a few days to resumption for the academic session.
They noted that their children and wards have paid the relevant fees and applied for hostel but are yet to be allocated while some of those who have been given are advertising them for sale in various student Whatsapp groups for as much as N65000 to N80000 (including N1000 booking fee) for the Halls 1,2,3,4 and Ekenwan hostels even though the actual cost of acquiring them from the school portal when allocated is N18000.
According to Zee (name has been changed), one of the students we spoke to, the situation is worse for the reserved hostels which they listed to include NDDC, Keystone Bank, Intercontinental, Festus Akingbola etc, which despite going for between N36000 to N76000 (including N1000 booking fee) are now being sold for as much as N250000 with agents, including staff, students and other interested parties who have been benefitting from the yearly business canvassing such amounts from desperate students who for one reason or the other prefer these reserved hostels in order to assist them get allocated to the listed halls of residence in the university.
One of our respondents, Dee (not his real name), an obviously frustrated student revealed that this “illicit market” had been going on for years in the university but the tempo increased since the subsisting dean of students affairs of the university took over office. He further disclosed that usually, at the onset of a new session, the university management through the office of the Dean of Student Affairs puts out a notice on the university portal intimating interested students of the procedure to follow to book hostel spaces and directing them on particular dates and time to log into their portals to book, having paid the sessional fees and the hostel allocation booking fee of one thousand naira on the remita platform direct from their portal.
According to him, the process is fraught with irregularities, especially in respect of allocation for the reserved hostels which he said has over the past few years, become the milking cow for students who have to either be highly connected, or pay through their noses to get it through agents who demand between N80,000 and N250,000 for hostel spaces that ordinarily cost between N17,000 and 75,000 from the school portal, adding also that it is a thriving business between the dean of students affairs office, his agents who include staff, especially those in the ICT unit students and some others who enjoy insider connection.
Another parent, Mr Don (name has been changed) narrated how he lost money on several occasions to agents he paid money to help his son get one of the reserved hostels in his second year because he contacted toilet diseases when he stayed in Hall 4 the previous year because of the poor hygiene in the toilet and bathroom facilities which are not only grossly inadequate for the number of students allocated to them but also poorly maintained.
“This is not to talk about the number of students jam-packed in each room. How can they pack students like sardines, inside one small room, you find as much as six or eight students with only two wardrobes, or in Hall 3, 6 students with only two wardrobes. What this shows is that the initial plan was for such rooms to accommodate only two or at most four students,” he stated.
He added, “At the end, we couldn’t get the reserved hostel, the agent disappeared into thin air, so against all odds and despite the risks, we resorted to going off campus, is that not an experience I shouldn’t wish even my enemies?,” he queried.
Our correspondent who went to the university campus to get first hand information reveals that the outrageous amounts are not only being advertised openly in student Whatsapp groups, even though sale of hostel spaces are prohibited by the university but are also demanded from students to get allocation by agents working for those directly involved in the allocation process whose dragnet is unfortunately overwhelming.
A check on the university’s website confirmed the information stipulating the criteria to book particular hostels (Hall 1, 2, 3 4, as well as the Ekenwan) hostels and directing students to book for accomodation, using the HOS Activation code also directed students interested in booking the “Reserved hostels” (Hall 5, 6, 7, NDDC, Keystone Bank, Intercontinental, Festus Akingbola, etc) to proceed to the Dean of Student Affairs office and submit their school fees and bed allocation fee payment slips in order to be allocated manually while they also complete the process in their portal once allocated, using the HOS Activation code.
Why has become difficult if not impossible for everyday student who is not highly connected or can afford paying through the agents an initial amount ranging from N100,000 to N250,000 to get the allocation for the reserved hostels and thereafter pay the prescribed fee through their respective portals, is the burning concern for all stakeholders.
One of the respondents disclosed that in the past years, it was possible for any student to get allocation to any of the hostels without any connection as long as he or she has paid the necessary fees. For the reserved hostels, she stated that for example, NDDC hostel was basically for medical students but since everything now works based on either “high connection” or the “highest bidder,” the process has changed and only the Dean of Students affairs, his staff and others involved directly in the process hold the aces and therefore can determine who gets what and lamented that if left unchecked, bonafide students will continue to bear the brunt of the greed of a few.
Further investigation also revealed that the driving force for students that has continued to fuel the reserved hostel allocation market, making it thrive is the unsanitary condition of other hall of residence. A situation where about 80 students in a series as categorized for the hostels have access to only five toilets and five bathrooms is demeaning for a greater majority of students who mostly find it difficult to stand the eye sore that these facilities have become over the years, hence many resort to bathing outside in open spaces very early in the morning before it’s bright while others defecate in nylon bags, popularly known as short put in order not to contact toilet diseases.