By Adewale Kupoluyi
THE prevailing insecurity in the nation is fast manifesting with the incessant attacks on university students. There is hardly any week that passes by that one case of robbery is not reported at the off-campus hostel accommodation. During the attacks, cellular phones, laptop computers, jewellery, clothing, cash and other valuable items of students are taken away. Ordinarily, most students would prefer to stay on campus as there is the likelihood that better security would be provided in addition to the advantage of cost-effectiveness, proximity to classrooms, and the opportunity to enjoy the ambiance of campus life. Unfortunately, due to the huge financial implication, dwindling revenues, and increasing students’ population, the existing campus accommodation has become grossly inadequate to cater for the needs of students, as most of them are overcrowded, badly-managed and unkempt. Although mature students may prefer cozy off-campus accommodation or come from home, a majority of the students residing on-campus or off-campus hostels are youths and young people. The situation is similar to what is obtainable in the colleges of education, mono-technics and polytechnics.
READ ALSO:Child abuse: Police task parents on child protection in Sokoto(Opens in a new browser tab)
In private universities, shortage of campus hostel accommodation is uncommon unlike in the public universities owned by federal and state governments. The reason for this is that private universities charge more school fees, which naturally reduces the number of intakes by moderating the pressure on infrastructural facilities. Secondly, most of the private universities in the country were established by wealthy Nigerians and religious organisations that may not have funding challenges. It is on this premise that off-campus accommodation is patronised mainly by students in public universities. Recent media reports showed that armed robbers numbering about seven allegedly attacked the off-campus hostel at the Ibrahim Badamasi University, Lapai, Niger State. The hostel is said to accommodate both male and female students. Two students of the University of Ibadan, Oyo State were injured when armed men attacked a female hostel in the institution. The affected students were residents of the Obafemi Awolowo (Awo Hall) Hall, as another set of robbers invaded the Abdulsalam Abubakar Hall of the university while students of the Osun State University, Ikire Campus, Osun State had their sad experience, as they were brutalised, sexually-harassed, beaten and had their belongings carted away.
A 300-level student of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State was killed by armed robbers, who invaded his hostel. The attackers wreaked havoc at the out-of-campus students’ residential hostel, known as ‘Adam and Eve’, located along Parakin-Ede road in the town. In another breath, armed robbers invaded students of the University of Uyo, Akwa Ibom State and carted away valuables and an undisclosed amount of money at the W6 hostel, just as another student of the Ebonyi State University, EBSU, Abakaliki, was killed after some gunmen had robbed him. In the same vein, students of the Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, who lived at the Federal Capital Territory Villa, FCT, one of the off-campus hostels had to write the institution’s management over incessant armed attacks.
From the scenarios, it can be summarised that the issue under consideration is a national problem and all off-campus students are vulnerable. The attacks can be traced to poor security, a conspiracy by fellow students, ostentatious lifestyles of some students, inadequate intelligence gathering, and lack of synergy among security personnel. To address the challenge, some options are worth considering. To begin with, campus accommodation should be provided for as many students as possible. This would reduce the risks that they are exposed to outside the campus.
Owners of off-campus accommodation should engage the services of private security guards. It has been discovered that many of the hostels are poorly kept, despite the huge rent paid by the students, as basic amenities to make the students comfortable are usually absent. Security agents need to work more harmoniously and form a synergy between the police, Department of State Services, DSS, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, vigilante groups, landlords, religious leaders, traditional rulers, and community development association. More police posts or stations should be constructed where there are a significant number of students residing. This would make it easier to prevent crime and apprehend suspects.
Regular night patrols should be carried out within such vicinities since most of the attacks recorded occurred between 1.00 a.m and 4.00 a.m. As a matter of urgency, universities should collaborate with students’ union representatives since there is the possibility of connivance among the students. This pre-empts criminally-minded students and accomplices from invading and attacking other innocent and fellow students. This happened when police in Niger State arrested eight students of the Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida University, Lapai, IBBUL, for conniving and terrorising their colleagues and robbing them. Hence, universities should regularly liaise with the students to gather intelligence.
The Vice-Chancellor of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, FUNAAB, Ogun State, Prof. Felix Salako has offered useful tips on this discourse. During a visit to off-campus facilities, the VC reiterated why students’ parents and guardians should not fail to visit their children and wards, to enable them to keep a tab on their lifestyles outside the campus. The VC disclosed that some parents had formed the habit of abandoning their children and wards recklessly. He reminded such parents and guardians of their important duty of monitoring the students in their hostels off-campus. The VC equally wondered why parents, who should care for their children, would allow them to live in bushy and deserted off-campus areas, just as the spokesperson of the Ebonyi State Police Command, ASP Loveth Odah, made the same observation after attacks on EBSU students mentioned above, while stressing the need for appropriate authorities to open up access roads to off-campus hostels mostly situated in isolated locations.
Salako, a Professor of Soil Physics and Fellow, Soil Science Society of Nigeria, SSSN, at the last Post-Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (Post-UTME), held in FUNAAB, also called on wealthy Nigerians to cultivate the habit of supporting the universities. Such interventions could be in the area of building students’ hostels. It is instructive to note that in many developed countries, wealthy individuals and corporate organisations donate generously to education in the form of endowments. More equipment and patrol vehicles should be donated to security agents and universities to help them fight insecurity.
This would become handy as budgetary allocations to education remain paltry. For instance, in the 2019 budget, only N620.5 billion was budgeted for education, a sum which fell far below the 15 to 20 percent minimum recommended figures for developing countries by the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO. Another strategy to explore in getting more hostels built is through public-private partnerships. Private individuals and corporate entities should explore the enormous potentials in the development of housing by investing in the building of students’ hostels, which can be extended to members of staff.
In the final analysis, students should live modest lifestyles on campus. It is disheartening that many students prefer to use expensive electronic gadgets and designer clothing. This flamboyance, not only attract undue attention, it makes them live expensive lifestyles that cannot be sustained. Parents, guardians and school authorities should intensify efforts at getting our students to have the right perspective, orientation, discipline and values about life. This would be an appropriate move by stakeholders in ending the menace.