Shortage Of Residential Accommodation In Nigeria’s Universities

A fortnight ago, the Association of Vice-Chancellors of Nigerian
Universities (AVCNU), called for an urgent solution to the
housing inadequacy in public universities, after it had observed
that less than 40 per cent of students were being accommodated
in any higher institution’s hostels. The association underscored the
need to address the housing challenges as it noted that social vices
such as kidnapping, gang-rape, prostitution and robberies were more
associated with students living outside the campus environment.
The AVCNU’s resolution was conveyed by its Chairman, Prof. Debo
Adeyewa, in a statement he issued in Abuja at a one-day policy
dialogue on slum upgrade and low-income students’ hostels, with
the theme “Build for Nigeria”.
He noted that a major challenge facing students’ accommodation was
paucity of funds, since, according to him, students from low-income
backgrounds were unable to afford the high cost of decent apartments
and, therefore, squatted in shanties off campus.
He added inter-alia: “The problem of housing inadequacies is very
worrisome. In universities, we are unable to provide accommodation
because of paucity of funds due to the Federal Government’s policy
of students paying N90 per bed space. We have not been able to
generate enough funds to address the accommodation issues in our
universities”.
He, however, assured of the association’s readiness to address
issues, considering the fact of accommodation and bed spaces. “This
is because inadequate accommodation has led to squatting, outstretch
of facilities, high maintenance cost’”, he lamented.
The problem of inadequate residential accommodation in the
nation’s tertiary institutions is one of the issues confronting higher
education. While it cuts across institutions, namely the universities,
polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education, it is a bigger
problem in public institutions where the shortage of such facilities
leads to congestion. In most of these universities, as many as eight
undergraduates share a room designed for only three students or,
at most, four.
This common place scenario is worsened by the practice whereby
the original occupants allow their friends or relatives as squatters in
a room. Depending on the agreement of the occupants, the number
of occupants may be doubled, tripled, or even quadrupled at the end
of the day. Yet, it is rarely gratis since, in most cases, the owners may
ask for a token or an equivalent compensation.
In retrospect, the paucity of accommodation deficit started in the
early 1980s when the government at the federal and state levels
founded universities but failed to build enough hostels commensurate
with the envisaged students’ population. Unlike the first-generation
universities, the latter-day institutions as the Lagos State University
(LASU), Ojo, and former Bendel State University (now Ambrose Alli
University, Ekpoma), were established in the early 1980s, with an
apparent scant regard to hostel accommodation for students.
The absence of this basic facility, therefore, necessitated the
intervention of private developers who started building private
hostels in university towns. The major advantage of private hostels
is that the apartments are compact, neat and decent. They are styled
self-contained because of the inbuilt facilities such as kitchenettes
and convenience as well as water sources.
Lamentably, however, only a handful of students can afford the
category of self-contained apartments as most students in the public
universities are mired in poverty; thus, they are compelled to seek
cheaper accommodation, often in slums and decrepit parts of the
university town. As rightly pointed out by AVCNU, this situation either
predisposes this category of students to perpetrate or become victims
of social vices that generally impinge on their mission.
Agreed that the councils and management bodies of universities in
the country may be keen on building hostels, but they are handicapped
by the poor funding of tertiary institutions by the federal and state
governments. In the budgetary estimates being unfolded for the 2018
fiscal year, neither the federal nor any of the 36 state governments
has allocated half of the 26 per cent recommended by the United
Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO)
to the education sector. Indeed, most universities, especially stateowned
ones , are in dire financial straits, with many forced to augment
staff salaries with internally-generated revenue, due to depleting
subvention.
Of course, this situation continues to impoverish the education sector.
It is a major factor that constantly fuels the intermittent industrial
actions by staff unions in the tertiary institutions as exemplified by the
current strike by the Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP).
It is, therefore, our considered opinion that increased funding of the
education sector, especially the tertiary sector, is a sine qua non for
addressing the problem. Besides, the universities’ management should
reach out to private developers to build hostels on Build-Operate-
Transfer (BOT) formula. Until these critical issues are addressed, the
paucity of accommodation will continue to stare undergraduates in
the face.