Poor infrastructure in Nigeria’s public tertiary institutions has been a source of concern for decades — and this cuts across polytechnics, colleges of education and universities. It is one of the reasons the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) recently embarked on its 16th strike in 23 years. To determine the present state of things, TheCable deployed reporters in several institutions across the country, and the findings were disturbing and unpalatable; students were seen living in derelict hostels, making use of unhygienic facilities and learning in unconducive and abnormal conditions.
SQUALID TOILETS FUEL OPEN DEFECATION From the Federal Polytechnic Kaura Namoda in the north-west to the University of Calabar (UNICAL) in the south-south and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in the south-east, TheCable found most of the toilet facilities to be squalid – and hardly fit for humans. Due to the filthy state of the toilets in the male hostels in UNN, many students prefer to engage in open defecation at nearby bushes commonly referred to as ‘airport’. At the main campus of Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) in Agbani, TheCable discovered a ‘defecation room’ inside a male hostel called Noca Hall, while visitors to the hostels at Usmanu Danfodiyo University Sokoto (UDUS) are immediately greeted by a stench oozing from poorly-managed garbage and unwashed toilets. Trash was seen littering the corridors while most of the toilets were clogged. “I remember when I first got admission, I went to the bush to do my business because I could not stand it,” a 400 level student of UDUS said. “I managed for a long time until I moved off-campus.” The Kaduna Polytechnic, Federal Polytechnic of Ado-Ekiti, Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Bayero University, Kano (BUK), the University of Calabar (UNICAL) and the University of Benin (UNIBEN) may not have much in common — but when it comes to unsanitary toilets, the similarities abound.In some hostels in Malabo Hall, UNICAL, toilets were filled to the brim with a combination of dirty water, urine and unflushed faeces, while in UNIBEN, the stench from an abandoned toilet is a constant source of disturbance for students who attend lectures nearby. Although the toilets in Imo State University (IMSU) hostels are relatively neat, during classes, many students conduct their business in the bush and uncompleted buildings around the lecture halls due to the absence of public toilets. Meanwhile, UniAbuja female students who are unable to use the toilets in their hostels often resort to using adult potties to pass waste. BATHING IN THE OPEN For some female undergraduates of UniAbuja and the Federal Polytechnic of Ado-Ekiti, there is nothing surprising about bathing in the open. “We don’t have bathrooms. We bathe outside and use the toilet there,” said Arike Okeowo, a student of the Ekiti polytechnic.* TheCable also observed some UniAbuja students having their morning bath in the open, unwilling to make use of the grotty bathrooms and toilets. Sylva Abana, a final year student of UNIJOS, said she had contracted an infection from a toilet and had to spend over N30,000 on medical treatment.* “We need a better standard of living, these hostels are not good again,” Abana said. “If possible they should even rebuild the hostel and even if they increase the price, students will pay as long as it is conducive.” FLEEING FROM UNINVITED SNAKES UNN in Enugu is adjudged one of the best in the country but the facilities do not reflect the institution’s elite status. Eni Njoku and Alvan Ikoku, male hostels in the varsity, have seen better days, with the walls now defaced, drainages cloaked, and the environment bushy and unkempt. Similar conditions were obtainable at the Ado-Ekiti polytechnic, where the buildings and facilities were starting to cave in, and the surrounding bushes had become infamous for attracting snakes that slither in from time to time to terrorise the female students. “The problem is the bushes around,” Tola Akintunde, an ND1 student, lamented, clearly exasperated.* “This makes snakes crawl inside. That room over there has been locked for a semester because of snakes. “The occupant abandoned the room and since then, it has been locked.” UNDESIRABLE LIVING CONDITIONS Given the sorry state of the toilets, it was no surprise to find that most of the hostels had taken a pummelling by agents of denudation. Some hostels in Benue State University were surrounded by bushes and drenched in the stench of litter and waste. Window louvres and planes were missing in most of the crowded hostels that were bereft of electricity and running water. The students also had to contend with leaking roofs which all but guarantees the damage of some property once it rains. The mosquitoes at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO) were spoilt for choice, given the free access they had to students courtesy of the broken louvres and torn nets at hostels A, B, C, D and E. Adesayo Imole, a third-year student of English at the University of Ibadan, said the hostels in the school are usually not renovated until “students move in”.* “When you move in, you see that the tiles are broken, the walls are cracking,” said Imole who stays in Awo Hall. “I don’t think they’ve painted these walls since the first time they painted the whole hostel. The sockets are bad; mine is not working and I had to pay N5000 to the electrician myself. “The toilets are extremely bad and we still have to go downstairs to fetch water despite staying on the sixth, seventh floor.” WATER, THE ELUSIVE NECESSITY TheCable found that regular supply of water is not guaranteed for most undergraduates in government-owned institutions. At the main campus of ESUT in Agbani, students at Noca Hall usually wake up hoping to get water from the taps in the early hours of the day. Lucky Adaye, a student of accounting, said when there is a prolonged power outage, the students go to a stream inside the bush to get water.* At the NDDC hostel in UNIPORT, there was no running water in the toilets when TheCable visited. According to the students, the water supply is often disrupted and is hardly suitable for drinking. Hence, they are conditioned to make extra provisions for potable water. For the past two years, male students at New Hostel, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Yola, have not had running water in the building. Every morning, they have to take turns to fetch from an external tank. But once the water in the tank gets exhausted, students will have to wait for hours, sometimes days, without water. “Lack of maintenance,” Darius Abraham, a final year student, said.* “When we came in four years ago, the water was running in our hostels. The shower was running, the tap was running. But because these things are not properly maintained, they got damaged and since then, they have been abandoned.” While students of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, have water in their hostels – and within close proximity, their counterparts in UNIJOS, Adamawa State Polytechnic and the Federal University of Technology, Minna (FUTMINNA) have to trek long distances to get water. In one of the FUTMINNA hostels, Zainab Adeleke, a student, was seen with days worth of dirty dishes stacked in front of her room, and when asked for the reason, she said: “We don’t have water to even wash plates.”* As a result of the hard-to-get relationship with water, students often have to carefully prioritise their use of the necessary commodity. Consequently, the hostel environment – drainages, toilets and bathrooms – are not frequently cleaned. On some days, Abdullahi Uthman, a 400 level student of Gombe State University, does not have his bath — because water is a luxury that cannot be afforded on a daily basis.* “I can’t count the number of days I didn’t take my bath because there is no water,” Uthman said. “In fact, sometimes we don’t even have water to cook. So, we go to the class with dirty bodies and empty stomachs.” TREATING MALARIA ‘IN THE MIDST OF MOSQUITOES’ Mosquitoes operate unhindered and prey on recovering patients at the Benue State University clinic, according to students who interacted with TheCable during a visit. “I came in to treat malaria due to mosquitoes but I see more mosquitoes bite me in the clinic,” a patient said. Although the facility has seen better days, a new building donated by the Educational Trust Fund (ETF) for counselling and clinical purposes has not yet been put to use. When Sylva Abana, the final year student of UNIJOS, once had a toilet infection, she visited her school clinic for answers and medication. She got the former but could not secure the latter.* “Our school clinic does not provide you with any correct medicine. I had to go outside the school to treat myself,” Abana said. In FUTO, students lamented that there aren’t enough medical personnel at the health centre, while ESUT students complained about the lack of sufficient drugs at the school’s medical centre. “You can’t get a nice treatment here, except a paracetamol,” a final-year student of chemical engineering said. Just as it is in ESUT, students of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture (MOUA) say they also have to contend with the inadequacy of drugs. Emeka, a 200-level student, told TheCable that he was asked to buy some of the drugs he needed to treat himself when he sustained an injury. ONCE, THERE WERE LECTURE HALLS To learn and study, undergraduates are compelled to endure unpleasant conditions, yet they have no option but to adjust and endure. Cases of infrastructure deficit were found to be rampant in UNN and IMSU, where TheCable came across students learning in uncompleted buildings and taking exams inside abandoned projects, respectively. Chidera, a student of medical laboratory at IMSU, took TheCable’s reporter to her lecture hall, where a gradual slide into disrepair was glaring: chief of which were the patches of water caused by the leaking roofs. According to Ralph Njoku Obi, IMSU spokesman, lecture halls in the university are few and far between because contractors abandoned projects aimed at addressing the deficit. Also in UNN, several lecture halls lack public address (PA) systems, cooling systems and sufficient chairs – a situation familiar to some students of MOUA, for whom it has become normal to stand during lectures or gingerly perch on window frames. Okwun Omeaku, UNN spokesman, declined to comment on the situation in the school when contacted by TheCable, choosing only to speak on an “ongoing construction” of new male hostels. Students of ESUT also complained that the unavailability of PA systems coupled with overcrowded lecture halls make it herculean for them to grasp much during faculty-wide courses. Osy Ugwuoti, ESUT spokesman, refused to comment on the issues raised by TheCable. “You can’t intimidate anybody by your writing please,” he said. SITTING ON STONES, DODGING FROM RAIN In the north, some students of UNIJOS sit on stones or bare iron during classes, while those from UDUS and Adamawa State Polytechnic were seen studying in severely dilapidated lecture theatres – and if that is bad, University of Ilorin students have it worse. Most of the lecture halls seen by TheCable in UNILORIN had open roofs, broken chairs, broken boards, and no electricity. If by a cruel twist of fate, it rains when undergraduates are in class, the lecture would be disrupted while students scramble to take cover. “When there is rain, it’s always bad, it soaks the chairs so we have to adjust because water drips from the ceiling,” Nike Pedro, a 300-level student, told TheCable.* “Sometimes they cancel our lectures when it rains. The chairs are not conducive at all, we usually fight for the good seats so we don’t sit on the wood or iron. The bulbs too are not working so we cannot even read here at night during night class.” At the Modibbo Adama University of Technology, where lecture theatres are equally a write-off, the leadership of the students union government (SUG) had taken steps to engage the school’s management. Muhammed Adamu, the SUG president, said in response to a letter written to the management, the student body was informed that work was ongoing to “bring things to shape”. While there are no issues of tumbledown lecture halls in ABU, Zaria, students of Federal College of Education, Gombe, were found sitting on the bare floor to receive lectures as the chairs inside the lecture theatres were mostly damaged. In UNICAL, once when there was no available lecture room, 100-level students of sociology of education resorted to taking lectures in the open. Some of the students who could not secure a seat had to stand while scribbling the lecturer’s teaching into their notebooks. On March 30, 2019, the new SIP auditorium at the University of Port Harcourt (UNIPORT) was inaugurated by President Muhammadu Buhari. Two years later, most of the roofs of the expansive building have broken off. Most of the classrooms are flooded and the chairs are disintegrating, indicating a severe dearth of maintenance. At the University of Ibadan, several lecture theatres and classrooms were found to be in good shape, save for the faculty of education where the chairs were broken and the covers tattered. Meanwhile, at MOUA — an institution that has several abandoned building projects — students were seen learning in uncompleted buildings and overcrowded classrooms with no functioning cooling system. Adanma Odefa Wachukwu, the MOUA spokesperson, told TheCable that the varsity is making frantic efforts to improve its facilities. TETFUND SPEAKS ON THE ROT — NUC, MINISTRY FAIL TO In line with the mandate and objectives of the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), the revenue obtained from education tax provided by the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS) is to be disbursed for the general improvement of education in federal and state tertiary educations. The funds are specifically for the provision or maintenance of essential physical infrastructure for teaching and learning, institutional material and equipment, research and publications. Abdulmumini Oniyangi, TETFund spokesman, said the agency remains committed to improving learning and teaching facilities in the institutions, adding that measures are in place to ensure funds released by TETFund for the construction of projects in various institutions are properly utilised. Oniyangi said the agency has “maintenance intervention allocation” to ensure projects funded by the agency are kept in good shape. He, however, said such funds are only released after a situational analysis is carried out. “We have what we call maintenance intervention allocation also. It was designed to address some of the issues you raised,” he said. When asked to speak on TETFund’s efforts to salvage the poorly executed and abandoned projects seen by TheCable in some schools, Oniyangi said: “What I must say is that these projects you said you have cited are not awarded by TETFund. “We don’t award contracts. We majorly fund projects. So, the projects you see – whether they are ongoing or completed – it is the sole responsibility of the beneficiary institutions. They are the ones in charge.” Oniyangi also directed TheCable to visit the agency’s office to get further clarification. “If you need to clarify more issues, you may have to come to our office. I am sorry, I cannot go further,” he added. Efforts to speak with Ibrahim Usman Yakasai, National Universities Commission (NUC) spokesperson, proved abortive as he did not respond to calls or messages sent to him. A similar scenario played out when TheCable reached out to Ben Goong, director of press and public relations at the ministry of education.
*Names of all students interviewed have been changed to protect their identities. Reporting by James Ojo, Vivian Chime, Taiwo Adebulu, EbunOluwa Olafusi, Dyepkazah Shibayan and Femi Owolabi.
This is a special investigative project by Cable Newspaper Journalism Foundation (CNJF) in partnership with TheCable, supported by OSIWA.free vector