Federal Polytechnic, Nekede, Imo State, is holding a special meeting on Monday with landlords in the school host communities, in a bid to stop the mass eviction of students from their apartments over unpaid rent.
The meeting, called by the student affairs department of the polytechnic, is going to have traditional leaders, police officials, local vigilante, and the representatives of the students union in attendance.
The students of the polytechnic, who are just returning to school after about eight months of forced holiday because of COVID-19, are under pressure from landlords to renew their annual rent which had expired by December.
The students were away from their apartments during the forced break.
Some of the landlords have also announced rent increases.
Many of the polytechnic students, who have chosen to stay off-campus, live in clusters of houses ‘lodges’, built with the students as targets.
Some of them have already been evicted by landlords who, like millions of other Nigerians, are under financial pressure because of the country’s deteriorating economy.
“Normally, rent due is the right of the landlord but these are abnormal times that require exchange of ideas and peaceful resolutions,” said Okafo Okoreaffia, the dean of student affairs, in an invite sent to the landlords and others for the meeting.
“As foster parents of these students, their welfare and security are always paramount in our minds and I am happy to note that many of you share the same concern,” Mr Okoreaffia added.
PREMIUM TIMES spoke on Sunday with two of the polytechnic students affected by the rent crisis, they said their hope hangs on the Monday meeting with the landlords.
Michael Victor, who is studying accounting, ordinary diploma, pays N50,000 for his one-room apartment which expired in December.
He said his landlady sent words to him and three other students, who are his co-tenants, that she was visiting them soon to announce a new increase on the rent.
Mr Victor said the landlady was attributing the rent increase to a spike in electricity tariff.
“Most of our parents can’t afford to pay more than what we were paying before,” he said.
Another student, who gave his name simply as Favour, wants the landlords to give the students at least a four-month grace period.
“We are confused, we don’t know whether to pay our school fees or our rent,” said Mr Favour, who is studying mathematics and statistics, ordinary diploma, and pays N77,000 as annual rent for a self-contained apartment.
His school fee is N4I,450.
“Some few minutes ago, someone was knocking on our door, we just kept mute because we thought it was the caretaker,” Mr Favour said.
Mr Favour said the inconveniences in the hotels caused some of the students, including him, to reside off-campus.
“For instance, during the last holiday, students were given two hours to leave the hostel,” he said.
Mr Okoreaffia, the dean of student affairs, said there were still some empty spaces in the school hotels, but that some of the students prefer to live off-campus.
“We have accommodation for students at about N15,000. What makes you a student is your school fees. Why don’t pay school fees, then take up accommodation on campus? We still have accommodation,” he told PREMIUM TIMES, Sunday.
Mr Okoreaffia did not want to preempt the outcome of the Monday’s meeting with the landlords during the interview with PREMIUM TIMES.
The apartments in the lodges would likely remain vacant if the students are ejected since the school is yet to have new students, the dean said.
“We are not admitting yet, the session has to conclude before new students are admitted before you’ll have new tenants available.
“With this fact, I am sure they will slow down and reach a common position,” he said.
The school will also use the meeting to brief the landlords about a new federal law that makes it mandatory for everyone to wear a face mask in public because of the surge in COVID-19 infections, he said.
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