Students of the Federal University Otuoke in Bayelsa State have protested over the decision by a private hostel owner to evict more than a hundred of them at the institution in a dispute over unpaid rent of N24 million.
The affected students were assigned to the hostel as part of Bayelsa State Government’s contribution to assist the newly -established university located in Otuoke, the hometown of President Goodluck Jonathan. But the landlord alleged that both the university and the state government owed him two years’ arrears of rent, hence his decision to evict the students.
The 52-bedroom building, known as the Oniegbum Hostel, is located a few minutes from Mr. Jonathan’s country home. In 2014, Bayelsa State procured the hostel as a residential facility for students, and handed over the hostel to the university at a ceremony presided over by the Secretary to the State Government, Dakoru Allison-Oguru.
The Federal University Otuoke is one of the nine new universities established by the Jonathan administration in 2011. Mobolaji Aluko, a professor at Howard University, Washington, DC, was appointed the university’s inaugural vice chancellor.
Some of the evicted students said the Dean of Student Affairs, Marcellina Offoha, supervised their eviction. Offoha was seen supervising the removal of students’ belongings from the hostel.
Commenting on the development, Offoha said the students were supposed to move back into the hostel this week, but confirmed that the facility is now under lock and key.
The dean expressed confidence that the state government, the university and the landlord would settle the dispute “in the shortest time possible.”
“We have come and we have to beg him,” said the dean in reference to the landlord, adding that discussions with the school and the state government are continuing.
The eviction letter to the students was issued by a lawyer to the landlord and signed by R.E. Ndiomu.
The letter stated:
“We the landlords of the 52-bedroom apartments at Onuegbum, Otuoke Road, Otuoke, give you notice to quit and deliver possession of the aforementioned property with its appurtenances which you hold as a tenant on or before the expiration of seven days upon the receipt of this notice, for failure of the Bayelsa State Government through the office of the Secretary to the state government, Bayelsa State, to pay the balance of N24 million as rent accruable.
“We have been patiently waiting for the balance [of the] sum since last year but have been frustrated by the lack of commitment which the Bayelsa state government has shown despite several attempts to get the state government to adhere to its promise as we have kept our part of the bargain hence the notice.”
The lawyer warned that the landlord would repossess the hostel if the students did not adhere to the eviction notice.
The eviction notice was copied to the vice chancellor, the chief legal adviser to the university, and the secretary of the state government. The affected recipients received the letter on March 10, 2015.
The landlord, Emmanuel Toiyebo, said he had made several attempts to resolve the dispute over rent with the Bayelsa State government.
He added that all the meetings he held with university as well as state government officials had failed to resolve the issue of the outstanding rent.