Students of the University of Lagos, Akoka,Yaba,on Monday shut down the varsity’s two main gates over what they termed incessant attacks of bedbugs and neglect of accommodation facilities by the university authorities. The youths, who went on the rampage from 3am, reportedly went to the homes of some principal officers of the university to harass them, before marching to the Iwaya area gate, which they sealed. Not done, the undergraduates proceeded to the Akoka gate area, which they shut against motorists before they laid mattresses on the road.
A 500-level student of Quantity Surveying, who identified himself simply as Funnyfacez, told our correspondent the protest was triggered by a group of students. He said the students, who were asleep in a room in Mariere Hall, aka Baluba Kingdom, had been roused by the shriek from one of them, who had been bitten by a bedbug. Funnyfacez said many bedbugs were later found on the undergraduate’s body. He said:
“The students became angry and from 1am, they started chanting solidarity songs, after which they woke up other students in the hostel. They went to the hostel gate and asked the security guards to open it, but the men refused. When they saw the security men would not shift grounds, they broke the padlock”.
“They marched to Jaja Hall, which was close by, and asked the students there to join them. Because those ones too could not sleep due to the same problem, they trooped out in their numbers.”
It was learnt that in no time, the whole university was agog with noise as the students called out the university authorities. Funnyfacez, who claimed not to have slept for the past three days due to the bedbug attacks, said the students would not back down until the situation was addressed.
A 300-level student of the Department of Mathematics Education, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the last time mattresses were changed in the halls was in 2012. The 25-year-old, who later took our correspondent round El-Kanemi Hall to see the decrepit environment, lamented that the management had abandoned the hostels. He said:
“The last time mattresses were changed was in 2012 during the Eko sports festival. After the event, they promised to fumigate the hostel, but it was not properly done.
“The poor state of the hostels was what led to the bedbug epidemic we now have on our hands and it started immediately we resumed for the 2015 first semester. It broke out from Sodehinde Hall, which is the worst-managed hostel on this campus. From there, it spread to other hostels.”
An undergraduate of Computer Science from El-Kanemi Hall, who identified himself as Zlatan, said efforts to stop the spread through the use of insecticides had proved abortive.
“After we tried many insecticides and they didn’t work, we resorted to using different mixtures, but it all failed. All our mattresses and bunks are infected with bugs. You can imagine how embarrassed you will be when you get to class and a course mate gently picks a bedbug from your shirt.”
Zlatan said their fear was going home with the bugs and spreading them to members of their families. The Public Relations Officer of the University of Lagos Students Union, who identified himself simply as Charles, said the students called off the protest after a delegation of the university management promised to address the issues. He said the union had given the management an ultimatum of five working days to resolve the challenges. He said:
“We were not the ones who engineered the protest this morning, but we are in support of it. The demand we have been making for the past five months is that the management should do a proper fumigation and procure new mattresses across the 13 halls of residence in the university.
“After the protest, we gave them an ultimatum of five working days and soon we will be having a meeting with them. Hopefully, we will reach a resolution.”
The Head of Information Unit, University of Lagos, Olagoke Oke, in a statement, condemned the protest, which he described as “unruly.” Oke said the protesters harassed some principal officers of the university in their homes, despite an agreement between the management and ULSU. It read in part:
“It needs to be highlighted that plans are at advanced stage to replace the mattresses after fumigating the hostels at the end of the second semester examinations scheduled to commence in two weeks time. It is therefore surprising that a group of students will embark on this unruly act.”