The Platform

Habeeb Olokooba

The plight of those living at Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic Sokoto is emblematic of a rot eating away at Nigeria.

SOKOTO, Nigeria – In the sweltering heat of Sokoto, in northwestern Nigeria, Soliu Suleiman, who is likely in his late thirties, recounted an especially grueling day. Returning from a demanding day’s work, the auxiliary worker at Umaru Ali Shinkafi Polytechnic Sokoto sought solace in sleep. Yet, the relentless rain pierced through the dilapidated roof of his staff quarters, denying him even this modest comfort.

Suleiman’s plight is emblematic of the broader struggles faced by the polytechnic’s staff — a promise of shelter unkept, as they navigate the indoor deluge with weary resilience. “Whenever it rains, we have to sleep while standing because the roofs of this building are leaking, and water usually enters when it rains,” lamented Suleiman.

This shared ordeal is a symptom of a broader systemic neglect. Staff quarters, once a refuge, now succumb to each downpour, forcing occupants to perform nocturnal ballets, sidestepping puddles, and salvaging what possessions they can from the encroaching damp. The chronic absence of electricity and water only exacerbates their hardship.

Said Kabiru, from the school’s Student Affairs division, paints a stark picture of daily tribulations, trekking miles for water essential for the simplest domestic tasks. “We face many challenges here, but the most pressing is the inability to get water. We walk several miles to get water to cook and do other things in the house,” Said recounted to me.

Salam Sayid adds his voice, highlighting the deplorable state of sanitation facilities — or the lack thereof. The staff’s desperation echoes in his words, “Almost all the rooms in this staff quarters have leaking roofs. The lack of toilets is making things worse as our people now resort to open defecation,” he asserts, detailing the indignity of resorting to open defecation as a last resort.

Amidst this disarray, a beacon of hope flickered in the 2022 approved budget: a nearly $90,000 allocation earmarked for the renovation of these very quarters. This project, under the aegis of the Sokoto State Ministry of Higher Education, promised to mend the roofs and restore dignity to the personal lives of these educators.

However, a visit by the UDEME Project in 2023 revealed a starkly unchanged reality. The promised renovations were nowhere to be seen, and the staff’s narratives remained unchanged, their daily lives still hemmed in by the same, now familiar, challenges.

In pursuit of accountability, the UDEME Project reached out to the school’s administration, only to be met with silence. The Deputy Registrar of Administration, Bello Kalfu, deflected inquiries to the Director of Academic Planning, who in turn passed the baton to the Rector — a circuitous path leading nowhere. Attempts to contact the Rector proved futile.

Even the Commissioner for Higher Education of Sokoto State, Aminu Iyan, remained unreachable, his silence punctuating a series of unanswered calls and text messages.

This article was produced as part of the UDEME Project by the Center for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID).

A native of Ilorin, Kwara State, Habeeb Olokooba is a member of The News Digest Press. He serves as a reporter and volunteers in UDEME and Dubawa 2023 Week for Truth, collaborating with participants from various national media houses.