#GiveBackOurMoney: Is Alabama State University Robbing Nigerian Students?

#GiveBackOurMoney: Is Alabama State University Robbing Nigerian Students?
Nigerian Students accusing Alabama State University of robbing them.

AFRICANGLOBE What is hashtag #GiveBackOurMoney?

#GiveBackOurMoney is something I just made up because it suits the story. And quite frankly, if this was a trending story, this might have been the hashtag.

So what is this about?

Two weeks ago, 41 Nigerian nationals in the United States – many of whom are now Alabama State University (ASU) alumni – filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging that the school exploited and discriminated against them by taking advantage of their scholarship funds.

According to The Daily Beast, they alleged that “the school overcharged them for books and meals, enrolled them in classes they never took, and more, all because they were Black foreigners.”

This is so unfair. However, there are two allegations here; one is that they were exploited. The second is that they “believe/think” they were exploited because they are Black. Why is that?

Actually, they don’t just believe it’s because they are Black, they believe it’s because they are Nigerians. And I believe so too.

Do you?

Yes, I do. But I don’t blame ASU …

Wait, what? Are you supporting the school?

Support? who said anything about support? I only said I don’t blame them. You should ask why I don’t blame them, before jumping into misconclusions.

Okay then, why do you say you don’t blame ASU?

Before I answer this, let me state here that what they’ve done is absolutely wrong, fraudulent, and corrupt. And I totally support my countrymen for holding their own and seeking justice. It’s wrong for an institution to short-change its students. You don’t take money promising services and then don’t deliver. You don’t misappropriate or expropriate funds that don’t belong to you …

Huh? Slow your roll miss, what are you talking about? How did misappropriation and expropriation get into this? Didn’t they just say they were overcharged for books, meals and all what not?

Oh! I didn’t give you the full gist, my bad. I’ll just list out the other allegations against ASU, some of which are contained in the lawsuit:

  • “They called us cash cows,” said Jimmy Iwezu, an ASU alum. Iwezu claims the university intentionally mismanaged millions from a scholarship fund set up by the Nigerian government that was paid in advance for every exchange student. “I’m a Black man and I’m proud to be Black,but I felt discriminated against.
  • Iwezu also said that the surcharge to live on campus was raised specifically for Nigerian students. “They make us pay $3,000 [a semester] to live in the dorms, and that is more than a mortgage on homes in this area. He added that the school compelled Nigerian students to buy books from the bookstore and eat only at the cafeteria.
  • The lawsuit claims Nigeria paid in full the entire cost for the 2014-15 year, but ASU hoarded the money instead of depositing any excess sponsorship monies into the students’ accounts.
  • David Iyegha, a now retired 67-year-old geography professor at ASU said Nigeria paid for everything, including books, and that the money was supposed to be given to the so they could purchase certain things but “the college refused to release any of that money at all for the past three years.”
  • According to Attorney Julian McPhillips, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit, the students were billed exorbitantly and weren’t being treated like other students as the school inflated the costs of staples and repurposed the funds to pay for it’s bond issues, front costs for a new stadium, and also for civil rights awareness centre. McPhillips told The Daily Beast that ASU acted in a really disingenuous and self-serving

Wow! These are grave allegations. Now I get what you were saying about misappropriation and discrimination but why aren’t you faulting the school for this?

Because they were simply giving the Nigerian students “the Nigerian treatment.” Or better put, the students were being treated the “Nigerian way.”

The ”Nigerian treatment?” What does that mean?

First, I want you to go back up and read each one of these allegations again and note the highlighted phrases. Have you done that? Does anything look/sound familiar?

Err … I can’t really tell. What are you getting at?

Sigh Let’s try this another way. If you are Nigerian, born, bred and buttered in Nigeria, this shouldn’t be hard for you to grasp. C’mon, let’s try this again, with your Naija sense on high alert. Read through the allegations paying special attention to the highlighted phrases.

OMG! How did I not notice? It is quite glaring …

My thoughts exactly. But allow me, “What is quite glaring?”

The “Nigerian treatment” and the “Nigerian way.” Our students experience similar things right here, actually, even worse scenarios. And it’s not just our students, but the entire populace. Our government and institutions are characterized by these behaviours. From inflating the cost of staples and compelling students to buy “handouts” in our tertiary institutions to public servants hoarding, siphoning and misappropriating funds, it’s all very typical of Nigeria.

Aha! Glad someone has seen the light.

Mr. Iwezu is over dia in obodoyinbo upset that he’s being called a cash cow, being discriminated against, and being forced to eat in a cafeteria. Dear Mr. Iwezu, I hate to put it to you, but you are or rather you were indeed a cash cow. You and hundreds of thousands of Nigerians who steadily patronise foreign institutions.

Is it your fault that you do? Hell no! If my parents could afford it, I would be in a foreign academic institution too. And if an opportunity presents itself for me to school in Yankee, my dear, you are looking at a potential “cash cow.” So don’t be upset that you are being called or described as what you truly are; the influx of Nigerian nationals or other international students into foreign institutions provides a steady income and revenue for these institutions and countries. So it is what it is – You are a cash cow.

Secondly, you even have a cafeteria … good god! Federal institutions in Nigeria don’t have functioning cafeterias. We have Bukas and Mamaput, and its chop and pay from your pocket. All that maintenance fee, clearance fee, and other ridiculous fees newly admitted students are asked to pay, no one knows what they are used for at the end of the day. I really don’t have time to go into details about the ridiculous extortions that happen here in our academic institutions.

Also, did you guys ever study under street lights? No? Well, Nigerian undergrads are studying under street lights due to a power outage. Let me just chip in here that about two weeks ago, passengers also boarded flights with torch lights at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos. LOL

So you see Mr. Iwezu and co, it’s not that bad over there.

However, before I round this off, we need to quickly address the ludicrous fact that the Nigerian government invests $30,000 – $40,000 in foreign institutions annually as scholarship funds, but won’t invest that much in the infrastructural development of academic institutions in the country. Last December, Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state lamented over the fact that Nigeria did not meet UNESCO’s 26 percent annual budget prescribed for education.

Fast forward nine months, and things are no better; the recently released 2016 Q2 report estimates real GDP growth in the country’s education sector at a meagre 2.88 percent. And that’s not all, according to a report by Global Education Monitoring, Nigeria will achieve universal primary education in 2070, universal lower secondary education in 2080 and universal upper secondary education in the NEXT CENTURY.

Let’s take a moment to ponder on these disappointing statistics and their consequent impact.

Back to this pending litigation – The Alabama State University is also quite aware of the culture of impunity and the lack of accountability that is deeply ingrained in ‘the Nigerian system’, hence their attitude towards Nigerian students. They believe they can do whatever they want to Nigerians and get away with it, and have managed to do so in the last three years, but my countrymen dont drink American water. If the Nigerian government won’t do the needful and demand an account of a $30,000 – $40,000 scholarship fund, the recipients will. #GiveBackOurMoney


By: Hadassah Egbedi