By Olayide Oluwafunmilayo Soaga & Oluwapelumi Oluwadare

David Olanrewaju said his life flashed before his eyes at the sight of the intruders.

A few hours before, he was in his room at Camat Hostel, Tanke, scrolling through WhatsApp and laughing at memes. Subsequently, he locked his door and briefly thought about his upcoming exams before drifting off to sleeping. 

The night was fine until a scream escaped from a room next to his. Half asleep and half awake, David jolted up. He didn’t know why his neighbor screamed until three men, armed with guns and cutlasses, broke into his room. 

Now thick into the night, David laid on the cold tiles in his room, trying  not to do or say anything that could trigger the armed men.

“At that moment, I was just trying to stay alive,” the final-year student of Industrial Chemistry said.

The robbers took off with everything — his laptop, phones, power bank, MP3 player, wristwatch, and even his perfume. 

David’s experience is not unique. Since 2021, University of Ilorin students have experienced one of the worst spates of robberies ever recorded in Tanke community. 

Tanke is a community in the Ilorin-South Local Government Area of Kwara State where the University of Ilorin is situated. The community houses both students of the University of Ilorin and other residents who are non-students.  Students of the University of Ilorin account for approximately 50% of the population in areas like Oke-odo, Chapel, Oko-oba amongst other sub-communities in Tanke. Private hostels in the community are choice residents for students of University of Ilorin due to its proximity to the university.

Members of the student community say the number of armed robbery cases range between twenty and forty.

Robberies thrive here

Nigeria’s shabby security network allows robbery attacks to thrive. While the perpetrators of these crimes roam the streets freely and scheme more plans, their victims are left to tend to permanent scars, manifesting in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), panic attacks, injuries, and sometimes death.

In Nigeria, there are about 370,000 policemen to cater for 200 million people. According to the United Nations benchmark of one policeman to 450 people, Nigeria is under policed.  This inadequate number of policemen is sparsely distributed across states. While some states meet the required benchmark by the United Nations, others, like Kwara, lag behind.

Per a 2022 Ripples Nigeria report , Kwara state had ratios of 1 police to 609 people; 1 police to 693 people and 1 police to 708 people in 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively. It doesn’t matter how you look at it; the state lacks sufficient police officials to cater for the citizens

An hour after the criminals had fled with valuables, the police showed up at David’s hostel, questioned the occupants, and invited them to the station the next day to write  their statements. David said that was the last time the police inquired about the robbery or made contact with them. 

For David, what hurts him most about the attack was his stolen laptop. “I had a lot of important information on it,” he told UCJ Unilorin “Most of those files couldn’t be backed up.”

David’s laptop was a valuable asset as a final-year student writing his final-year project, which impacted the progress of the thesis. David plans on getting a new one, but Nigeria is going through another record economic situation. Inflation is high, earnings are low, and the new forex exchange rate makes it even worse.  

Living with the mental trauma of a robbery

In March 2023, *Mariama, a 100 level student of the Faculty of Physical Sciences, University of Ilorin, sat outside her room in her female-only hostel in Oke Odo with some of her friends. The power was out, so they hung out outside  to study and prepare for their upcoming tests. 

Then the unexpected happened.

Three strange men entered the gate and one of them threatened her with a gun. It was a new, terrifying experience for Mariama. 

“I couldn’t tell if it was a toy gun or a real one,” she recounted.

Once the robbers had collected everything they could, they locked Mariama and her friends in one of the hostel rooms and threw the key to them.  

“They did this so we wouldn’t be able to run after them or alert others.” she said. 

Mariam confirmed that the memories of the incident haunted her for some time. Even till today, she still has flashbacks from that night.

Thankfully, she didn’t have to deal with it alone. 

“Prayer, friends and families helped me get over the experience”, she said.

Dr. Damilola Ajayi, a trained psychiatrist, said that robberies pose negative consequences to the mental health of victims in the immediate, short, and long term.

“In the immediate term, these are stressful experiences that may heighten anxiety levels in victims,” said Dr. Ajayi “In people already predisposed to or suffering from mental illness, this may even be worse”.

 He added that it is more difficult to predict the short-term to long-term effects, but stressful events play a role in developing post-traumatic stress disorder, mood disorders, and even psychosis.

An unresponsive police force

Like David and Mariama, *Babajide, a student of Agriculture, was another robbery victim  in his off-campus apartment at Winners Chapel street. 

In 2021, when his hostel was robbed, Babajide immediately sent a message to a Whatsapp security group created for students to report robberies  off campus and also to connect them with security operatives.

“The security group contacted the police, but they did not show up until 8 a.m. in the  morning, five hours after the robbery. Babajide said. 

The Nigerian Police Force is infamous for arriving at  a robbery scene long after the robbers have completed their operation and done harm. Consequently, many Nigerians have lost faith and hope in the members of the Nigeria Police Force.

When the police arrived, they took some of the occupants of the hostel to the police station for questioning. Then they asked Babajide to give them the sum of ₦20,000 naira to track his stolen phone.

Mariama had a similar experience. When she tried to track her stolen phone, the policemen requested ₦5000 naira before they could get on it.

Are there measures taken to curb robbery in off-campus hostels?

Mr. Faji Tobiloba, the President of the Students’ Union, University of Ilorin said that the Union has been responsive to these issues and have kicked off processes to curb the spate of robbery attacks in off-campus hostels.

“A security committee of departmental presidents who volunteered has been created,” said Faji. “The job of the team is to identify firsthand information, report it, get necessary persons involved, and ensure the safety of the student community,”

“This team is designed such that we have representatives across nooks and crannies and major places off-campus including Tanke, Sanrab and the Oko-oba axis”, he added.

According to him, the Students’ Union has also been collaborating with the Police in de-escalating situations that need the police attention. He told UCJ Unilorin that every time robbery cases were reported to the Students’ Union, they put a call across to the DPO, who in turn dispatched police men to the scene of the robbery.

Although the Students’ Union claim to have  introduced different measures to reduce robbery attacks, these cases still persist. Ten days before this story was filed, another hostel was burgled. 

The robberies continue in Tanke, no one knows who is next. Every night, students go to bed hoping they don’t become victims.

Names with asterisks have been changed to protect the person’s identity. 

Editor’s note:

This story is part of a series we’ll be publishing in partnership with University of Ilorin’s Union of Campus Journalists (UCJ) to support the launch of their 2023 OPTIC magazine.

UCJ is the official student press body of the University of Ilorin and is home to over 300 journalists. It won Pen Club of the year at Youth Digest’s 2022 Campus Journalism Awards, and was a finalist under the magazine of the year category.

You can also support their work by:

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