For Navigating Nigeria this week, Citizen spoke to Nanretdeng, a Nigerian student who had to leave schooling in Nigeria for the Benin Republic after a lengthy ASUU strike. Her story shows that leaving Nigeria doesn’t always insulate you from trouble, as it can find its way back to you. Here’s the sad experience she and her colleagues are currently facing at the hands of a dubious man named Shehu. If this were a movie, it would be titled “The Good, The Bad, and the Shehu.”

Editorial Note: Navigating Nigeria is a platform for Nigerians to passionately discuss the Nigerian experience with little interference to individual opinions. While our editorial standards emphasise the truth and we endeavour to fact-check claims and allegations, we do not bear any responsibility for allegations made about other people founded in half-truths.

My name is Nanretdeng. Let me tell you my story.

I used to study at the University of Jos (UNIJOS), but a strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 2020 disrupted my studies for almost a year. I started thinking about going to school outside Nigeria. Before the strike, I had a friend who left UNIJOS to study at École Supérieure de Management (ESM) in Cotonou, Benin Republic. So I asked her how she did it, and she referred me to this guy named Shehu, who was part of the AP Usman Foundation and had links with ESM. 

When she referred me to Shehu, I had no idea that the foundation offered scholarships. All I knew was that he had helped my friend process her admission to the university. I contacted him, and he asked me to visit Jos’s AP Usman office.

I met him there, which was when he showed me my options. Before issuing a form, he asked me about the course I wanted to study and other relevant information. I still wasn’t aware at this point that this was a scholarship. I wasn’t honestly looking for that. All I wanted was enlightenment on attending school in Cotonou, but then Shehu later told me that the foundation had provided half scholarships for students applying.

That must have felt like good news at the time

The tuition was ₦430k thereabouts. The foundation promised to take on some of that fee while other colleagues and I were to pay ₦‎150k each with an additional ₦‎20k bringing the total payment to ₦‎170k. So that’s what I paid to the foundation. I still have the receipts. This was in October 2020. We were 14 and were told to prepare to leave either in December 2020 or, at the latest, by January 2021.

Instead, we went in February of 2021 since they kept postponing our resumption date. On the day we were to leave, a few of us were at the AP Usman office in Jos. We all took off from there and arrived in Cotonou.

When we got to Cotonou, we started school activities. Things were going okay until it was time for exams, and we needed clearance. We realised that we hadn’t received receipts from the school confirming that our tuition was paid. Shehu had only remitted about 60 per cent of the payments to the school, even though we thought it was all taken care of. I ended up tweeting about it to draw attention to our situation, and we found out that it was the school that offered the scholarship. Crazy, right?

[ESM Benin / Facebook]


It came as a surprise to us all. We tried reaching out to him, but a back-and-forth amounted to nothing. The school was generous and let us write the exams and participate in other activities. They were aware that we had made payments to the foundation. We finished our first year with nothing productive coming out of the talks with Shehu.

Before the commencement of our second year, Shehu still reached out to people asking them to make payments. This was after he hadn’t remitted first-year tuition fees. 

At the time, I’d resolved to make all payments directly to the school going forward. When the second year began, Shehu referred other students using the foundation as cover to pay tuition fees to ESM through him without remitting our outstanding payments. 

That’s audacious

That went on for a while. At one point, the school admin that had been in touch with Shehu told us that Shehu had stopped responding to his messages and calls. Shehu had gone MIA. The second year rolled by with these issues unresolved.

In our third year, we agreed that no one would make any payments to Shehu or the AP Usman Foundation but to the school directly. At this time, I was the university’s president of the Plateau Students Union. I was picked for this because I was bilingual, and the Benin Republic is a francophone country. It helped, too, that I studied foreign languages at UNIJOS.

After our joint resolution, students from the union began making tuition payments to another bank account I own — different from my primary one. I was then remitting payments to the school from my end. The amount I paid to the school was around thrice what Shehu sent. Despite this, we still have some ground to cover, which explains why I put up that Twitter thread. There are some people among us who Shehu believed were only making a one-time payment. These people are stranded with no hope of getting financial support from home. 

We need all the help we can get because we’re in the last lap. It’s a three-year degree. The school has been gracious enough up until now, but that can no longer last. I’m grateful that my story is getting enough traction. Hopefully, it translates to financial help to offset our outstanding bills.

Sounds like this Shehu guy is fraudulent. What has the school done about it?

The school has done their best. It has tried to maintain contact with Shehu. But the school is in Benin Republic while Shehu is in Jos. By the time Shehu decided to stop taking calls, there was nothing anyone from ESM could have done about it. When I returned to Jos, I tried to swing by the office only to find out it was no longer there. It’s not a lack of effort on the part of the school per se. I know the school’s various efforts to get Shehu to remit our fees. They’ve not been successful.

How do you hope this ends? Do you want to see Shehu apprehended, or are you content with settling the outstanding fees?

My priority as the student representative isn’t Shehu getting apprehended. I mean, that would be nice, but what I’m hoping for is that we offset all our debts. The means to that end don’t matter to me. Whether through crowdfunding, a donation, or a charity that notices us and decides to help, it doesn’t matter to me now. If Shehu gets caught and is made to pay, that would be the icing on the cake. But to be honest with you, I’ve taken my mind off of Shehu. 



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