September 10, 2016 – 41 Nigerian Scholarship Students Sue Alabama State University Over Racism, Claim They Were Overcharged Because They Are Blacks
In a legal case filed last week in a federal court in the U.S, 41 Nigerian nationals, many of whom are now Alabama State University alumni, 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.
An ASU alumni, Jimmy Iwezu, who 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, claimed that: “They called us cash cows. I am a black man and I am proud to be black, but I felt discriminated against.”
The 37-year-old Iwezzu, who is a social work graduate, cited the school’s selfproclaimed autonomy to do whatever it wished with the seven-figure sum Nigeria prepaid back in 2013 for some 41 students to go to the school.
But the students’ Attorney, Julian McPhillips, who brought the lawsuit to court for the second time, the first attempt, back in April, accused the school of breaching its contract with Nigeria and was dismissed, suggested that ASU violated Title VI civil rights.
The students alleged they were shorted their deserved monies by ASU “because of their Nigerian national origin,” according to the lawsuit. McPhillips, who told The Daily Beast, contended that ASU hammered the students with exorbitant “billing” and they weren’t “being treated like other students” when the school allegedly inflated the costs of staples like books and room and board, and repurposed the funds to pay for the school’s “bond issues” and to help front costs for “a new stadium,” and, ironically, a centre for civil rights awareness.
“The school acted in a really disingenuous and selfserving way,” he said. While most college students are permitted to bargain shop for textbooks wherever they wish or dine at different establishments beyond the school cafeterias, the Nigerian nationals at ASU, according to the federal complaint, were boxed in.
The lawsuit claims “they were not allowed by ASU to spend this money, but instead the money was credited towards certain expenses the students incurred, or towards other expenses ASU incurred that were unrelated to the students.” “The school compelled us to buy books from the book store and eat only at the cafeteria,” Iwezu said.
“I tried to make them understand, ‘Hey, we don’t want to live in the dorms anymore, and we don’t want to eat our entire meals at the dorms.” He said greed-trumped reason, while also insisting that: “They want our money.” he said.
Iwezu said the surcharge to live on campus was raised specifically for him and his Nigerian counterparts. “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.
Back in 2013, a geography professor at ASU for almost three decades, Dr. David Iyegha, made a pilgrimage to Lagos State, where he served as the school’s ambassador to recruit fellow Nigerians with a mandate to attract its best and brightest to relocate to Montgomery, Alabama, for their higher education.
“I went to Nigeria with one other faculty member and recruited these students to be sponsored by the Nigerian Federal Government,” Iyegha told The Daily Beast. But today, he is withered in regret, saying: “I feel very, very bad because I was the one who was instrumental in bringing these students to the campus.”
Iyegha, whose son is currently on a Ph.D. track at ASU, feels like he let down so many promising prospects. He said: “(Nigeria) paid for everything, including their books, and all of the money is supposed to be given to the students so they can buy this or that. But the college refused to release any of that money at all for the past three years. “While the money was prepaid and guaranteed by the Federal Government, that didn’t grant the school carte blanche on how it was supposed to be spent,” he said.
“I asked them, ‘Why are you treating these kids like this? Why are you depriving them?’ and after talking to them at length, they told me they spent all the money and there is no money left.” An ASU spokesman told The Daily Beast that “since it’s pending litigation against our university, Alabama State University has no comment.”
[Credit: The Daily Beast]