27 December 2012

Nigeria: Ripples of University of Abuja Crisis

Three weeks into the school's closure, students and traders on campus count their losses.

On a typical school day, the Mohammed Maccido way in the University of Abuja permanent site, is always a beehive of activities. Apart from hosting the school's only market, it is just a stone throw from the prestigious Senate building which is understandably a centre of attraction and meeting for different stakeholders- students, lecturers, visitors and school staff. The market has over the years served as a source of livelihood for many who come from as far as Zuba, Giri and even Gwagwalada. But three weeks into the closure of the school after a massive protest by students has left many of these traders ina lurch with many now seeking alternative means of livelihood.

The school was closed down by the authorities following a protest by students in late November. Soldiers were called in then to send recalcitrant students who refused to vacate the campus. For now no one knows when the campus would be re opened for academic activities. The students are protesting the failure of the school administration to meet up with the deadline given to it by the education ministry to accredit three programs- medicine, agriculture and veterinary medicine. While the school authorities are saying they are doing all they can to get the programs running normally, the students mainly from the affected departments, say their patience is fast running out. The subsequent closure has not only affected academic activities but sounded the death knell for commercial activities also, especially for those that get their daily bread from such activities on campus. A cross section of these traders, some who still mill around the vast premises in hopes of a speedy settlement of the crisis, say the brief closure is telling negatively on their fortunes.

Sani Abdulazeez, who sells refreshment at the school's market, says that many of the traders have relocated temporarily to nearby enclaves to look for alternative selling point since the commencement of the present crisis. 'When two elephants engage in a fight, they are not the only ones that bear the brunt of the crisis. The poor grass suffers more. Many of us depend on sales we are able to get from these students since they form the greater part of our patronage. But as you can see now for yourself everywhere is quiet, so who will buy from you.

We are praying that the crisis be resolved soon. This year is already gone so we are hoping it would be resolved as early as possible next year,' he enthuses somewhat dismally.

An elderly trader, Obiora is seen calmly listening to a transistor radio at the market. Besides him are empty stalls and trading points with no human presence. 'I am just keeping myself busy since there is nobody around now. It is not easy without these students. They are the sole reason people are here for business. The crisis had better be resolved quickly so that people will not go hungry and be led into anti social activities.

Tessy Ogiadome a student taking sandwich courses at the school's permanent site, says the crisis affects not only traders but the students themselves. "No student wants to spend any extra time for any given course. Also many of us are from average families and having to spend needless time for studying has financial implications that most of us can hardly bear. The earlier the crisis is resolved the better for everyone concerned. Imagine a student having to support himself or herself all through this forced break and then running around for more money when the school is reopened. It is unfortunate.

Another student who would not give his name urges the authorities to put their acts together in the interest of the students. "The crisis has gone on for far too long, and it is not fair for us students, since we have to pay the price for the unseriousness of those charged with the proper administration of the school. How long will we continue to suffers?'

At present investigations reveal that the ministry of education is hampered from wading into the crisis, as it is still yet to deliberate on the white paper of the committee set up by it to look into the problems militating against the school and possible solutions.

Meanwhile, for traders like Obiora and Sani the waiting game continues, even as they pray for the speedy settlement of all issues contributing to the stalemate. 'The students are the life wire of the campus, without them we won't be here, says a dismal Obiora.'

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