Apart from the hundreds of thousands of students currently rendered hopeless by the ongoing strike of the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, there are also categories of individuals whose survival has continued to suffer setbacks since the teachers' union began the industrial action. These individuals, who are mainly traders and owners of different types of businesses on the campuses including cab operators, recharge card sellers, kiosk owners, photographers, barbers, cobblers, computer operators, among others, have been experiencing hard times since Tuesday, July 2, when ASUU commenced the nationwide strike. In this report, ANKELI EMMANUEL, Sokoto; ABUBAKAR SALIHI, Kano; ALIYU YUSUF, Zaria; MOJEED ALABI, Lagos, Ibadan, Abeokuta; MATTHIAS NWOGU, Umuahia; OKECHUKWU OBETA, Awka capture the feelings of those who ply their trades on the campuses
Sokoto: Activities at a standstill
An almost eerie silence that resembled that of a burial ground follows the dearth of business activities of traders on university campuses across the country.
Though one would ordinarily begin to wonder what direct effect the strike has on these set of people considering the fact that they merely operate within the university premises, others might without a second thought say that their reasons are simply selfish.
However, a chat with some of those who operate diverse businesses within the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto premises proved to the contrary.
While a number of these businessmen looked at the immediate impact of the strike on their businesses, families and all that matters to them, majority of them put the interest of Nigerian youths and the future of Nigeria above every other parochial interest.
Speaking to LEADERSHIP Weekend in one of the many food restaurants visited at the once ever busy Udus Mini Market directly adjacent the University motor park, a young waitress, Rabi Abdullahi at the popular 'Mary Food Restaurant' said that business was low for them because of the strike.
Abdullahi who spoke in Hausa pleaded with both striking lecturers and the federal government to please agree to a compromise and not just dialogue as the case used to be. Giving reasons for her advice in spite of the fact that she is not educated, she simply said, "I feel sorry for the students because the strike is bound to take its toll on them as their year of graduation will be prolonged.
Although people might see the fact that we sell food within the university campus as the basis for my plea on both striking lecturers and the federal government, but Almighty Allah knows that my worry goes beyond that."
According to Mr. Steve Ibeji, a father of one who runs Steve Bookshop at the Mini Market with his expectant wife, the effect of the strike on everybody that operates within the university environment is glaring. "You can see for yourself that everywhere is empty; nobody comes here to buy anything any longer because there are no students," he said grimly. Outside Usmanu Danfodiyo University, the effect of the strike could equally be felt sharply around the Runjin Sambo area, a stone-throw away from the institution.
Much as the pressure of being out of school continues to weigh down on the students themselves, majority of those that operate night clubs within the outskirts of town said the absence of university girls from their clubs is affecting their patronage.
"Majority of the 'big' men that often come here in the night only come to pick some of these well dressed, fluent university girls who often sneak here in the night to get something for themselves. But now, the strike has forced most of them to their respective states and it's affecting our sales drastically," a sales boy disclosed.
Kano: Dearth of patronage, running down businesses
Bayero University is located on the outskirt of Kano, with most of the houses and business buildings existing as a result of the university community. The university has the largest student population of over 20,000 and hundreds of shops and houses that are only patronised by students.
LEADERSHIP Weekend's visit to the business premises within the university's 'Cock Village' witnessed that the usually busy place was deserted, as if it never enjoyed any patronage in the past. Also, most of the shops and business buildings were either shut down or experiencing non patronage.
An internet cafe and restaurant owner at the university, Sayyadi Abubakar Yakasai, told our reporter that the business was not picking up as it only exists while students are in school.
Sayyadi narrated that: "I normally run the business of e-registration, online assignments, browsing of different reading materials by students and selling food items to students. What we are experiencing now is a difficult financial challenge".
It was gathered that people around the university area are bitterly complaining of the absence of students who make their lives worthy as they buy their goods, patronise their services and occupy their houses as tenants.
Zaria: Activities grounded
LEADERSHIP Weekend's checks at the popular football viewing centre in Samaru, Sky sport viewing centre, learnt that the strike has caused low patronage at the viewing centers at the two campuses.
Hamisu Abubakar, the centre's manager admits that the situation in ABU has grossly affected their business, saying that a cross section of football fans are students of the university who are their esteemed customers.
He explained, "It is the season of Champions' League, U-17 World Cup as well as Premier League is still ongoing, but with students still away we will hardly meet our target this period."
On ABU's Congo Campus, it was observed that business activities in all the business centres are closed down, including Cyber cafés and fast food restaurants; one could hardly find student or members of the Academic Staff.
When our reporter visited Arrahamaniyya Ventures located on the campus, the manager of the centre, Malam Murtala lamented that the ongoing strike has worsened the situation in their business centre as they stay for some time without any customers.
Murtala said "majority of my customers are students. We fully entertain more than 50 students in a day and our operations depend on the students who always do their assignments as well as carry out their researches online."
He urged Federal Government to look into the issue of this strike and resolve it as it's not only affecting students but also business activities in the area.
In a separate interview with Mr. Isaac Dik who also manages a business café at post office Sokoto- Zaria road, he said "it's unfortunate that the striking union and the government have failed to settle their differences up to this time."
Mr. John Eze, manager Eze Fast food restaurant said ,"I was shocked when I heard that the University had gone on strike simply because students are my main customers who besiege my restaurant daily for their breakfast and lunch."
John urged the federal Government to ensure a quick settlement of their differences as both the education sector and the economic sector is fully affected following the strike.
Lagos: Businesses shifting base
At the Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo, many owners of business centres have relocated from the university campus to either Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education, AOCOED, Ijanikin or the French Village, in Badagry. For instance, LabiosuIdris, is a young school leaver, who in the last two years has plied his trade as a photographer in LASU, but who had recently shifted his base to AOCOED for improved business activities.
Idris, an orphan, who engaged in the business purely for sustainability, is experiencing difficulty as he could no longer cope with his expenses due to the downturn. The situation has been complicated by the challenge of inadequate space he suffers at AOCOED and the stiff opposition from his colleagues who insist he could not operate on the campus because he was not a member of their association.
"Times are hard I must say. My rent is already due and my landlord is presently on my neck. There is no way I could meet up with the payment now but if there had not been ASUU strike, I wouldn't be experiencing this," Idris lamented.
At the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, LAUTECH, Ogbomoso, Bello Hafiz Abiodun is the Director of AB Communications, a phone, phone accessories and recharge cards dealer, who is very bitter about the ongoing strike.
Hafiz' shop is located at Oke-Ado Sabo and when schools are in session he replenishes his stock on weekly basis, but since the strike he has only been to Lagos once to purchase goods, blaming this development on the absence of students in the town. "The major investment in this town is the university and once they are out of town we feel the impact seriously.
One of Bello's assistants, Najeeb, whose business was to repair phones, said he had moved his business to Osogbo when the strike remained unending saying he had been sponsoring his university education with the token he makes from the trade.
At the University of Lagos, UNILAG, Akoka, Adaeze Chukwuma operates a photocopier at the Faculty of Arts where she used to make as much as N5,000 daily but since the strike started, there has been no single business activity.
Similarly, Sola Alao is one of the drivers of the commercial buses popularly known as "Campus Shuttle," whose children may soon be sent out of school if the ongoing strike by ASUU is not resolved on time.
According to the 43-year-old, who plies Yaba-UNILAG route, the experience within the last three months has been horrible, with his family of four struggling to survive based on the poor business activities.
"Now, it is very hard to cope with the daily family needs. And as you know it, the children have just resumed school and I have been given till the middle of October to pay up their tuitions. But here we are, sleeping in our buses. And because our buses are customised, it is very difficult to ply other routes," he lamented.
Apart from the commercial drivers are also young school leavers, who engage in petty businesses on the campus such as car washing, recharge cards sales and phone repairs and many of them rely on their daily incomes. They narrated their ugly experiences since the strike started, urging the feuding parties to recognise their plight and the multiplying effects on the national economy.
Similarly, commercial activities at the Federal University of Agriculture (FUNAAB), Abeokuta, Ogun State, have been grounded as a result of the industrial action.
Investigations by LEADERSHIP Weekend revealed a downturn in business activities as the cafeteria being managed by the Tantalizer Company was also shut as there are no customers.
A shop owner and 400-Level Plant Physiology and Crop Production student of the university, Samuel Ade, said on a good day when the school is in session, he makes about N8, 000 from computer business but now he hardly records N800 daily. He said that the situation has made him to sack two of his computer operators "because there is no way I can cope with their allowances anymore."
A popular food vendor on the campus, Mrs. Titilayo Ishola, who also lamented the development, said she only comes to shop to while away time with the hope that normalcy would soon return to the campus.
"Whenever students are in school, I make an average of N15, 000 daily. They constitute about 85 to 90 per cent of people who come to buy food from me. I am a popular food vendor on this campus. I have two children who have graduated from this same university, so, I know what I am talking about and that is also why I am appealing to both the Federal Government and ASUU to mend fences for the sake of the public," she said.
Meanwhile, for a cafe attendant at the University of Ibadan, Ladi Longe, the strike has not only led to drop in revenue, it has made him and others operating business centres redundant.
Umuahia: Saying a prayer Most of the shops that offer ancillary services to staff and students of Michael Okpara Universitiy of Agriculture, Umudike are either closed or operating marginally.
Lamenting on the economic impact of the strike, the Director of Oasis Computer at No 2 Aba Road, Umuahia, Mrs. Helen Chimaobi, said they are suffering along with the students.
"If you look around, you will see that this cyber café is almost empty. It used to be full anytime the university is in session or even during the holidays, but you can see we are sitting here almost idle. It is the students that come here to type their term papers or projects that keep us in business but they are not here.
"Some of the lecturers come here to browse for materials for their lectures but now they are no longer coming, so you can see that we are losing a lot from the strike", she lamented.
"The strike is worse than the long vacation, because, at such times some students come to the campus to do one thing or the other, but in this case, especially since the strike entered the fourth month, students no longer come around as they have no reason to do so," said one salesman.
Meanwhile in Awka, Anambra state, business operators, especially those located around the Nnamdi
Azikiwe University (UNIZIK), Awka, and its environs are groaning because of low patronage. The businesses mostly affected are restaurants, commercial vehicle operators, food stuff dealers, business centres and boutiques.
Lolo Nneka Onwudinjo, a restaurant operator at Ifite area of Awka, a suburb of the UNIZIK permanent site, said she was contemplating closing her business due to lack of patronage.
She said that she had already sacked four out of five attendants working for her in the restaurant because of low patronage due to the strike.
Besides, she lamented that her four undergraduate children had stayed at home for too long doing nothing else but watch television and video films. She said that if the federal government/ASUU dispute is not resolved now, the students might be forced to engage in anti-social activities.
Anulika Ugamma, a food -stuff dealer, said that she is now finding it difficult to feed herself because students and lecturers who were her major customers no longer patronize her.
In its response to the series of protests being organised by the leadership of the National Association of Nigerian Students, NANS, against the ongoing strike, ASUU insisted it would not succumb to propaganda by "agent provocateurs;" those it further described as a group of non-students.