By Aliyu Baba Mohammed
The phrase, “ASUU Strike” is no longer an alien to the ears of (almost) every Nigerian. It would be hard to find a household in Nigeria that has never had the bitter experience of this phrase, especially between 1999 to date. Within these periods, the phrase “ASUU Strike” has occurred to Nigerians more than fifteen times. As a matter of fact, call it annual rituals and you are good to go.
Currently, the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU), an umbrella body for Nigeria University teachers is at it again; “warning strike” as it always starts with. Every government-established University in Nigeria is currently in another academic impasse due to (yet) another strike by the members ASUU.
The unfortunate development doesn’t only cripple the academic activities but also the small businesses that solely depend on the students’ patronage within the campus.
It is with this that the A B.U Campus Press reporter, a media outlet that allows student journalists to showcase their talent in the world of journalism, went around the main campus of Ahmadu Bello University in Samaru, Zaria to interact with shopkeepers within the campus.
The sprawling about 7,000-hectare campus situated in the second largest city of Kaduna State Northwestern Nigeria, hosts about 35,000 students enrolled in the University’s degree and sub-degree programmes which touch every state of the federation, including other African countries and the rest of the world.
The university campus with about 1,400 academic and research staff and 5,000 support staff has left the shopkeepers to their fate as the wind of strike blows again.
According to findings by our reporter, the community market where most of the shopkeepers spent their workdays is no longer congested and noisy as usual, but overtaken by the smooth movement of breeze and melodious sound of birds in the surroundings.
Ishaq Multi-purpose Enterprises, a photocopying, printing and online services shopkeeper at the community market said anything that could cause the students to leave the campus is Invariably putting a stop to his business. He said the life and soul of businesses on campus entirely rely on the presence of students.
“Just look at me, this is how I’ve been sitting here since morning without a customer in view. And it’s not only me, this is the case of almost everyone around here. Without students on campus, every business here slipped into a coma.”
Ishaq said he has no choice currently but to reduce the charges for his services to attract little customers around to always come to him for his good and subsidized services. He further advised that the government should always be proactive in response to the demands of University lecturers to prevent the incessant strikes that always stalled their businesses.
“It doesn’t make sense that the government always allows the lecturers to leave the work thereby sending the students home before they begin to respond to their demands. It is better if they act on time to forestall the strike from happening.”
In his separate response, Abdul-Shakur Idris who sells provisions said instead of customers waiting for them when the students are around, they are now waiting for customers almost in vain. And he was happy seeing the reporter heading towards his shop thinking he was coming to patronize him.
“You see, I don’t even know what to say, Sir. But it’s always a loss whenever this happens because some goods here are perishables and we bought them hoping to resell them within a specific duration and now that students are not around, they’ll definitely spoil. That’s why it even gladdens my heart when I first saw you coming, I thought you’re coming to buy everything here (smiles).”
Also at the market was Mrs James Deborah, a hairdresser and wig seller who said the ASUU Strike usually takes away about 90% of her customers. In essence, she is only left with 10% of customers in the absence of students on-campus. She appealed to the authorities concerned to do the needful without taking much time.
The information also has it that most of the shops are closed down at the community market due to lack of patronage. Some of the closed shops captured by the reporter include Beautiful Gate Business Center, RAF ICT Solutions and POS Services, ABU Mini Depot among others.
Our correspondent was also at ICSA/Ramat hostel market where he had a chat with shopkeepers over there. One of them was Ibrahim Sagir Jaja who said the ASUU Strike is always like an unforeseen epidemic to his business. He hardly sees it coming until it strikes.
“I’m not happy at all with this development. It always hinders the business drastically and sadly, nobody can even tell about its occurrence. It just occurred unknowingly and took away the Joy of campus businesses.”
Ibrahim further revealed to A.B.U Campus Press reporter that he took a loan from the bank to stock his shop for the resumption of students. And on normal occasions when students are fully on-campus, he makes sales of not less than N100,000 daily but in the absence of students presently, he hardly makes sales of N20,000. And the bank is expecting him to pay back the loan at a specified time.
“You know every venture doesn’t exist in isolation; it has to collaborate with others no matter how little. So I usually collect a loan from the bank to fund my business operations, just like every other venture that demands reasonable capital for effective operation. And the business is actually doing well. In fact, it got to the point that I’d to employ a salesgirl to ease the activities for me because of high patronage. I pay her N12,000 monthly, and if not because of this unfortunate event of ASUU Strike, you would’ve met the girl here.”
Ibrahim said the salesgirl has temporarily lost her job occasioned by ASUU Strike since he can handle the few customers around himself. He added that the strike also affects the level of the profit he makes annually and eventually, his standard of living.
A pap and potato seller and local restaurant owner close to ICSA hostel common-room who preferred anonymity said the absence of students of any kind (strike or holiday) is always a bad experience for her business. She appealed to the government and the striking lecturers to do everything possible to get the students back on-campus soonest.
In the same vein, our correspondent was also at Amina, Ribadu and Suleiman hostels’ selling points and the sampled shopkeepers expressed similar dissatisfaction over the ongoing four-week warning strike that is negatively affecting their businesses. They urged the authorities concerned to settle their differences without taking much time as they have no plan B to venture into while they have to cater for their families.
In another development, A.B.U Campus Press reporter was also at the Main-and-North-gates of the institution to take the situation report of transport activities as the students keep travelling to spend the strike at home.
From the information gathered, the transport service providers were in excitement as the event of the strike greatly boosted their patronage. A tricyclist, Isah Ahmad said he has earned double the amount of what he usually earns when the students are not travelling.
“Seriously, I dey happy as students dey go home. Before, I no dey get up to N10,000, but today I don get more than N15,000.”___Ahmad Isah said in pidgin-English while responding to questions.
Meanwhile, all efforts by our reporter to speak to Aluta transport service providers within the campus proved abortive as no one was available to feed the questions from our reporter.
Finally, as the four-week warning strike continues, the A.B.U Main Campus keeps adopting an alien silence in all nooks and crannies with frustrated shopkeepers and their stocks.