By Aminu Adamu Naganye
In this second part of the special report, The Daily Reality reporter narrated how other business activities continue to suffer due to the strike in Nigeria’s public ivory towers. And it is now getting worse as other unions in the universities, such as SSANU, NASU, and NAAT, have since declared strikes following the government’s failure to honour agreements with the workers’ unions.
Okada, tri-cyclists and yellow bus
Commercial motorcycles, tricycles popularly known as Adai-daita and commercial shuttle buses, alias yellow buses (or taxis), are the major means of transportation in and around the universities for students’ daily movements.
With the suspension of academic activities in the universities, the commercial transporters discontinued their operations, rendering hundreds of them without their normal means of earning a living.
Although Okada/Acaɓa (commercial motorcycle ride) riders are still doing skeletal work with very few passengers, as they explained in their interaction with this reporter, tri-cycles and yellow buses have since moved elsewhere in search of respite.
Young Abdurrahman Usman, whose means of eking out a living is okada/acaɓa in BUK. He used to convey students to, in and outside of the university, cater for his family’s needs. He now faces challenges as a result of the strike. He said:
“It is quite saddening. The strike stifles our means of livelihood. There are no passengers now to carry. Students have vacated the campus, and the remaining ones have been served notice to leave since. We are pleading with the government to resolve the problem. Acaɓa riders, students and other business people suffer. Government should meet up with ASUU’s demands for activities to resume on campus.”
“It was unnerving when I first heard there will be a strike”, recalling when his friend told him about the strike as he had bitter experience in the past, adding that “before the strike, I used to make N1500 – N2000 a day but now hardly I make 200 -300 a day. I am in a very tense situation,” Usman concluded.
“Honestly, we can only say Inna lillahi wa inna ilaihi rajiun! Because this isn’t a new thing to us. Whenever there is rumour of embarking on a strike, we will be praying that the issue gets resolved before the strike commences. But if the strike is declared… it is really usually terrible for us”, said Ado Umar, who serves as the Secretary of the BUK Riders (Acaɓa) Association.
Ado said with the current economic realities of Nigeria, “Federal Government and ASUU, for God’s sake and the plight of the hungry people around and students, should resolve their differences”, adding that “I don’t think any of them can get what he or she desires completely…they should have sympathy for us… businesses in Kano, not just BUK, suffer the consequences of the strike.”
Photographers, barbers decry
Abdulmuiz Ibrahim, with his largest photo studio at BUK, said he had already lost most of his customers, primarily students, due to the industrial disharmony between the government and teachers.
While students vacated the environment, he noted that he had been surviving from a few people who come from outside the university and wedding bookings from outside campus, “we’ve been surviving from one or few people who are coming from outside. And as you know, weddings happen, we get wedding bookings from outside campus. That is what we’ve been using to maintain …the strike hasn’t been fair at all.”
Resilient photographer, Abdulmuiz, who described the strike as less devastating ditto Corona lockdown, said he is determined to survive the strike as he “brushed through previous strikes and Corona lockdown”, adding that “That is part of what I did then because there weren’t outdoor events. There was no event to cover, and school wasn’t in session. So you live on savings from savings to taking money from family and friends.”
He acknowledged that ASUU is fighting a worthy cause but advised them to engage in alternative means of resolving the problem, saying, “The victims are the students, the business owners, the workers, neighbouring communities that sell to students, the markets …this affects everybody.”
He further advised the Federal Government to resolve the problem amicably to avoid forcing youths to be on the streets. “We have seen what happened during the EndSARS protest. If schools weren’t closed, EndSARS wouldn’t have been that successful. If students were in school doing one thing or the other, EndSARS wouldn’t have had that solidarity. I hope they learn any lesson”, he cautioned.
“The Federal Government often talk about self-reliance and entrepreneurship, but they are now destroying our self-reliant businesses …there are over 200 business people in BUK New Site alone, and each has at least ten people under him. So thousands of people are in trouble with this strike. Government should help those who create jobs, not to destroy them” emotionally laden Abdulkadir Suleiman chronicled the chain of employment their businesses provide to people, including students on the campus.
Approaching his photography shop, Abdulkadir was already parking some items, ready to move out of the BUK to find some work to cater for the needs of his wife and six children.
Due to his business’ nature, he shuttles between town and campus, arguing, “With the current economic situation in the country, even the outside is very difficult. Campus remains the best but strike…” stressing further that “we are now thinking of alternative if not one day we will turn to beggars!”
He reminded the Federal Government that people brought them to power, and God will hold them accountable. “They should resolve this conundrum. God give them trust, and He will question them on it.”
A barber, Aliyu Badamasi, noted that the least he could work on before the strike were 15 – 20 people daily, while currently, the average is 2.
Aliyu noted, “It is very, very horrible, that is what I would say… Life hasn’t been easy. If the school is on break, it isn’t funny, not to talk of a strike. It is not easy.”
With his barber’s shop as the only means of making ends meet, Aliyu urged the Government and ASUU to remember that “So many people rely on students’ presence to survive”, appealing to the government “to put education first. They should make it a priority.”
Some businesses are moving off Campus
Abdurrahman Shafiu, who doubles as a student and a POS operator, concluded his plan to move to the town pending the resumption of academic activities at the university.
Abdurrahman said his only option now is to move out of the university to survive the strike, “The strike is really affecting my study and my business concurrently. When students were around, I realised like 6k a day, but now I hardly make 1k. So I’m just coping by the grace of God. I’m moving out of the campus because I’m a family man. I need to feed my family!”
For Khamisu Alhassan Abubakar, the only phone repairer currently available in BUK, said only one-fifth of his customers patronise him presently as most of them have travelled.
With nonteaching staff also embarking on strike, as their unions recently announced, he noted that it is no longer possible to remain on campus.
NASU, SSANU embark on strike
Meanwhile, as ASUU’s strike entered its third month and with no visibly committed resolution efforts from the Federal Government, other unions of nonteaching staff in universities have mobilised their members to embark on an extended two-week warning strike after they exhausted earlier two weeks of warning.
Joint Action Committee of Non-academic Staff Union (NASU) and Senior Staff Association of Nigerian Universities (SSANU) conveyed the message of the strike to their branches in a letter/memo signed by the SSANU President and NASU Secretary-General.
The letter, in part, reads: “In view of the nonchalant attitude of the Government to our demands, this is to direct our members in all Universities and Inter-University Centres throughout the country to commence a two-week warning strike by midnight of Sunday, 27th March, 2022 in the first instance as earlier conveyed in the Federal Government in our letter.”
The unions said the strike would be comprehensive with no concession.
With this latest strike pronouncement, the public universities in Nigeria will be completely grounded as teaching and administrative activities, as well as any other activities by the members of the trio of ASUU, NASU and SSANU, will be brought to a complete halt.
Incessant strikes may hamper the 2030 agenda
As one of the signatories that ratified and adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Nigeria is committed to implementing the goals, especially in the current decade of action.
However, with incessant strikes in universities, attainment of the global set targets may elude Nigeria. This is in view of the fact that abrupt termination or suspension of academic activities in institutions is likely to have a direct and indirect negative impact on the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals.