Some residents of Nsukka town, the community hosting the University of Nigeria (UNN), say that the nationwide nine-month old Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) nationwide strike had adversely affected their livelihoods.
In separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Nsukka, on Tuesday, the residents bemoaned the strike as having grounded their businesses and were now counting their losses.
Chief Onyema Idoko, proprietor of a private student hostel opposite the University’s first gate, said he suffered huge losses because his hostel of over 100 rooms had remained under lock and key for the duration of the strike.
“When that strike started, I thought it is something that will last between two weeks or highest one month. By January I have renovated the hostel hoping to get back my money when students pay their hostel fee.
“Though COViD-19 pandemic also contributed, but without ASUU strike students could have returned to school when government relaxed the lockdown in the country,’ he said.
Idoko, a former Chairman of Nsukka LG Council, was, however, elated that ASUU had suspended the strike, but urged the Federal Government to implement all agreements reached with ASUU to avoid the union going on strike again in future.
” Government should always give education special attention because education remains the engine room to fast track development in any country,” he said.
Mrs. Stella Nnadi, a restaurateur inside the Campus, said the prolonged ASUU strike, coupled with COVID-19, dealt a serious below to her business, her only source of income.
” I have been in this business for the past eleven years, but what I witnessed this year (2020) I have not seen it before. A situation where students from public universities are at home for almost one year because of ASUU strike
” What I witnessed this year is the worst since I started this business, I pray God will never allow me see another 2020 again in my life. Not minding my ugly experience in 2020, I still thank God for sustaining my life and that of my family members,’ she said.
”As students are at home, I stopped cooking in my restaurant inside campus because students constitute 99 per cent of my customers,” she said, adding that in order to survive, as well as feed her family, she bought a wheelbarrow and became a mobile food vendor in Nsukka Old Motor park.
A Campus shuttle driver, Mr. Kennedy Ezema, said he would never forget the ASUU strike of 2020 and the adverse effect it had on his income.
” Before the COVID-19 pandemic worsen by ASUU nationwide strike, I make between N5,000 and N7,000 daily from carrying students and visitors from Nsukka Old Motor Park to UNN campus. Now, the highest I make in a day is between N1,500 and N2,000 because students are at home.
” I heard that ASUU has suspended the strike, but I know students will come back to campus by January 2021, if government did not impose another lockdown because of the second wave of COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
It was a similar story for Mr. Victor Ugwu, a provision store owner along University Market Road Nsukka, who said he had known that UNN was the only industry in Nsukka, because whenever students traveled, landlords, food vendors, restaurants, traders, drivers and super markets complained of low patronage.
“This is the first Christmas I was unable to buy Christmas cloths for my children because I have no money as result of low patronage. When students are around I make good sales and profit but the reverse is the case now.
‘I urge government to avoid anything in future that will warrant ASUU to embark on strike again, ” he said.
For Miss Jane Udengwu, a 300-level student, Department of Economics, the worry was her inability to enjoy up to three months out of the one-year rent she paid for off campus accommodation because of the ASUU strike that lasted for nine months.
” I have lost N120,000 I paid in January, as annual rent for a one -bedroom flat in 2020. It pains me that, if school starts in January 2021 as ASUU has suspended the strike, I will pay another N120, 000 as house rent. I am the worse hit in this ASUU nationwide strike of 2020”, she complained.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had on March 19, through the Federal Ministry of Education, ordered the closure of all primary, secondary and higher institutions due to the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country.
However, when the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown was relaxed, students in public universities were unable to return to school because of ASUU strike.
ASUU embarked on an indefinite nationwide strike on March 23, 2020, for what it described as coercion used by the Federal Government to enroll its members into the Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS), in addition to government’s inability to honour an agreement it signed with the union since 2009.
On Dec. 24, 2020 much to the relief of Nigerians, including residents of this university town, ASUU suspended the nine-month old nationwide strike. (NAN)