Business owners in the Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo (AEFUNAI), have called for end to the current showdown between the federal government and the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU).
The business operators spoke in separate interviews with the News Agency of Nigeria on Wednesday during assessment visit to the university community at Ikwo local government area of Ebonyi.
The respondents criticized the low business patronage due to absence of students on the campus and urged FG and ASUU to go back to the negotiating table to resolve the imbroglio.
According to them, the strike which has entered its second month has crippled business activities in the area while many petty businesses had been forced to close while others had resorted to alternative means to eke out a living.
Hyginus Onwe, a restaurant owner said that the absence of students from the university due to lingering strike had slowed down sales.
He said that students constituted bulk of their clientele and expressed dismay that there was a huge downturn in sales occasioned by the protected strike action.
“The strike has affected business activities adversely in this area because students constitute greater percentage of our customer base.
“On a normal period, we sell between 10 and 15 cartons of beer and malt drinks in a day.
“But, since students vacated the campus and their various hostels because of the strike, we barely sell up to five cartons in a day.
“I appeal to FG to open up a sincere dialogue with the striking university lecturers while ASUU should yield by suspending the ongoing strike and embrace dialogue.
“The students, their parents and we, who depend on the university for our businesses, are suffering the crisis,” Onwe said.
Mrs Agnes Itumo, a Business Centre owner in the campus said that she had been practically put out of business since the strike began.
Itumo, a widow and mother of five, said that she depended on the proceeds generated from the business to feed her children and pay other bills.
“I can barely feed my children and take care of other family responsibilities including the payment of utility bills.
“It is from the ‘term papers’ we type for the students, the photocopies and other services we render to them and the lecturers that we eke our living.
“Now that the university is practically shut down, life and survival are very difficult for us.
“We are appealing to the parties involved to reach a truce, suspend the strike and embrace dialogue.
“We are suffering the effect of the strike and our children who have been at home should be made to come back and continue with their programmes,” Itumo said.
Mr Livinus Ogah, a mini-bus operator plying Ikwo/Abakaliki route, said that the strike had affected the transportation business stressing that students and lecturers constituted bulk of their passengers.
“We stay idle since the strike began forcing students to vacate their hostels and the campus and we can hardly make ends meet,” Ogah said.
It was reported that ASUU in February declared a four-week role-over nation-wide strike to press home its demand on FG to implement the 2009 renegotiated agreement signed in Dec 2020.
The union at the end of the one month warning strike further reviewed the industrial action for another two months.
ASUU was also protesting the imposition of Integrated Personnel Payroll Information System (IPPIS) as payment platform for the university lecturers.