There could hardly be a more difficult time than now to be a student in Nigeria as Business Hallmark investigations have revealed that the present economic crisis in the country is making life unbearable for most students in tertiary institutions.
Their paltry resources can barely fetch them minimum comfort, with the cost of almost all their needs rising astronomically even as the real wages of their benefactors are decreasing.
Our team took out time to visit the main campus of the University of Lagos (Unilag) at Akoka and Yaba College of Technology (YabaTech) and discovered that the nation is on the verge of losing studiousness of her leaders of tomorrow to hunger, anger and frustration if urgent steps are not taken.
The students did not hide their feelings as they lamented what they described as an unprecedented hike in the prices of goods and services, which has rendered their upkeep allowances valueless thereby creating untold hardship.
A crash in the price of oil, the mainstay of the Nigerian economy and a resultant fall in the value of naira had fueled inflation from 8.2 percent in July 2015 to 18.5 percent in June 2016.
Over two million Nigerians have lost their jobs since the inception of Buhari administration. Many of those who still work have either had their salaries slashed or hardly get it regularly.
The situation is an unfortunate result of businesses, especially those who depend on imported raw materials, trying to cut costs in order to remain alive. The affected workers are going through hardship which their dependants, including those in school cannot but share.
The dwindling financial abilities of the students and consequent change in their life styles is also taking tolls on businesses on campus, which now receive lower patronage.
Seyi Britto is a final year Printing Technology student of Yabatech. He sees no reason why students should be facing academic difficulties and economic hardship at the same time. For him a student who has to trek a long distance and at the same time cannot feed well can hardly do well in academics. “This is the situation in which many students have found themselves in Yabatech today,” he noted.
Seyi who said he does some menial jobs proceeds of which he supports himself with wonders how many other students who depend solely on their parents are coping if he (Seyi) is not finding it easy.
“Many of the students are starving, adopting 001 formular, which means they do not eat till evening because that is the reality of their pocket.”
Elizabeth Atulawo, an ND 2 Mass Communication student of Yabatech challenged the government of President Mohammadu Buhari to adopt appropriate measures that could save the country from the present quagmire. She observed that most of the students have had to change their life styles because of the economic crisis.
“The other day I noticed with surprise that most students who used to order for Endomie with egg and soft drinks were making do with buns, egg role and Pure Water. Atulawo recalled.
“And when I made my observation known to the seller he confirmed that it is true because most students now complain that they don’t have money.”
Another ND 2 Mass Communication student also of Yabatech, who simply identified herself as Mary, observed that prices of food and transport have gone up, making the money given to “you by your parents insufficient to transport and feed yourself well.”
“Transport and food, in fact, everything now is costly and your parents can’t even increase the money they give you because it is not even easy for them,” Mary noted.
“So it’s left for you. Sometimes you discover that after transporting yourself you’re left with nothing and you just have to starve.”
Joshua Olokpa is a stuent of University of Portharcourt, who is currently undergoing an industrial training at Yabatech. He said he is having a share of the economic hardship in the country and can barely feed well even as a working student.
He advised that students should help themselves by engaging in legitimate economic activities in order to augment whatever they are getting from their sponsors, pointing out that there is no acceptable excuse for engaging in robbery, prostitution and other social vices.
The business community of the institution comprising food and drink sellers, photographers, salon and cyber café operators among others also shared their experiences.
Proprietor of Chicago Food Café Mr. Badeji Taiwo, lamented that the cash crunch among students has cost his business almost 40 percent reduction in sales. He said, “Business has become so tough because everything you’re using to cook has gone up in price and you cannot easily increase the price of a plate of food at will.
“What we do to make a little profit is to try to reduce the quantity we serve. And in doing that you have to be careful or you lose your customers to your rivals.
“It is common these days seeing obviously hungry students who come around begging for free food, and most times you have no choice than making a little sacrifice.”
Owner of His Grace Kitchen, who does not want her name on print, noted that the business environment is getting tougher by the day, however, the quality of her food still leaves her business at a profitable level.
“A bag of rice which was N12, 000 few weeks ago now goes for N18, 000. Meat, fish, oil, garri and every other item is expensive now,” she said.
“I pity the students because it is really not easy. They can’t even complain much about reduction in the quantity of the food because they also know what we (the sellers) are passing through.
“These days you hardly see any leftover food in the students’ plates, afterall no bi person wey belle full go chop remain. Even the ones wey dey carry girlfriend before come shop na only them dey follow come now o.”
Chief Executive Officer of Desurge Cyber Café Mr. Chrys Ekeanya, lamented low patronage, pointing out that rather than making money from the students these days he occasionally comes to the rescue of some destitute students who approach him for help.
“It is true that the aim of business is to make profit. But sometimes there’re some situations you cannot help. Imagine a young boy or girl starving for lack of money and you see that N50 or N100 can make a difference, you have to give;”he said.
“You can see how empty the chairs are, no customers. Before now everywhere used to be filled up. It is a very serious situation. Government has to do something before it gets out of hand.”
Steve Omatu is the Chief Executive Officer of Mr. Classic, sellers of assorted foreign foot wears. He said his business was seriously affected when the high cost of dollar started as students were not willing to bear the difference in price. But the situation, he said, is improving with time as students are getting used to it.
The situation in Unilag is not any difference as the comments of both the students and business owners corroborated ordeals of their Yabatech counterparts.
A group of four third year Mass Communication students of Unilag namely: Deji, Adeyemi, Debo and Peter wondered how Nigerian students can survive in an atmosphere of “hyper” inflation.
They said the plight of Unilag students is worsened by heavy taxes imposed on those doing business on campus, who immediately transfer same to the students by way of higher prices.
“You will buy a plate of food N200, N300 or N500 depending on the class of restaurant and what you get is an empty plate and you’re still hungry,” Adeyemi pointed out.
“Sadly most sellers see what is happening in the country as an opportunity to make abnormal profit by increasing prices by unjustifiable rates,” Deji chipped in.
The four students agreed that while Nigerians look up to the government to bring a lasting solution to the problem they (Nigerians) should also be their brother’s keepers by eschewing exploitation in their business transactions.
They are of the view that the economic crisis in the country is feeding fat on the Nigerian attitude of everybody wishing to make all the money while others die in penury.
Chief Executive Officer of Mom’s Kitchen, Unilag, who simply gave his name as Mr. Amaechi, while lamenting unprecedented decrease in profit urged the media to tell the government the bitter truth that the country is in a mess.
“I’ve never seen a thing like this in the history of this country. The students do not have the money because their parents have either lost their jobs or have not been paid. So if you increase the price of your food who will buy,?” he queried.
“Almost on daily basis you see students who come to beg for free food. Some of them are young enough to be your children and you cannot say no.”
However, the story was a bit different at SSUB Boutique where the manager who does not want her name on print said business is still normal as she increased prices of her wares by N500 which, according to her, students can easily afford.
The management of Affordables – Phones and Gadgets said their main problem is not the economic recession in the country but the situation in Unilag occasioned by the ban on squatting in the hostels which has drastically reduced the number of students on campus.