Covid-19: Abuja, Lagos residents besiege markets, lament price hike in foodstuffs

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Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Okwe Obi, Samuel Bello, Benjamin Babine, Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja and Chinyere Anyanwu, Lagos

President Muhammadu Buhari’s Sunday night broadcast ordering a 14-daylockdown in Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states from yesterday triggered a mad rush for foodstuff and essential consumer goods across the FCT, Lagos and Ogun states  as  consumers made frantic efforts for last minute purchases amidst soaring prices. 

Consequently prices of foodstuff in the affected states suddenly rose exponentially as consumers moved to stockpile food for their families in line with the Federal Government effort to stem the pandemic.

Food items such as onions, plantains, garri, rice, beans, fruits and vegetables suddenly became out of the reach for most Nigerians as demand for them pushed prices higher.

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At Farmers Market Maitama, a basket of Onions, which formerly sold for N700 rose to N2,500 while a basket of oranges sold for N500 as against it’s former price of N200.

Similarly a basket of tomatoes jumped from N1,500 to N3,000.

Margaret Udo, a buyer who spoke to Daily Sun in Abuja yesterday, decried the hike, saying it was unreasonable for foodstuff sellers to increase the cost of food items just because of the president Buhari’s broadcast.

“What is going on in the country is lamentable and regrettable. Food sellers are taking advantage of the lockdown order to frustrate people. It is not as if we are in a festive period that things would ordinarily climb. Worst of it is that government has not paid salaries,” she said.

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Peter Achimugu, a civil servant, could not hold back his displeasure over the situation. “We are gradually losing our sense of kindness in this country. The hike of food items these days is unfortunate. I bought a basket of pepper for N1,800 when I was buying it for N700. It is really sad and frustrating,” he said.

But Adamu Musa, a food item seller, said the increase was no fault of theirs  because transportation increased. He said, “customers are just complaining without knowing what we go through. Transportation has increased and we need to add it to our goods. We cannot eat what we sell ourselves we must sell them.

“Besides, this lockdown will really affect our goods because most of them will spoil. So we have to sell. Let customers bear with us.”

For Mr. Innocent Marcus, he was shocked that the price of hand sanitisers changed within 24 hours after he bought for his family. He said, “on Monday I visited a pharmacy close to Asokoro General Hospital to buy hand sanitiser, the small bottle. I bought it for N1,000, on getting home, my wife asked me why I bought only one, I said ok I will get another one the following day. On getting to the same shop, I requested for another sanitiser and they said it was N2,000, I reminded them that I had bought one the previous day, they said the price has changed. I grudgingly bought it anyway before they would tell me its N4,000 now.”

At the Wuse and Kubwa markets, residents found that a bag of rice, which was formerly sold at N25,000 is now at the range of N28,000 to N30,000 while a mudu of garri is now sold at N300 against the normal price of N130. It was also observed that foodstuffs like tomatoes, yam, vegetables, among others, also tripled in price.

Some of the buyers who spoke with our correspondents  blamed the hike in price on traders, claiming that they are using the opportunity to make more profits. Mary Edoh, a resident of Maitama, expressed displeasure over the hike in prices of goods at this trying period, blaming traders for being insensitive.

She said, “this is absolute wickedness, traders are not supposed to inflate prices of foodstuffs because of this outbreak. This is one of the things I hate about we Nigerians. We are ready to utilise every situation to make more money. Imagine a bag of rice that I priced yesterday and I was told to pay N27,000, only for me to get there today and they are insisting on N30,000.”

Musa Adamu, an Abuja- based  tomatoes  seller dismissed accusations that hike in prices of foodstuffs was to take advantage of the lockdown. According to him, traders have not been allowed to bring foodstuffs into Abuja due to border closures by some states where these products are being produced.

Residents of Apo resettlement area said they met long queues  in Automated Teller Machines (ATM) and heavy queues in banks and supermarkets across the city. There was heavy traffic in the Apo resettlement road near the Apo Mall, as many residents rushed out to make last minute transactions and purchases ahead of the lockdown.

The COVID-19 has no doubt affected many parts of people’s everyday life and has equally affected the prices of items including foodstuffs, negatively, a situation which has got residents of the affected states worried and dissatisfied.

Speaking to buyers at the Apo fish market, many had nothing but lamentations about the situation. An angry buyer, Juliet Maji, said, “what sort of country is this? Why have tomatoes, pepper, plantain and rice increased in just a few days. It is just sad that while other countries are trying to make things easier for their citizens, our own country seems to be making it harder. I don’t have a problem because I can afford whatever the price is but what about the poor people.”

Another respondent, Tobi Orebajo, expressed her frustrations, saying that food commodities are very crucial at this point. “The very thing that shouldn’t increase in in price in such times is food. We should not forget that there are millions of poor and homeless people in this country.”

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Also lamenting the price hike, Mrs. Nwanneka an Abuja resident said, “my experience was quite stressful. A lot of queues and big supermarkets like Spar and Shoprite were regulating the number of people allowed to enter the stores per time.

“The outdoor markets on the other hand saw the prices of items higher than usual with some items like lemon very scarce. I remember buying lemons for N200 a piece.”

At Exclusive Stores in Wuse  2, Ms. Elizabeth met unending queues. “Wuse market is empty. No vegetable left. Pricing is ok but nothing left. Shelves are empty. Wuse market prices have skyrocketed. Carrot of N1,000 is now like N600 carrot before with no apology, and customers are hustling to buy.”

In Lagos, the story was not different as several markets were besieged by buyers leading to sudden price increase of over 100 per cent on certain products especially food items. A tuber of yam that sold for N500 previously jumped to N1,000 in Coker Aguda market in Lagos. A four-litre measure of garri that sold for N500 last week went for N1,000 while a medium-sized loaf of bread formerly sold for N250 as at yesterday rose to N300. A bag of rice, which was formerly sold for N25,000 rose to between N27,000 and N30,000.

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