Borno state government is fighting both the Corona virus pandemic and skyrocketing food stuff prices occasioned by selfish middlemen. SADIQ ABUBAKAR writes.
All levels of government from federal to states are making frantic efforts towards preventing the spread of COVID-19 by working round the clock to ensure the safety and health of citizens. They also expend huge amount of money on vaccines, drugs, mobility, sanitisers, soaps, hand gloves, face masks, equipments and facilities to contain the pandemic.
In Borno state, the state government instituted a high-powered committee charged with the responsibility of preventing the spread of the disease by setting out measures towards the safety and health of the people.
However, some unscrupulous elements were busy derailing the good intention of governemnt by taking undue advantage of the lockdown to hike prices of foodstuff and hoard some against government’s desire to bring succour to the people.
Blueprint investigation reveals that some traders on grains, fruits, yam, potatoes, cooking oil, oranges, mangoes, watermelon, cucumbers, groceries and vegetables have connived to inflict hardships on residents of Maiduguri and its environs.
This comes on the heel of the lockdown in and out of Maiduguri city where commercial vehicles are restricted.
As the situation turned uglier, majority of the residents cry out to the state government for immediate intervention against hunger and starvation following the stay at home directive.
Chairman of the committee on the prevention and control of the spread of coronavirus disease in the state, the deputy govenror, Alhaji Usman Umar Kadafur, commended the citizens for their understanding and compliance.
He announced that the state government had kick-started the processes of decongesting Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps in order to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Usman also said the committee earlier gave a standing order on restriction of movements in and out of the 23-designated IDP camps across the state.
He further expressed his appreciation to the governor and people of the state for their support, cooperation and understanding in the lockdown. He however emphasised the need for improved hygiene and healthy environment through sanitation.
He added that upon insurgency challenges, the state government was able to provide some palliatives to IDPs in order to cushion the effect of lockdown with assurance of providing more pallaitives to communities.
However, the conspiracy of these saboteours recked havoc on the people where a bag of maize which hitherto sold at N11, 000 is now between N13, 500 and N15, 000. A bag of rice used to be sold between N16, 000-N18, 000 but now sold between N18, 500 and N21, 000 depending on the type of rice.
Also, yam tubbers from either Lafia and Akwanga in Nasarawa state or Zaria in Kaduna state or Jalingo in Taraba state which used to be sold between N350 to N500 depending on the size now sells between N500-N800. A container of sweet potatoes from either Bauchi or Plateau states used to be sold between N250 and N350 depending on the size now goes for between N500-N700 while a bag of sweet potatoes used to be between N3,000 and N4,000 now sells between N5, 000 and N7,000.
A small plastic dish of Irish potatoes from Jos that used to be between N250 and N350 is now between N500 and N700 depending on the size while a small plastic basket which used to be between N800 and N1,000 now sells between N1,200 and N1,500.
A mudu of beans from Southern Borno and Adamawa state which used to be N200 now goes for N300. A mudu of cassava gari which used to be N200 is now N300 while the red type which used to be sold at N250 is now N350, if available. A bottle of paim oil used to be N400 but now N500 while a bottle of vegetable oil sold between N320 and N350 is now between N370 and N400.
Stakeholders give reasons
A heavy-duty-vehicle driver based in Maiduguri, Adamu Muazu said, “I am surprise that people are complaining when they know that everybody is now sitting at home doing nothing with family without money and food.
“People should know that these traders only have in their possession what they had before lockdown. Some are even hoarding the goods waiting for price hike before they will bring them to the market for people to buy at higher prices.
“I don’t blame anybody but the governemnts which cannot sanction them or regulate the prices of foodstuff to make things easier and simple for the ordinary man on the streets who does not go out to work or search for food, ” he said.
While Idris Mohammed, a welder in Bulumkutu area of Maiduguri said, “It is quite unfortunate that Borno people are used to this hike in the slightest moment of events like sallah festivals and Ramadan fast where traders are expected to show sympathy by reducing the prices of goods; rather, they will hike the prices taking the undue advantage of the festivities.
“During this period of pandemic and grief, instead of traders and transporters to sympathise with the people and governemnt, they are rather inflicting injuries on innocent citizens.
“This is wrong and I urge governemnts to do something about it. It is becoming unbearable and senseless even at this hard time for traders to wickedly suffer the poor man who is struggling to survive in this pandemic,” Mohammed said.
A mechanic at Bola area of Maiduguri, Habu Dada said, “You are talking about hike in foodstuff. Where is even the money for me to go to the market to buy food for the family?
“So, where is the money and government pallaitives that we heard about? They have not reached us yet at the host communities but we heard government is assisting the IDPs at IDP camps with the pallaitives,” Dada said.
A grains seller at Monday market in Maiduguri, Baakaka Adam said, “In fact, the truth of the matter is that we don’t even see the goods to buy and sell.
“The roads are closed. Even the borders of neighhbouring countries are closed and Boko Haram terrorists also contributed to the plight as they do kill motorists and passengers plying the roads with our goods; at times, they sieze their money and goods.
“Secuirty agents also restrict movements and importation which make goods and services to be on the high side. We the traders don’t even like selling to our customers at higher or exorbitant prices. It is not to our liking,” Adam said.
Ikechukwu Nnamdi, a motor spare parts dealer at the Bola Spareparts Market said, “Nna. You no go know the real problem. It is not the igbos that are increasing the prices of spare parts.
“The roads and airports are closed. How and where are we going to get the spare parts and bring to our shops for sale.
“Now the little we have in stock, we have sold them out and our customers have been coming looking for some parts here in Maiduguri but are not available. Goods are not available and no road to go and bring them.
“May be you people can talk to the government to allow us travel out sometimes to make supply. With this, people can find what they want even cheaper.
“So, people should stop blaming us. We are even trying opening our shops even though goods no dey,” Ike said.
Appeal for equitable share of palliatives
Mrs Helen Bulus, a civil servant said, “We know governments both at the federal and state levels are working hard to safe lives of Nigerians from the deadly disease which made them to direct us to stay at home even with our husbands and children not going to school but as we hear other states are doing and people are making contributions to the federal government to assist Nigerians staying at home, let them please ensure this support reaches the right people in time and not diverted into private pockets.
“Let the government extends its hands of fellowship with the palliatives to the people in need and try to open schools for the children staying at home,” she said.