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Economic hardship, tales of woes rife at Easter

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A visit to the popular Mile 12 market in Lagos reveals that the price of pepper and tomatoes has increased sharply. Speaking with The Guardian, Ismail Yusuf, a tomato and pepper seller said it is business as usual for him as sales have remained good, even though the price of the commodity has gone up. A basket of tomatoes, which previously sold for N5,000, now goes for between N8,000 and N10,000 depending on the buyer’s bargaining power.

“No matter the price of pepper, people will still buy it. Before now, we were selling tatase (bell peppers) for N5,000, but now; it costs N7,000 or N8000. It is the same with atarodo which used to be sold at N9000 for the big bag while the small bag was sold at N3000. But now, the big bag is sold for N14,000 while the small bag is now N7000,” he said.

The price of onions is still a bit stable, but vegetables like carrots, cucumbers, lettuce and others used in making salad and fried rice have witnessed an upward increase as well.

Checks around the market showed that it was as busy as ever with buyers bargaining furiously to get the best deals and stretch scarce resources to go as far as possible. A buyer in the market, who gave her name as Atinuke Ayoade lamented the high prices of foodstuff and essential commodities, saying government wais making life very difficult for Nigerians.

“My husband gave me N10,000 for the Easter preparation. I don’t know what that amount can buy now. Chicken and turkey is so expensive, even fish that used to be the alternative for the poor is now out of our reach as one Titus fish now goes for N500. Aunty, have you priced ororo (groundnut oil) recently? I almost fainted when I heard the price. Ordinary 10 litres is now N8,000 and it is Cotonu oil for that matter. I don’t know what this government want us to do, should we all die before they know there is a problem? I can’t even buy clothes for my children to mark this Easter. They have to wear what they wore during Christmas because I can’t kill myself,” Ayoade said.

Sellers of frozen foods are also feeling the heat because of the ban on the product and the high cost of smuggling them into the country. A trader in the product, Iya Onome criticised the government, accusing it of insensitivity and wickedness.

“I don’t know who is advising this government because the situation is going from bad to worse. Now that they closed the borders, did they provide an alternative? It is always one step forward, ten steps backward in this country. As for me, I am less concerned because it is what I buy that I would sell. Now, a carton of orobo chicken now sells for N11,000 while normal one now goes for N12, 000. A carton of gizzard is N14, 000 and turkey is N13,000. How do they expect Nigerians to survive like this?”

Speaking further, Onome said the cost of transportation was another major problem. She implored the government to look into this as quickly as possible to relieve the sufferings of the masses.

A visit to Balogun, Idumota and Tom Jones markets on Lagos Island revealed a sorry tale. The markets were a shadow of their former selves as traders closed their shops as early as 5:30pm; a rare occurrence considering the festive season. Traders displayed their wares aggressively, but while many people passed by, a few were actually buying. Children’s clothes and shoes, lace and ankara materials of all shapes and colours were available, but for most buyers, the prices were prohibitive.

One of the traders at Idumota, Ikechukwu Paul lamented poor sales. “Aunty, when I saw you coming I thought you wanted to buy something not knowing that you came to ask questions. Does it look like market is booming like this? I have been sleeping since morning, imagine, during Easter week. Is this how things would continue? Customers are complaining that products are too expensive but what can we do as dollar is very high? I am ready to sell almost at cost price if I can see someone to come and pick some items, but people would just price and go. I am tired my sister,” he said.

A textile dealer, Abdulahi Sodiq pleaded with the government to do something about the current economic situation in the country. “In fact, this year is worse than previous years. People are simply not buying. Most people cannot afford to eat three times daily, so how do you expect someone that has not eaten to come and buy clothes? Dollar is another major problem. The rate of dollar is too high and it is seriously affecting sales,” he said.

Another textile trader, Mrs. Mary Tejuosho claims that buyers are just strolling around the market and there has been no spike in sales, adding: “The high price of goods is the major reason people are not buying clothes. People are keeping the little money they have for food.”

Aliu Olasunkanmi of Yaq Garments who specializes in children’s clothes said: “To be candid, Easter is not a period we usually experience high sales compared to Christmas and Eid’ Kabir. But even at that, due to the situation of the country, this year is particularly bad. Despite the fact that we are selling at the rates we sold last Christmas due to the fact that we still have old stock, sales have been terrible. In order to sell off our old stock, we decided to reduce the prices.”

A textile trader in Balogun, Mrs. Aisha Adepeju who sat with a heavy face at her shop, observing activities around her said: “People are not turning up at all. You can see how scanty Balogun is. Normally by now, someone should not even see space to walk, but everything is bad now. The few that come are just pricing lower than the cost price. They said dollar has come down but we are yet to feel it, mainly because we are still selling old stocks.

“It will be around June, before cost of goods can come down. We sold Voile Lace at the rate of N8,000 last year but now, Voile Lace is sold from N10, 000. You can’t imagine the rate at which cost of textile increased overnight. Cord lace last year was sold for N8,000 but now we sell it from N12, 000.”

A shoe dealer Obinna Uche, said that nothing was special about this year’s Easter. “No sales at all. It’s like I’m just wasting transport fare coming to the market. I don’t think people are in the mood to celebrate the Easter. There is no money in the country this year. I don’t think Nigerians even remember that Easter is tomorrow.”

Uche’s neighbor, Esther Edward and a dealer in children’s shoes complained bitterly, saying, “You can see we are the ones begging customers to come and see what we are selling. Before, by this period, we don’t bother. If you need what we are selling, you will come into our store. Sadly, the price of children’s shoes has gone up and not everybody can afford them. Now, female children’s shoes start from N2, 500, something we used to sell N1, 500 before but that is what the country has turned into.”

The same could not be said at the Balogun hair market as customers thronged the shops to purchase goods. However, one trader said it is deceptive, saying: “Not all of them come to buy something, most of them are thieves. Better hold your bag tight if you don’t want to cry, as they are expert thieves.”Traders in live chicken and turkey revealed that they wouldn’t move to the roadsides and bus stops until today so as to catch the last minute shoppers and ‘possibly remind them that they haven’t bought Easter chicken. Chicken is now expensive, a small one costs between N1,500 and N3,000 while a big one goes for between N4, 000 and N6, 000. It is not our fault. It is the situation of the country,” another trader said.

In Calabar, People Say No Money, No Easter Celebrations
From Anietie Akpan, Calabar

CALABAR, the capital of Cross River state is dull. The normal hustle and bustle at festive times is not there. There is no money in circulation. Market women and men are complaining of poor patronage.

At Watt and Marian markets, the biggest and busiest markets in Calabar, it was business as usual. Almost everybody complained of lack of money. Most shopping complexes and shops stay for hours without customers.

One of the traders at Watt market, Madam Atim Udo said: “In my life, I have never seen this kind of bad market. People are not even asking you what you have, talkless of buying. There is no money. I have never seen this kind of government. Our governor said he wants food to be on the table for everyone, but from what I am seeing, that is not possible.

“We are suffering. Even the tax and levies the government said we should not pay, people are still disturbing us. Can you believe that since morning (on Wednesday) and this is 3pm, I have sold only N3, 700, whereas by this time in the past, I use to sell on the average of N30, 000 or more. I sell fish and vegetables and other things like crayfish, my brother there is bad market”.

Another trader, Nkoyo Abu, who sells clothes said: “Oga we are suffering. There is no market this Easter period. Even before the Easter period I was not selling. There is no money with the people who are supposed to buy, especially at this period. These government people are just keeping money to themselves, while others are suffering. This is wickedness and only God will help us.

A lady at Marian Market, who deals on baby items, Elizabeth Etim said: “Well we are trying. Customers are coming but we are not selling as we use to before now. Last year it was the same thing and people are complaining that there is no money. We only hope things will improve”.

When asked of the possible cause of the lull in business, she said: “I don’t know but I think things are just generally on the high side and there is no money in circulation. And so people are not ready to buy things in the name of Easter”

Traders, Residents Complain Of Low Patronage, Lack Of Money
From Saxone Akhaine, Kaduna

THE preparations for Easter celebration in Kaduna and other parts of the North have been generally low-keyed. Traders at the Kaduna Central Market complained of low patronage.

The spokesman of the 19 Northern States Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Reverend Joseph Hayap who spoke on the Easter preparations, said the economic downturn in the country was having a negative effect on people’s purchasing power, stressing that the beauty of it was the victory Jesus had over the devil, shame and failure.

He said: “Despite the failure, pain, hunger, poverty and lack, when you remember the sacrifice Jesus made, you will feel that he has made the biggest sacrifice for all of mankind.

“Our desire and wish is that our leaders us would have understood that in a season like this when we celebrate Jesus victory over the devil we suppose to also be appreciating them for improving our lives for the celebration of a season like Easter.

“What we can only do is to continue to pray that our leaders should understand how Jesus made sacrifice for the betterment of mankind. Our leaders should also be able to make sacrifices for the betterment of those they are leading.”

“This year has been a painful year, but Jesus victory is above all pains. When we look up to Jesus we should put our trust in Him, but in reality people are in pains. Our leaders must wake up to the responsibility of improving the welfare of our people and eradicate the pains and failures.”

Reflecting on the high cost of items in the market, Hayap said: “I will advise all Christians to understand the times we are in. And Jesus wants us to be wise. Since the time is hard, don’t go and buy what you cannot afford, don’t go and do what will cause you pains later. This is because after Easter, children will go back to school and there are other responsibilities.”

Besides, traders at the Kaduna Central Market complained of low patronage, saying this is the worst Easter preparation they have ever witnessed. One of the traders, Alhaji Hassan Baba, told The Guardian: “I have not seen any difference in sales just two days to Easter. My sale is still the same. Instead of people to buy bags of rice, they are still buying in mudus or cups. The reason for the low sales is that there is no money anywhere. People are complaining.”

Rivers Residents Shop For Only Basic Needs
From Ann Godwin (Port Harcourt)

THE usual shopping spree that follows Easter celebrations was low   in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital. Residents only shopped for their basic needs, no thanks to the economic recession.
 
Many of the retail shops, malls and even markets   visited faced dreary moments as customers were seen merely checking out the basic needs unlike in the past, when the festivity brought sales increase and even cause sales traffic.

Some of the residents, who spoke to The Guardian attributed the situation to the economic recession in the country.A civil servant, Mrs. Nwideenum Nwesali said that her husband lost his job about a year ago following the economic crisis in the country, stating that the prices of foodstuffs are very high but salaries remain stagnated. For her, the most important thing now is to eat and not necessarily to wear clothes or live a luxurious life.

She said: “Irrespective of the recession and hardship in the country, we are happy to celebrate the Easter and I urge every Christian to be happy and celebrate Jesus Christ because it cost nothing to celebrate him.”
 
Findings show that traders who are into foodstuffs are recording low sales than those in clothes, jewelries and shoes. Mr. Okey Okwudidri who sells wrappers in Mile One Market: “When I call people to come and buy my goods, they will curse me and tell me that they have not eaten, not to talk about wrappers and clothes.”
 
He expressed sadness over the development, stating that he has been in the wrapper business for over 15 years and that during Christmas and Easter he usually records huge sales which makes him smile to the bank.

He said it was through the wrapper business that he trained his three children in the university, but regretted that presently, he cannot feed his family due to low patronage.

He called on government to rise up to the occasion and do something urgently to ensure that the recession does not go deeper than its present state. Also Speaking, Ipalibo Wokocho who was at a Shopping Mall in Port Harcourt, said: “She only came to pick the basic needs of the family, stating that ‘this is no time for unnecessary shopping but for only the basic needs. It is not even time for exchanging gifts.”
 
Meanwhile, the Port Harcourt   Shopping Mall on Thursday witnessed a large turnout of customers, considering that it is the only major shopping and recreational centre in the oil rich city. The state government’s Pleasure Park meant to serve as recreational and shopping centre is still under construction and would be ready soon.
 
A retail attendant at the mall   told The Guardian that with the turnout on Thursday, there are some encouraging signs that there would be more sales between Friday and Saturday.
 
Other residents who spoke to The Guardian just heaved a sigh when asked how they were shopping for Easter celebration. Some said that they were only trusting God for food to eat on Easter day.

Anambra Witnesses Low-Key Preparations
From Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka)

THERE was palpable low-key preparations for the Easter celebrations among residents of the major cities in Anambra State. They cited biting economic hardship in the country as their major challenge.

Although people were seen at the Eke Awka Market for one reason or the other, there is not much evidence that they were buying things for the Easter celebration. Also the shopping complexes were not getting the large number of customers as recorded during the same period in years past.

Speaking to The Guardian, a resident of Awka, Lady Ngozi Njoku said there is no increase in the volume of goods or materials sold in their store. Ngozi who works at a shopping mall in Awka, attributed the low sales to the harsh economic situation in the country, adding that traffic is also less in the food items section.

Mr. Ifeanyi Anayo, a civil servant said that he made no special preparations this year and that what we saw was the normal movement of people either to the market or departmental stores to buy one thing or the other.

“I am only feeling the Easter season through the radio and television programes. Outside this, I personally don’t feel there is Easter celebration around the corner.

“Prices of foodstuffs, clothes, shoes and others are still high above the reach of the common man. People are managing whatever they have before, because of the economic difficulties. Compared to two, three years ago, with N20,000 one could buy enough food items, clothes for the children, gifts for friends and still have balance. This is not possible today. Things are very difficult and many families cannot afford two square meals today.

“The government should help to bring down prices of foodstuff, reduce duty placed on poultry products, confectioneries, clothing materials etc, as well as fuel pump price which traders add to their goods as transportation costs to increase prices of goods,” Anayo said.

Also the car wash business is affected as Mr. Henry Uka, owner of a service park complained that motorists were not patronising their services as usual. “There is hardship everywhere, people are suffering,” he said.

Mrs. Ifeyinwa, a market woman said some people are buying food items, even though prices are high now. She said foodstuff like garri goes for N450 for derica measure while a paint of garri goes for N900.

There Is Near Absence Of Preparations In Plateau
From Isa Abdulsalami Ahovi, Jos 

INVESTIGATIONS by The Guardian reveal that there is no much preparation for this year’s Easter celebration in Jos due to the prevailing economic recession.
A contractor at Terminus Market, Mr. Ishaku Joshua said that Easter was generally supposed to be an occasion for sober reflection and not an occasion to display wealth, excessive drinking and feasting, adding that these can come to play at Christmas and other times when things get better.
  
“To the Christians, Easter is a reflection of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. He believed that the contemporary world has misinterpreted Easter “as people now drive it towards mundane celebration.
   
“Besides, Plateau is more of a civil service state; no companies, no factories or major private sector establishments. Almost everybody depends on salaries federal or state employment. Incidentally, this Easter is on April 16, which is far from payment of salaries.”
   
For Deborah James, who sells assorted food items at Ahmadu Bello Way, Jos, the cost of food items is high. For example, she said: “A measure of beans sold before at N200 per mudu during last year Easter now sells for N470.
 
“A mudu of garri that was sold for N150 is now N380, while a mudu of maize which was sold for N150 is now N250,” she said. According to her, a bigger size of broiler chicken which was sold for N2,500 now costs N3,500 while a kilo of meat sold for N900, now goes for N1,200 and a bottle of palm oil which was N250 before, is now N650.

‘It Calls For Sober Reflection, Not Feasting’
From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City


IT is mixed feelings for residents of Benin City and its environs as they prepare for this year’s Easter. A beautician, Mrs Ani Irogua, said: “I’m hopeful that this Easter will be better. We are preparing for the Easter on a mixed note. We thank God for being alive and healthy today. Easter is a special celebration, because so many things are involved. Apart from making arrangements for what to buy in the market, it is important to reach out to the less privileged. There is no doubt that things are quite expensive now. The recession is still biting.”
 
A human rights activist, Ambassador Michael Ojiekhekpen said:  “As the Easter approaches, a lot of people are doing whatever they could to impress people. I think the biblical injunction calls for sober reflection. Things are hard.

“The recession has truly dealt a huge blow. Things have been so tough. I must confess. There is no point running away from the reality starring all of us in the face. I only hope and wish that things take good shape. Prices of food items are still high.  There is no enough money to get some of these items. There are no jobs.

“Ordinary things are not common. There should be a new way of doing things. Government should give people loans to farm so that there will be sufficient food for everybody. The public is angry.”

Beverages, Wines Are Most Patronised Items In Enugu
From Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)

IN Enugu, the traffic and shopping spree that usually characterised the Easter celebrations were missing on Thursday when The Guardian visited some shopping malls. This is probably because of the economic situation and the rains that that fell heavily on Thursday in Enugu.

At the popular Shoprite for instance, scores of residents were seen making purchases, especially on some household items. It was observed that beverages and wines were the most patronised items.

However, operators of the place had hoped that sales would improve later in the day, but the heavy downpour that started in the afternoon shattered their hopes as the rains never stopped until late in the night.

Caroline, who admitted not being at the Shoprite for Easter shopping, said she has saved to buy a water dispenser, having visited the place earlier to ascertain the price.

“This morning I thought of coming to pick it, because I will be in Church later in the evening. It is not for Easter really,” she said.One of the shop attendants, Ngozi stated however that the situation might improve on Friday, since it is a public holiday adding that the economic situation in the country may have also played a part in the low sales being experienced.

“You know that people now manage whatever they can lay their hands on. For instance, if you have shopped for your family during the Christmas which was four months ago, you may decide to save the money and allow them to use what they have,” she said.

Roban Stores was not different. But activities picked there much later in the night for the few customers who could get to the place before their closure time.

At the Main Market (Ogbete), the situation was a bit different. Although the rain on Thursday took most of the day, residents who went to the market early enough mostly bought food items like rice, yam, tomatoes and meat, among other items.Mrs. Joy said she decided to make her purchases in the morning because she knew that Friday would be public holiday, which would make the place to rowdy.

‘It Calls For A Reflection Of The Life Of Jesus Christ ’
 From Charles Ogugbuaja, Owerri

AN Owerri-based Estate Surveyor, Chief Sam Anokam said the occasion calls for sober reflection on how Jesus Christ lived and urged people not to over drink and eat in a manner not suggestive of the life style of Jesus Christ.
  
Also, in his message, the Archbishop of the Owerri Catholic Ecclesiastic Province, Dr. Anthony Obinna who also celebrated his 45th anniversary of his ordination as a priest, urged Christians to use the economic challenge to rethink and live like Christ.

He urged people not to forget the essence of remembering the death of Christ in order to redeem and salvage mankind. He appealed to Christians to desist from criminal activities such as kidnapping and robbery, among others.Mrs. Meg Arab told The Guardian that she had not sold her wares, including clothes and shoes as she used to in the past due to the recession.


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