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We need five-day market operation, TraderMoni to reduce hardship

By Isaac Taiwo, Jesutomi Akomolafe, Afeez Odunoye, Yetunde Jeariogbe, Grace Uche and Blessing Ogodo
21 August 2020   |   4:16 am
Some relief came for Lagos traders this week when the state government extended the hours of operations of food and non-food markets in the state by three hours.

Baskets of okro waiting for buyers at Mile 12 market. PHOTO: JESUTOMI AKOMOLAFE

Perishable food sellers ask for five days to minimize losses
Some relief came for Lagos traders this week when the state government extended the hours of operations of food and non-food markets in the state by three hours.

Since the gradual ease of the lockdown in May, markets had operated on alternate days between 9:00a.m. and 3:00p.m. While food markets are in operation on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, non-food markets open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

With the new operating hours of 8:00a.m. to 6:00p.m, it is now ‘no time to waste time’ for traders, a street slang for making the most of an opportunity in the three-day work-week window.

While the extra hours are welcome, traders at Ajina and Ojuwoye markets in Mushin Local Government Area have demanded the readjustment of operational schedules for business activities to check hardship in the state. Despite restrictions barring food markets from operating on Monday, Wednesday and Friday to check the community spread of COVID-19, The Guardian observed that Idi-Oro, Ojuwoye, Oyingbo and Ajina markets opened for operations daily.

In separate chats with The Guardian, traders at the markets noted that they were defying the government’s directive to make up for the lost time during the period of five-week total lockdown in April. They also urged the government to reconsider the recently revised guidelines for market operations.

A grocery retailer at Ojuwoye market, Rihana Oseni, said: “Ordinarily, we shouldn’t be here today, but we are finding it difficult to survive at this time. When we have enough money and are comfortable, we would find it easy to obey these directives.

“With the way things are and the economic hardship, I will urge the state government to consider reviewing the market operation to five days a week instead of the three days to enhance the quality of life, while Saturdays and Sundays should be set aside for rest. There is little that can be done in three staggered days.”

However, a catfish trader at Ajina market, Ali Nuhu, appealed for caution and advised traders to endure. “As you can see, things are just picking up. Hopefully, sales will improve tomorrow when the market opens fully. The government is doing their best, but for now, we have to manage until everything gets back to normal.”

Given the toll the pandemic has had on every aspect of human endeavor, Iyaafin Opeyemi Mukaila at Oyingbo market, Risikat Jinadu, advised the government to reduce spending on frivolities and provide palliatives to traders as was done during the run up to the 2019 elections with TraderMoni.

“This is the time the government should assist us to get back on our feet. A lot of people are dying, not because of COVID-19 or any illness, but because of hypertension caused by debts. Most traders are having a hard time repaying loans and contributions used to stock the market after we reopened since we spent all we had during the lockdown with no income. The government should come to our aid. We need the TraderMoni now.”

At the Ladipo auto spare-parts market, Mushin, traders also reiterated the call for a review of the market operations, which if not immediately addressed, would hurt the state’s economy and worsen the looming recession in the country as the nation’s commercial capital.

While lamenting that the restriction on operations had brought huge losses to market men and women, they argued that since religious centres have been allowed to operate, traders should be allowed to go on full operation.

“Most of us do not even know the days of the week anymore. I wake up sometimes and think it is Monday, meanwhile it is already Thursday, as the off days now look like weekend to me. Even if the hours will still be restricted, let us move to five-day-a-week operation,” Lukman Adeola said.

An executive member at Ladipo market, Prince Africanus Ogudoro, said the losses could not be quantified.

“Just when we were adjusting to the adverse effects of border closure, COVID-19 came and disrupted our lives. Millions of naira have been lost and wasted.

“This Ladipo market is the biggest auto spare parts market in the whole of West Africa. The borders are closed, people cannot come in from Benin Republic, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire and other African sub-regions. Most of our goods at the ports are stranded. There is nothing like alternate market days. We pay for the demurrage and for the truck driver bringing the goods for the extra day since we can’t offload on the road. We are just trying to squeeze ourselves to see how to pay bills at home and feed the children.

“Interestingly, since May when the market was opened partially, we haven’t recorded any case of COVID-19 in this market, which shows that we are all healthy here. We sensitise our members on the need to wear their face masks, avoid crowded places and always wash their hands.”
For Mrs Munachi Chibuzor at Computer Village, business has not been funny. She said on the scale of preference for most people, food and drugs are topmost and very few people come around to the ICT market.

“Despite the additional hours, at times I do not get to see customers in a day and we will have to spend the next day idle. This is after spending huge sum of money transporting myself and wares to the market. I am pleading on behalf of myself and other traders to the government to give us back our full week for trading,” she said.

The situation is worse for traders at Mile 12 market, which deals mostly in perishable food items. According to a trader identified as Iya Alaje, it has been almost a case of labour without profit, as what should have come in as profit is lost to food waste or used to pay truck drivers who bring in the goods from the north.

“Most of the drivers have doubled what they collect from us because they spend more to security operatives mounting road blocks from the north to Lagos and once it is getting to 3:00p.m. we sell the goods at giveaway prices because we don’t want to keep them till the next two days when market would be opened, then it would have gone bad. Please, we want government to help us food traders; we are suffering too much.”

The plea is also echoed by one Alfa Femi at Iyana Ipaja market. He said the money they make in a day is spent the second day, which leaves them with no gain by the time they return to the market two days after.

He added that giving a day off has stopped people from gathering and interacting with their colleagues and friends.