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Panic Buying Ahead Elections: Any Need?



A crowded market

THE long awaited elections are finally here, despite postponements and general apprehension and tension that blanketed it. In the weeks leading up to the elections, many Nigerians have given in to their fears and unfounded theories of probable post-election violence by traveling en-masse to their various villages. For those who can afford it, they have left the country in a bid for ‘safety.’

In view of this, a lot of Nigerians have resorted to buying and storing foodstuffs, provisions, drugs, kerosene, cooking gas, PMS and other useful household items. Most people are afraid of what would happen after the elections, so they want to be ‘prepared’. Even the traders are not left out of the palpable tension in the air. Most traders have vowed not to go near the markets or their shops on the eve of the elections, as they fear vandalism and attacks from party thugs and mercenaries.

A visit to the popular Balogun Market located in Lagos Island lends credence to this. Many Lagosians were seen buying provisions and other household goods in large quantities. A buyer, Mrs Mariam Sulaimon told The Guardian that her husband gave her money to purchase provisions, as he didn’t want the family to go hungry in case violence broke out after the elections.

Her sister Miss Adeyemi who was with her, confirmed that this was a notion held by many people, but she complained that the traders were capitalizing on this fact by hiking the prices of goods to sky high levels.

Mrs Biola Amao sells pepper and onions at the popular Mile 12 market in Lagos. She claims that goods have stopped coming from the North because of the elections, so she is forced to raise the prices of her goods as she is not sure of post-election events and she doesn’t want to be left high and dry.

Many traders share this opinion and are capitalizing on people’s fears by raising prices of goods arbitrarily. The market is overcrowded and bursting at the seams with traders and buyers jostling for space and goods. One woman at the market buying raw foodstuffs, who identified herself simply as Mrs Joseph, said she re-sells the goods in Ikorodu but she was only buying ‘extra’, because she might not be able to come to the market until it was completely certain everywhere was safe again. She complained that the prices of the goods have increased significantly, but she wasn’t too bothered as she was going to pass on the extra cost to her customers. Banks are not left out of the frenzy either.

Miss Kehinde Adesanya visited Access Bank yesterday morning and she said she spent over two hours on the ATM queue, in a bid to withdraw some money. Inside the banking hall was even worse she said, as it seemed everyone wanted to withdraw every kobo they had, all at the same time.

This situation is not peculiar to this bank as it was the same situation in most banks spread across the state, as people were seen frantically trying to shore up cash incase the need arose to make a quick getaway. Artificial scarcities have been created at fuel stations across Lagos and Nigeria. Most fuel stations are selling PMS at N100 per liter and above and even collect ‘bribe’ from desperate people that want to buy fuel.

A lot of motorists and consumers are bitter because the fuel attendants are exploiting them without a care in the world with nobody to caution them. A young man on the queue that didn’t want to be named alleged that most of the filling stations had fuel but were claiming not to have so as to raise prices. This in turn has created artificial scarcities that have sent many Nigerians into panic overdrive, forcing them to buy and stockpile extra for the unknown.

Mr. Jide Olaolu, a resident of Shomolu, a suburb in Lagos, told The Guardian that most of the Hausa traders, popularly called ‘Abokis’, have fled the area and have probably gone back to their states. He said he’s not sure if they went as a result of fear or because they want to go and vote in their states of origin.

However, he adds that before they left, they bought lots of foodstuffs and provisions as if they were not planning to come back to the area anymore. People’s fears and resultant desires to stockpile food and essentials may not be totally unfounded if one considers events that have been happening in the last few weeks. There have been reports of violence, killings, armed robbery and thuggery in many parts of the country with some sects calling for violence if their preferred candidates don’t emerge successful.

On Thursday, shops and businesses in Oshodi were under lock and key as rival gangs unleashed violence on the area. This unfortunate incidence has occurred several times in the days and weeks leading to the elections, leaving people to wonder what would happen on the election day and possibly, after the elections. Many traders have been complaining of poor sales.

According to them, most people are afraid to tie their monies down on unnecessary purchases. Seemingly, only traders that deal in foodstuffs, provisions and other household essentials have benefited from this situation as they can be seen to be making very brisk sales at the expense of people’s fears.

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