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Christmas…Just picking slowly

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• Buyers, Sellers Say Season Is Dull
As Lagosians prepare to celebrate this year’s Christmas, the usual flurry of activites heralding the season are fully on. While some parts of the city are shining brightly with beautiful, creative Christmas decorations, residents in other parts are gearing up for a fun time, as they travel out of the city to spend time with families and loved ones living elsewhere.

Some schools and organisations are adding spice to the season by holding their yearly Christmas Carols, as well as similar festivities to mark the period.At Ajose Adeogun on Victoria Island, the annual Zenith Christmas decorations are blazing, reminding all that Christmas is fast approaching. However, there are signs that celebrations might be low-key, even on the island.

Some residents attributed the dreariness to the economy. “There’s no money, no one is buying. It’s only when you enter some malls you know Christmas is coming,” said a vendor. “Before, as from October, you knew Christmas was coming. No one is doing anything special this year.”

A shopper at Park and Shop argued that it was a combination of the economy and high unemployment rates. “From what I can see, nobody will be able to travel to the village this year. Everyone is staying here and working hard for small small money,” he said.

It is the same story on the mainland, as both traders and shoppers complained of financial incapacity to do anything tangible.At Ojuwoye Market in Mushin, Lagos, buyers and sellers said the season has been dull compared to last year. Tolani Lawal, a chicken seller, told The Guardian: “The money I spent to transport and preserve my goods have increased, but I don’t have enough patronage from buyers.”

The lack of patronage might be due to increase in prices, as explained by John Eke, a rice seller at Ojuwoye. He said: “A bag of rice, which two weeks ago was sold for N12,000 is about N15,000 now. It’s almost Christmas and buyers are not turning up. I thought last year was harsh, but this year is even worse. I don’t blame buyers really. There is no money. I hope it gets better soon.”

Another trader, Ganiyat Adeoti said she was both sad and happy. “I am happy because I am going to witness the end of a year, by the Lord’s Grace. However, I am sad because the year is ending rather roughly. My customers, both old and new are not coming as I hoped. And even when they come, they don’t buy as much as before, or they try to persuade me to give them impossible discounts.”

The low patronage might also be as a result of some people guarding their jobs.This view was buttressed by a security guard at Shoprite, who told The Guardian: “On Christmas day, I’ll just go to Mass, that’s all. As a security guard, the pressure is intense. These big companies sack easily. I can’t really relax to think about Christmas.”

But while some people said this year’s Christmas could be dull, some were optimistic that things would still get better. “It’s too early,” A female shopper on the Island said. “Fifty percent of people I know are returning to Lagos this year. By December 15, when people start coming back, things might start getting more spirited.”

Her buoyancy was echoed by Hannah Okon, a buyer at Ikeja, as she said: “Regardless of the challenges, I urge fellow Nigerians to relax and enjoy this season. I am very excited that Chtistmas is coming and I intend to enjoy myself fully, even though I don’t have much money.”

Another buyer, Praise Adeoye said though she wasn’t so happy like many Nigerians, “but we have to look on the bright side and hope that things will be better next year.”To ease the financial burden on buyers, some boutiques and clothe sellers usually bring down prices towards Christmas to enable customers buy at least one item.

But Betty, a sales girl at a boutique on Ajao Estate, said: “The idea is to encourage buyers do some shopping at reduced rate. It also helps us to clear unsold goods that have been in the shop from the beginning of the year,” she explained. “My madam is of the opinion that unsold goods should not be carried over into the following year. So, we usually bring them out to sell at cheaper prices. But the sales have been low up till now. We are hoping things will get better at Christmas draws near.”

Seasonal Hike In Fares
Those travelling out of Lagos to their villages and hometowns for Christmas seem unperturbed, as they throng motor parks to make the yearly pilgrimage to their various hometowns.A visit by The Guardian to Ezewenta Motor Park in Oshodi showed that those travelling may have to pay more, as transport fare had been increased by 10 percent or more in some cases.

The former fare of N4,000 from Lagos to Onitsha, Umuahia and other cities in the East in the first week of December had been increased to N5,000.Similarly at God is Good Motor Park in Mazamaza, Lagos, the fare stood at N5, 000 against the previous N4, 500 from Lagos to Enugu, Onitsha, Aba, Port Harcourt and Abakaliki, among other cities in the Southeast.

At Ojota Motor Park, it was gathered that from Lagos to Port Harcourt now goes for N5, 000 to N6, 000 as against the previous N4,000, due to increase in the number of travellers.At Jibowu area of Lagos, passengers were seen booking tickets at some transport companies.

The Manager of OJ Motors, Mr. James Ehis said their routes are Onitsha, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Abuja. “Currently Onitsha is N7, 000, but as at last week, it was N6, 000,” he explained. “This is so because of the season. The transport fare to Enugu is now N8, 000, but before it was N7, 000, while the transport fare to Port Harcourt was N7, 000 but is now N8, 000. This may change because we don’t know what will happen tomorrow. If there is increase in the price of fuel, definitely the fare will go up. Also, the more passengers we have, the more prices increase.”

Okon Itah, a driver at Ojota Park, said fares were increased because of high number of travellers going out of Lagos. “After the passengers disembark at their various destinations, we run empty bus back to Lagos. So, we don’t have any other option than to double the fares to make up for it,” he explained.

But their passengers are not finding it funny.Victor Okeke, a passenger at Ojota, said he had to pay N6, 000 from Lagos to Benue State against the previous N3, 500.Another passenger at Jibowu, Mrs. Anozie who was travelling with her family to Onitsha seemed not too bothered by the increase.

She said: “I have always travelled with my family for Christmas. It is the period the children have opportunity to see their grandparents and other members of the family. I paid 7,000 for each person. The last time I travelled, I paid N6, 000. The fare has increased a bit, but I believe it will go up more because that has always been the trend. I hope for fares to be stable, because there are people that love to travel but cannot because of the hike in transport fares.”

At Ifesinachi Transport, Madam Ginika, who was on ground at the booking office, said transport fare to Onitsha is N4, 700 during the day, while night journey is N4, 500. She added that the fare for Abakaliki, Owerri, Port Harcourt and Aba is N5, 200. “Right now, the fare still remains the same. We haven’t added anything to it,” she said.

Chibest Transport carries passengers to Abuja for N7, 000 at night, while daytime is N8, 000. A lady, who identified herself as Ngozi, said the fare has increased. “Before it was N6, 500, but now it has gone slightly higher.” Another passenger, Mr. Thomas Chiedu said the economic situation in the country is affecting everything.

“Despite the increase in transport fare, I have no choice. But I know that the earlier I travel, the better for me. This is because transport fare will go higher. I can’t do without travelling in December, as that is the time I have to hang out with my loved ones.”

At Chisco transport, transport fare to Onitsha is N6, 500. Also, at Ascent Transport Management Limited, Executive bus goes for N12, 000, while the Sienna is N10, 000. The lady at the booking office said before now, the Executive was N10, 000, while Sienna was N8, 000.

FRSC Cautions
And as travellers look forward to enjoying the holiday season with their loved ones, the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos State Sector Command, Mr. Hyginus Omeje has cautioned moderation on the part of drivers and travellers on the highway, to enable them enjoy the festive period fully.He assured residents and travellers of the commission’s readiness to help ease traffic jams, as well as advising road users on the danger of reckless driving and over-speeding to ensure that there are no accidents during the season.

He said: “We have been advising motorists that they can only carry three passengers.“We have been partnering National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA). They will bring equipment, including towing trucks and their personnel to ensure quality service to the motoring public. We have also written them on the importance of coming with their mattresses, so that our men camping on the road can use them.

“We are also collaborating with other traffic management agencies such as Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) and the Nigeria Police, among others. We did capacity building among our men for the ‘ember’ months.”


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