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Palm Wine Sellers Also Cry…In Port Harcourt



Drink and let drink… Three men enjoying their wine PHOTO: JUJUFILMS.TV

THE Rich Also Cry. Remember the popular television series? Well, in the Garden City, as Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital is fondly called, others, besides the affluent, are bewailing government’s indifference to what they say is a potential economic booster. A hub of oil and gas industries, the city plays host to foreign and local visitors.

Wishing to get a kick from good old African salad (Nkwobi) accompanied by frothy palm wine, these visitors, at weekends, must go, not to some five-star resort, but atop one of the state’s flyovers on the popular East-West Road by Obiri-Ikwere town hall. But while the palm wine ‘drinkards’ and Nkwobi consumers smack their lips in satisfaction, the women and young ladies who sell the treat to them have to gird their loins and flee the wrath of officers of the State Traffic Management Authority (TIMARIV).

That, exactly, is why the palm wine sellers are crying. Rather than getting thrown out of business, the sellers say government should provide them with an alternative location. They said they are not comfortable trading on the flyover because their customers do not have opportunity to relax and enjoy the drink. They also noted that with vehicles speeding past, the spot is a threat to their lives and limbs.

One seller, Miss Agnes Ukaegbu, a student of the University of Port Harcourt, told The Guardian she joined the palm wine deal because “it is lucrative” and besides, she didn’t want “to go into prostitution”.

Another, Linda Frank, said the business has kept her off the streets, helped her enroll in school, and created jobs for many of her friends.

On her part, Mrs. Favour Chima, argued: “I am the breadwinner in my family. I have four children and I am the one taking care of their education because my husband is without a job at the moment.” Chima called on the incoming administration of governor-elect, Nyesom Wike, to tap into the economic prospects of the business. She said:

“If you watch, there is no functioning tourist centre in the state. And a lot of foreigners who desire the feel of Africa visit the city steadily. Some of them even search for us. And when they find us atop the bridge, without shelter, they feel very disappointed. So, if government provides us with a good place to stay, like Oyibo, GRA, Romokoro, or anywhere else and tag it: ‘African Corner’, it will

enhance the state’s internal generated revenue; we will be paying huge taxes, as our income is bound to increase.” TIMARIV Controller, Confidence Eke, said his organization is kicking against the activities of the women because it is wrong to trade on the road or on a flyover, given the risks involved. He stressed that persons involved in the practice could get knocked down by passing vehicles.

The Guardian met a customer who had come to buy the drink. Mr. Chidi Ibeh drives about a two-hour distance to get fresh palm wine from the spot. He thinks government would do well to provide a place for the sellers in at least three locations in the city.

Another buyer, a nursing mother, said the delicacy boosts the flow of breast milk. Unlike Ibeh, however, she spent one hour finding her way to the spot.

Optometrist, Dr. Effiong Friday, noted: “Palm wine has many benefits. It is high in amino acids, potassium, magnesium, zinc, and iron and has some vitamin B1, B2, B3, and B6. Unfermented palm wine contains a good amount of yeast. It is beneficial to the body.”

If visitors to the city are seeking out sellers and savouring the drink and a doctor has even outlined its health benefits, Ukaegbu, Frank, Chima, Ibeh and many residents of the city think it’s time the spot moves from the bridge and settles in parts of the city approved by government. This, the sellers say, would wipe away their tears.

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