Residents of Niger state have for the umpteenth time raised the alarm over threat posed by bulk buyers from outside the states.
The buyers, according to Blueprint’s findings, often drive into the villages in trucks to mop up food, with the residents warning this could result in large scale hunger.
Blueprint’s visit to the main and local markers in Minna and environs within the past three days, revealed acute shortage in supply of essential food items while demand continues to rise very high and inaccessible for the residents and retailers alike.
Some foodstuff retailers who spoke to one of our correspondents expressed fears of imminent hunger pandemic, cautioning against escalating prices that have continued to deprive residents access to food, and forcing families to reduce feeding ration to once a day.
It was learnt that traders and food speculators from Lagos, Ibadan, Onitsha, Katsina, Kano are involved in bulk purchase of available commodities through local contact persons with huge sums of money.
The development, it was gathered, had deprived both residents and retailers with smaller purchasing powers, access to the food items.
Speaking in an interview with Blueprint, a food stuff seller/retailer at the Tunga market, Mrs Jecinta Aneke, described the situation of food items in the market as terrible, adding that many can no longer afford to buy food due to escalating prices.
She said: “From my own opinion, I will say that the increase in fuel pulp price due to subsidy removal is responsible for the inflation in the prices of goods in the market. Farmers bringing goods to market are complaining of high cost of transportation. Another factor is insecurity which made farmers unable to harvest their produce from the farms.
“I buy my foodstuffs from Gwadebe Market Minna; the situation in Gwadebe Market is very bad due to high prices of food stuffs. We normally buy a ‘mudu’ measurement of local rice at N600 before, but now it is N2100. Groundnut was sold at N700 a mudu, but it is now N1500 per mudu at Gwadebe Market. This is too much for us to bear. There is no food that is affordable in the market now, people are hungry”.
On the situation in Gwadebe market which holds every Wednesday and Saturday during which farmers bring in grains, yams and other harvests, she said: “In Gwadebe Market, you get to see people buying goods in large quantities. You don’t even know where they come from; some are from East, some from Lagos. Some even buy like 30 bags of grains, then you start wondering where they are transporting the goods to. To this extent, the sellers do not even attend to us buying in small quantities. I have also observed that the buyers from outside Niger state have organized group of boys they give huge money of over N3million in a market day to get the goods and transport them out.”
Similarly, Mrs. Blessing Ojo and Mrs. Edith Chibuzor, both residents, said the activities of food speculators at the Gwadebe Market had propelled astronomical hike in food prices in the past few months.
According to Mrs. Ojo, “visitors that do come to Gwadebe market to buy in large quantities are the problems behind it all because when they come the farmers decide to sell to them instead of people buying in small quantities.
“The visitors do not even bargain or care about the measurements, they just pay whatever price they are told. Therefore, the farmers prefer to do business with them.”
She said apart from the local food stuffs, the prices of some food items produced by companies like Semovita, Indomie, and others.
have also skyrocketed, adding that “like semo that we used to buy N600 or N700, today, it is N1,300 for 1 kg while Magi that was N600 per sachet is now N1,100.”
The retailers commended Governor Mohammed Umaru Bago for the Executive Order prohibiting bulk purchase of food items in Niger market, but cautioned that implementing the order might run into hitches as the syndicates know various local roads into the village markets to smuggle out the goods.
…Market leader explains
However, speaking to Blueprint, Sarkin Doya of Maikukele Yam Market, Alhaji Musa Allewa, said there is gross reduction in yam supply to the market by farmers compared to the previous years, a development he attributed to incessant banditry attacks preventing farmers from accessing their farms and harvest of produce.
“It is true that people do come from Lagos, Ibadan, Onitsha, Katsina and Kano to buy yams here, but the problem of escalating food prices especially that of yam is not caused by them. The problem is from the inability of farmers to cultivate their farms due to banditry attacks and the increase in cost of transporting yams to market due to high cost of fuel,” said Sarkin Doya.
The market leader argued that before fuel subsidy removal and banditry attacks, displaced farmers from their villages, 15 or more trailers used to load yams out of the market every market day, adding that “but now, we cannot get five trailers out because the yams are not available from farmers.”
He further said the high cost of transportation is also affecting the visiting traders as well as the farmers.
“While the farmers now convey 100 tubers of yams to market at the cost of N7000 and add this to their selling price, the visitors consider the cost of transporting the yams to Lagos or Ibadan which is also a factor in the bargaining process. You discover that most of the time, the visitors back out and leave the yams for the local people to buy,” Allewa said.
Also speaking to Blueprint, Musa Adamu, the coordinator of AA Kure Market, said the villagers had been sensitized on the need to avoid selling their goods in bulk to individuals, insisting that such activities of speculators do not operate in his market.
He explained that the executive order of the state governor would be totally obeyed in the market.
However, Alhaji Mohammed Sanusi Abubakar, a grain dealer at Maikukele Market, advised that enforcing the Executive Order should focus on only trucks of food items going out of the state.
He said security agents were arresting trucks within the state, thus making it impossible for farmers to transport grains to the markets.
…House of Assembly wades in
Apparently concerned with the escalating cost of food items, the Niger state House of Assembly has commenced the enactment of a Bill for the establishment of Price Control Board to regulate prices of food items.
It was learnt that the bill sponsored by member representing Agaie constituency, Alhaji Isah Etsugaie, would empower the board to study market situations in the state with a view to restructuring the deteriorating supply and demand mechanism.
The board, according to the lawmakers, will also assess the delivery and distribution pattern of essential commodities to ensure the people have their fair share of the food items.
.., ‘There’s hunger in the land’
In a related development, Emir of Kano Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero urged Nigeria’s First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, to convey the message of hunger among Nigerians, to her husband, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Bayero spoke when the president’s wife visited him Monday in his palace.
The first lady was in Kano for the commissioning of a Faculty of Law building at the Maryam Abacha American University named after her.
On First Lady Tinubu’s entourage were Deputy President of the Senate Barau Jibrin, Benue state Governor Hyacinth Alia, and FCT Minister of State Mariya Mahmoud Bunkure, among others.
Receiving his guest and her team, the monarch said: “Although we have several means of communicating to the government on our needs and request, your way and means is the surest way that you would tell the President the actual happenings in the country.
“The hunger and starvation, though didn’t start with this government, the situation has become more alarming and needs urgent attention.”
Also, the emir said, “the issue of insecurity is another serious problem we are facing. I know your government inherited it, but something more seriously should be done to take care of the threats.
“We are receiving series of messages from our people. One of such messages is the much talks about relocation of CBN and FAAN to Lagos; I think the Government should come out clean on this matter and talk to Nigerians in the languages they would understand.
“Do more enlightenment on this matter. I, for one, cannot tell the actual intentions of the government; we should be made to actually understand why the relocation of the CBN and FAAN offices are now to Lagos.”
The royal father who lauded Tinubu’s wife for her care and welfare of the children, urged her actualize her Renewed Hope Initiative Pet Programme.
He said if fully achieved, the programme had the prospect of freeing the less privileged from the shackles of poverty, just as she told her to also tackle the challenges of the girl-child education.
While commending the president’s wife for her support to the people of Plateau state during their trying times, he pleaded that same gesture be extended to others similarly affected across the country.