President Tinubu and the market hawks gouging food prices 

I would like to wish all Nigerians a happy Sallah in arrears. The celebrations and the holidays are over but it is very incumbent to make some salient points against the backdrop of what the citizens went through in the hands of market forces just to be part of the Sallah festivities. The current state of the Nigerian market is a clear reflection of the country’s economic woes. 

With prices of essential goods skyrocketing, many citizens are struggling daily to make ends meet. The situation has been exacerbated by traders who are taking advantage of the hardship to amass wealth overnight. It is imperative that President Bola Ahmed Tinubu intervenes to save Nigerians from these market hawks.

One of the most striking examples of price gouging is the cost of a basket of tomatoes, which sells for ₦40,000 in Jos, Plateau state, but is resold for ₦150,000 in Lagos. This exorbitant pricing is not limited to imported goods or items affected by forex or fuel subsidy removal. Rather, it is a result of traders exploiting the situation to maximise profits.

The impact of this artificial inflation is far-reaching, creating artificial famine and hunger across the nation. Local food items, including rams, cows, and other staples are being sold at unaffordable prices, making it impossible for the average citizen to access basic necessities.

The National Assembly, instead of addressing this pressing issue, is preoccupied with irrelevant legislation, such as the return to regionalism. This lack of focus on the living conditions of citizens is a stark reminder of the disconnect between those in power and the people they represent.

The solution to this crisis lies in the establishment of a price control board, which would regulate the market and enforce reasonable pricing. This move would help to alleviate the suffering of Nigerians and ensure that essential goods are accessible to all.

Furthermore, the numerous police checkpoints and unregistered task forces extorting transporters must be addressed. These illegal checkpoints only serve to further inflate prices, as transporters factor in the costs of bribery and extortion into the prices of goods. Hence, the Inspector General of Police, IGP Kayode Egbetokun, must do everything to rein in his men.

Additionally, President Tinubu must do everything, including interfacing with state governments, towards dismantling numerous extortion points by illegal taskforces purportedly set-up by state governments for purpose of revenue generation. Worse still is the fact that these monies end up in private pockets and bank accounts.

In the heart of Lagos and across the country, the market is pulsed with activities but beneath the vibrant colours and lively chatter, a sinister game is being played out. Vendors are manipulating scales, short-changing unsuspecting customers. Products are being rebagged. At fuel stations, meters are tampered with despite the exorbitant prices.

Amidst the chaos, traders whisper secrets, hoarding goods to create artificial scarcity. They wait for the perfect moment to strike, releasing their stash when prices soar. The cycle keeps repeating and consumers suffer.

The government vowed to intervene, but the web of corruption seemed impenetrable. The market has continued to thrive as a hub of exploitation where only the cunning survived.

Needless for me to remind President Tinubu that government owes the people the obligation to ensure their security and cater for their welfare. There are sections of the Nigerian constitution that empower the government to take every necessary measure to protect the well-being of citizens like Section 14(2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended. This section states that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government.”

Additionally, Section 17(1) of the same constitution provides that “the State social order is founded on ideals of freedom, equality and justice” and that “the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that the social order is based on the principles of justice, equality and freedom.” 

These provisions impose a duty on the government to protect the well-being and welfare of citizens, including their security, health, and safety.

In the light of the foregoing, President Tinubu must invoke the necessary government machinery and take decisive actions. If the activities of these market hawks are left unchecked, it has the possibility of degenerating into a national chaos because a hungry man is an angry man.

The following are clear 10 strategies I think can address the greed factor in the food market. Let me break them down with some examples:

Price regulation: Set price caps or floors to prevent sudden and arbitrary price changes. For example, the government can establish a price ceiling for staple foods like rice or bread to prevent profiteering.

Market monitoring: Regularly monitor market prices, supply, and demand to detect price gouging and take corrective action. For instance, market regulators can conduct surprise inspections to prevent traders from hoarding or inflating prices.

Supply chain optimisation: Improve logistics and transportation infrastructure to reduce costs and increase efficiency. For example, building modern roads, storage facilities, and transportation networks can reduce post-harvest losses and get produce to market faster.

Agricultural support: Invest in initiatives like farm subsidies, extension services, and irrigation systems to boost local food production. For instance, the government can provide training and resources for farmers to adopt climate-resilient farming practices.

Competition promotion: Encourage healthy competition by breaking up monopolies and supporting small-scale farmers and processors. For example, the government can provide incentives for new entrants in the market or support cooperatives that promote collective marketing and bargaining.

Consumer education: Educate consumers about their rights, price trends, and quality standards. For instance, the government can launch public awareness campaigns to inform consumers about the risks of expired or counterfeit products.

Anti-greed campaigns: Use existing state institutions such as the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to launch public awareness campaigns to discourage profiteering and encourage ethical business practices. For example, the government can partner with influencers or community leaders to promote a culture of fairness and transparency in the marketplace.

Support for small-scale farmers: Provide resources, training, and incentives for small-scale farmers to increase production and reduce dependence on big agribusiness. For instance, the government can establish demonstration farms or provide subsidies for small-scale farmers to adopt new technologies.

Price Stabilisation funds: Establish funds to stabilise prices and protect consumers from extreme price fluctuations. For example, the government can create a price stabilisation fund to support farmers during periods of low demand or high supply.

Collaboration with stakeholders: Engage with farmers, traders, consumers, and other stakeholders to address grievances and find mutually beneficial solutions. For instance, the government can establish a multi-stakeholder platform to discuss market trends, resolve disputes, and develop collaborative solutions.

These strategies can help address the greed factor in the food market, promote fair pricing, and ensure affordable food for all Nigerians. From all indications, this astronomical rise in prices of food and other essential items is caused by certain opposition elements to sabotage the efforts of the Tinubu administration to stabilise the nation’s economy.

In other climes, the case is different. If you traveled to some countries, you will be treated to choices when you go for shopping. There are government-owned commodities’ stores and private individual stores. The choice is yours to make when you decide to go shopping. 

A few months ago I was at The Netherlands for a conference on regulation of commodities and modular refinery. Most speakers at the conference agreed that it is only the Nigerian president that has a listening ear and has been doing all within his administration’s reach to improve the situation on ground. 

But last week while Nigerians celebrated 25 years of uninterrupted democracy and one year of the Renewed Hope administration, media reports by both local and international propagandists remained silent on infrastructure and economic development, as well as solutions to security challenges being executed by the Renewed Hope administration of President Tinubu.

They have forgotten what Nigeria went through under past administrations right from the military era, which are the cumulative effects of the economic situation President Tinubu is trying to fix. That is a topic for another day. By the power of the Almighty, by next week I shall come up with the achievements and development strides attained in just one year of the Renewed Hope administration.

As I conclude, it is imperative that President Tinubu takes decisive action to address the crisis in the Nigerian market. The establishment of a price control board and the regulation of the market are necessary steps to save Nigerians from the exploitative tendencies of market hawks. We must recognise that our collective well-being is tied to our ability to work together and support one another, rather than engaging in the dog-eat-dog mentality that has characterised our recent past. 

On this note, let me, once again, say, ‘Eku odun’, as my Yoruba brothers will say while wishing Barka da Sallah. 

God bless Nigeria!