IT is Christmas again and all the cities across Nigeria are bubbling with activities. Already markets have been recording high patronage since Monday, some people have traveled while some are still making last minute preparations to jet out to their various homelands. This mood underscores the unparallel love Nigerians have for Christmas. While some would celebrate without fear, panic is the word for a host of others in some states of the country.
By Charles Kumolu
ONE thing that is certain about Christmas, especially in Nigeria is that it is a season when whatever problems or challenges people are facing naturally fizzle out-at least temporarily.
Both the rich and the poor are usually swept along by this festive breeze that is expected to keep blowing for the next two weeks when many people would be tied to Christmas festivities.
Already, mass exodus of people to their various home states, has commenced. This movement would get to its peak today and tomorrow.
Indeed, the manner yuletide is celebrated in this part of the world is so unique; people tend to go the extra mile to ensure that they have fun to the fullest.
It’s not uncommon for some people to toil, beg, borrow or even steal, in order not to be left out of the festive groove.That is Christmas in Nigeria, where it is celebrated as if the culture originated from Africa’s most populous nation.
Accordingly, another thing that distinguishes this season, is that it is also a period of unusual happenings. And interesting, peculiar and weird things are already happening in the buildup to this one-day celebration
Nursing mother docked for allegedly exploding a banger
For instance, in the excitement of Christmas, a nursing mother, Nike Ademola, 41, was arraigned before an Osogbo Chief Magistrates’ Court for exploding fire-works, an act that was likely to cause a breach of the peace.
Although, many might wonder what must have led an adult into such act, but the festive mood cuts across ages. Hence, she resorted to exploding banger.
Police Prosecutor Isiaka Ajadi told the court that the accused committed the offence at Orita Elelede area of Osogbo.
Ajadi said that the accused threw the fire-works at one Kehinde Elegbeleye with the aim of wounding her.
He said the act was punishable under section 249 of the Criminal Code Cap 34 Vol. 11 Laws of Osun State 2003.
The accused, however, pleaded not guilty to the one count-charge against her.
Hike in prices of goods and services
A major recurring feature of the Christmas season is hike in the prices of goods and services. Accordingly, investigations by Vanguard showed that prices particularly transport fares, have gone high.
Unlike in the past, when price increment happens about a week or two before Christmas, this hike, it was gathered started three days to the time of filing this report.
A grocery store owner at Agboju Market, Festac Town, Mr. Adamu Udu, disclosed that sales were not encouraging before now, noting that it only picked up two days before this encounter.
“I sell Christmas gifts, trees and anything you can think of that is related to this celebration. I know how it used to be, especially a week before Christmas, but this year is different, we are not seeing much people. This rush you are seeing just started two days ago,” he stated.
Further checks revealed that major markets in Lagos, like the Balogun Market, Aswani, and Trade Fair, are experiencing large patronage now.
But it was gathered that prices of items, like weavon , specially made cards, toys, fabric and other Christmas needs have gone higher.
Commenting on this, a customer , John Agbuyaga, said, “prices are going higher every day, it started since on Monday, I am a hair stylist, I buy weavon everyday and the prices go up everyday, we are not surprised because this is Christmas.”
Commuters decry hike in transport fares
In addition, travellers also decried what they called “astronomical increase in transport fares”.
Some commuters and commercial vehicle operators, who spoke to Vanguard at various parks in Lagos, described the situation as “outrageous and frustrating”.
It was gathered that transport fare from Onitsha to Lagos, which was N3000, rose to N5,500 as at Tuesday. And it was expected to go higher by today and tomorrow.
A commuter, Mr. Julius Onyenevo, who spoke at Mazamaza Park, regretted that transporters, have turned price hike during festive periods into a culture.
He pointed out that in the past, the outrageous fare was attributed to bad roads, adding that it should not be the case now that Benin/Ore road is fairly good.
“ We experience this problem every year and it is very bad. how can they consciously make this 100 percent increase? as I am talking to you I paid N5,500 just to get to Onitsha. We suffered it in the past because of the bad road, but why would they still maintain this culture at this time that Benin/Ore road is better? Those of us traveling to the South East always bear the brunt of this greed,”he added.
Another commuter, who was traveling to Uromi in Edo-State, Mr Ozy Odianose, corroborated Onyenevo’s story.
“My brother, this is unfair, we used to pay about N2,400, but today I paid over N3000 to Edo. It is not their fault, after spending much on transport, what will be left for us to use for the celebrations at home, the authorities need to call these greedy transport owners to other,” the Uromi bound passenger, fumed.
Likewise, a trip from Lagos, to Abuja, was N4,500 as at the time of filing in this report, against the normal price of N3,000.
Also travelers going to Sokoto and Maiduguri Traveling Maiduguri, had to pay N7,500 against the normal price of N5,500.
Similarly, reports from Abuja also indicated that holiday makers, are confronted with skyrocketed transport fare.
Hajiya Fatima Adamu, a commuter, lamented: “I paid N2,000 to go to Ankpa. The amount is written on my receipt here, but before now it was N1,200”.
Abuja fuel scarcity
However, it was gathered that the price adjustment , was made because of the fuel scarcity in Abuja. “we only made a slice adjustment in the fares because of the current scarcity of fuel in Abuja .We charge only N1,600 to Ankpa, but before now it was N1,400. We are collecting N1,300 to Lokoja instead of the N1,000 we collected before,” a transporter noted.
Boko Haram/ unnamed Islamic sect threat
Apart from the hue and cry regarding transport fare, the dreaded Boko Haram sect has also threatened to make this Christmas a sad one for christians.
The group has issued a threat to bomb places of worship and merriment before December 26.
The group named the targeted places to include Archbishop Court, ECWA churches, West of Mines, Civil Service Club, Lamed Pharmacy, Living Faith Church, Saminaka Viewing Centre, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Alheri, and St. Mulumba Church, Alheri among others.
Though, the Special Task Force (STF) in Jos, had advised residents to discountenance such threats as they were intended to create panic, Vanguard can authoritatively reveal that fear is the word in Jos.