BY EBUN SESSOU
Mrs Risikat Faronbi is a petty trader who uses the festive period to sell all sorts, especially to make ends meet. With the help of her five children, she tends to make more money as the children are seen in their different locations selling one item or the other for the season.
For her, it is an annual experience to exploit every of her best to make money. This year, Mrs. Faronbi, specialises in selling knock outs, children’s clothes, shoes, decorations, soft drinks as well as sachet water at the popular Aswani market.
She has been doing this for the past two months and every week, she spends nothing less than 10 hours just to cover up for the day.
Her children, Bimpe, Yinka, Sherif, Bolanle and Lekan have been trained to handle most of the business, so she doesn’t find it difficult for them to get along even when they are on holiday. She has been doing this for the past five years.
Unfortunately, this year seems different as sales have dropped drastically. Narrating her story to Saturday Vanguard, the widow and mother of five said life has been unfair to her this year because the level of patronage has dropped compared to the previous years.
“My sister, this is the only thing I do for the year. I use whatever money I realise from this sale to take care of my children. I don’t expect this low patronage this year and what this means is that it will be difficult for my children to go to school next year because I don’t have the wherewithal to send them to school. Their father’s relatives haven’t been responding for the past five years and so I have taken this as a cross to put body and soul together.
Asked what she had been doing before now, she said she only sold sachet water in a small container while her children hawked on the streets of Lagos just to make ends meet.
“I discovered this business five years ago when I came to buy some goods for my children during the Christmas season and I saw the large crowd in the market . So, I thought it was wise for me to exploit this chance. And since, I have been experiencing tremendous turnout until this year. Before, I can take care of my children and send them to school but as it is I don’t think there is any way I can do that. “Right now, I can’t boast of any savings because I have spent most of it to take care of them for this season.”
For Bimpe, eldest of the children who has just finished her O’ level examination, life has been unpleasant to her and her siblings. “Ï spend most of my life hawking one goods and the other to help my mother. Unfortunately, things haven’t come the way I thought.”
According to her, “the prices of goods this season is costly compared to what was obtainable in the previous years.”
One of the customers at the Aswani market who claimed anonymous said it is sad for many Nigerians to say that there are celebrating Christmas season. For her, there is nothing to celebrate because most of the things that make life easy are becoming unbearable especially for the poor man on the street.
“I only came to buy things at the market because of my children. Imagine, bringing the sum of N10,000 to the market and you cannot buy quality thing.
“When I was coming to the market, my expectation was that I was going to buy tangible things, unfortunately, I ended up buying fairly used things because most of the new products are not affordable.”
A banker at the Daleko market told Saturday Vanguard that shopping for Christmas is always expensive. Although, the season is always rowdy but it seems people are not finding it easy to buy things at the market. For her, it is a one time experience which is supposed to be spent in splendour unfortunately, it is turning the other way round. It is festive period and it is expected that market prices of goods will be high, she said.
Femi, a marketer at Sura market said goods are more expensive this year compared to what was obtainable last year which has also contributed to the low patronage.
“Before now, goods were affordable but now, they are expensive. For instance, a packet of maggi is sold for N400 compared to its orignal price of N350. Last year the patronage was 100 percent but this year is 60 percent. Perhaps, it is economic situation of the country that has eaten deep at the people.
“There is no money but we are hopeful that at the end of the month people will patronise us. We are waiting for workers who would collect their salaries at the end of the month. “Before now, the travellers were the ones that patronise us but it seems the story has changed. We are still waiting but presently, there is no sales”, he said.
Mrs Esther Duru, a mother of four, was at the popular Ojuwoye market where she came to buy somethings for her use.
Narrating her story she said, “If things continue the way they are, it is possible for the poor not to survive. “How can we survive all these agonies when government has decided to inflict our lives with pain and torment. We can no longer put food on the table for our children, not to mention giving to the needy, yet we say, we have government in the country.”
Asked if she is planning anything for the season, she said, “there is nothing to plan for because there is no money. I am not planning to go home either because things have been difficult and if the situation doesn’t change, I don’t see reason why I have to travel with the children.
“How can I plan or travel without money? And if this condition persists, the only way is to relocate back to the village. It seems Nigerian government especially Lagos State government doesn’t want the masses to stay in Lagos anymore but our prayer is that God should intervene and come to our rescue.”
Esther cannot even afford to buy anything for her children. “My husband is a pensioner who relies solely dependent on his pension that cannot take care of the household. And what I am doing to support him is gradually dying because our lives depend on it.
“I am in the market just to buy what I will resell to my customers. My prayer is that God should protect us to live beyond Christmas. The only thing is that we will go to church and celebrate with the people but definitely, there is nothing to celebrate than our lives.
“All my children have adjusted themselves to the situation on ground. We will appreciate anyone that wishes to bless. We depend on God and anything He gives us we will take but to say we will buy anything new for the season is nothing to talk about.
“I am a petty trader. I only manage the little income I realise from my goods. I sell as low as N60 groundnut oil and I have been on this business since six years. I have children in the secondary and tertiary institutions”, she said.
A student at the Tinubu market said she comes to the market in this season because it is only such time to get quality things. “I came to the market because this is the period one can get quality things, athough, they are very expensive for the common man on the street.”
Alex, an Okada rider also said high cost of living is already depriving the poor from getting what they really desire in life. “It is hard to talk about shopping for your family because life is unbearable for the poor on the street. I am not travelling with my family because it is costly.
“The only thing I can do within my limit is to put food on their table. Anyone who gives his wife money for shopping will not know what the situation is except he goes to the market himself. For me, what I did is to buy things bit by bit because I know I can’t afford to buy things at once. That is the only short cut to life that I just discovered. The economic condition of the country today is unpredictable. Last year, things were a little bit fair but this year, it is expensive.
“There were things we bought last year that the prices have skyrocketed. Right now, a pair of shoes that was sold for N1500 is now N2000 and the quality has dropped. I have been riding okada for the past 15 years but I’ve been able to train my children to the secondary school by the grace of God. For me, every Nigerian should be living by the grace of God because the economic condition of the country is not considering the poor.
“This year’s Christmas is totally different. This is coming at a time where the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. This is a period where the government of this country has inflicted poverty on the masses. And this is a country where the rich are pressing tormenting the poor and the little we are earning is going back to their tables. So, life is hard for the common man on the street.
“Imagine a situation where a family has to manage the sum of N1000 per week just to make ends meet. Another aspect of it is the way Lagos State government is treating the poor. For instance, Lagos State University that was meant to be for the poor children is now a no go area. I can’t imagine paying the sum of N379.750 for school fees. It is absurd and Nigerians are saying if this continues, there is no place for the poor in the country.”
Yusuf, a goat seller, lamented the low patronage saying sales are not encouraging in this season. Apart from the pain he goes through in the course of transporting the livestock to Lagos, low turnout of customers has contributed to his losses.The expensiveness of things, he said, perhaps the reason for the decrease in sales.