BY JIMITOTA ONOYUME
PORT HARCOURT: Mrs Chigozie went to the popular Mile 1 market in Port Harcourt Wednesday evening to buy food items. As she was haggling with meat sellers, she did not know when she suddenly burst into tears. Later when she pulled herself together, she muttered to those around that she was forced to start weeping when she realised that the prices of things in the market had gone up by over a 100 percent.
Her experience has become almost a regular occurence at the market where periwinkle that sold for N100 a cup before the withdrawal of fuel subsidy now goes for N250.
According to Mrs Chigozie, no meat seller was ready to cut N600 value for her. All the points she went to said they could only sell from N1000 and above. The price of garri, a staple meal in many homes, has also gone up by over a 100 percent at the market.
Most restaurants otherwise called bukas have also adjusted their prices from N300 in Port Harcourt to N500 and above, all due to the withdrawal of fuel subsidy. Food vendors that scoop meals for their customers from wheel- barrows and basins on their heads have started selling in plates in Port Harcourt.
According to one of them who gave her name simply as Lera, if they had to sell rice, beans, plantain and pieces of meat according to demands or mama put as is called, they would run into a huge lose. So to avoid such, they had to come up with a round figure of N300 for a bowl of rice served with beans, or plantain and a piece of meat.
The bitter experience from the withdrawal of subsidy on petrol is not only felt in the prices of food items. The transport sector is worst hit as bus drivers now charge as much as N100 for every stop within a kilometre. Car hire service has also gone up.
A drop within a kilometre that used to go for about N400 now goes for as much as N700, N800. Fare for interstate transport has also gone up. Port Harcourt to Warri which used to be N1000 went up to N3000; Port Harcourt to Aba that was N200 for buses at the time of this report went as high as N600.
Pump price of fuel varies at filling stations. Some were seen dispensing the product at N140 and N150 per litre. At NNPC mega filling stations, a litre sold for N138. Two days after the withdrawal of the subsidy, most filling stations suddenly shut down operations.
Some of the operators told Saturday Vanguard that they exhausted their products and were not in a hurry to go for fresh ones until they were sure of the direction of the economy.
Sale of fuel at the black market had become a thriving business on major roads in Port Harcourt. Twenty litre jerrican at the time of writing this piece sold for as high as N6000.
Landlords have also started renewing their rents in line with the trend. Some tenants whose rents expired in December said they had been served notice of a 100 percent increment by their landlords. One of them said he had even paid his rent before the subsidy was withdrawn but his landlord called him two days ago to say he had topped his rent by another 100 percent.