•Garri, oil, rice, beans, fish mostly affected
•We‘ll prosecute erring traders—CPC
•‘Sellers exploiting lockdown’
By Anayo Okoli, Dayo Johnson, Samuel Oyadongha, Vincent
Ujumadu, Wole Mosadomi, Naomi Uzor, Festus Ahon, Egufe Yafugborhi, Davies Iheamnachor, Ozioruva Aliu, Emem Idio, Paul Olayemi, Rotimi Ojomoyela, James Ogunnaike Abeokuta, Shina Abubakar, Chima Nwaiwu, Peter Okutu, Eric Ugbor, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie & Ikechukwu Odu
Traders across Nigeria are exploiting the lockdown of many states to indiscriminately increase prices of food items, leaving consumers groaning.
Across the country’s 36 states, especially those in southern Nigeria, prices of commodities, particularly staple foods witnessed more than 90 percent increase, findings by Sunday Vanguard revealed.
The result of state-by-state findings saw traders attributing the situation to the closure of states’ boundaries, but many accused them of jerking up prices unilaterally.
Sellers of food items, however, cited what they called highhandedness of security operatives deployed at entry and exit points as one of the reasons.
Even before the official lockdown of Delta State by Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, residents had embarked on panic buying of foodstuffs and essential commodities, thereby causing prices to skyrocket.
Prices of commodities such as garri, onions, tomatoes, pepper, fish, rice, yam, vegetable oil, palm oil and other items witnessed about 100 percent increment.
A bucket of garri, which sold for N400 rose to N1800. A bag of rice that was selling for N20,000 also rose to N35,000 while and a four-litre keg of vegetable oil rose from N3,000 to N3,800.
Preventive materials like face masks that were selling for N150 soared to N600, just as alcohol-based hand sanitizer which was selling for N200 increased to N1000.
In Sapele, Governor Okowa’s warning last Tuesday that it was an offence to arbitrarily inflate prices of goods during the period of emergency, led to a sharp drop in prices.
A visit to some of the schools designated as makeshift markets in Sapele, Jesse, and Oghara also witnessed a sharp drop in prices of noodles, rice, beans, oil, meat, fish and other commodities.
Sunday Vanguard findings however, revealed that the situation has changed a basket of garri, which sold for N750, N800, N1500 and N2500 last Wednesday in most markets in Sapele, Oghara, Jesse, and Mosogar, now goes for N900. A tuber of yam, which was N600 is now N800 while a small pack of noodles that sold for N1,900, rose to N2,500.
A basket of beans, which was N650 is now N800. The prices of pepper, meat, and fish have also gone up.
Before the relaxation of restriction of movements for vehicles conveying foodstuff, medical supplies and personnel on essential services, Bayelsa State witnessed a sharp rise in prices.
The affected items include sachet water which the residents depend on due, grains and food condiments amongst others.
A market survey in rural and urban markets showed over 100 percent increase in the prices of garri, yam, tomatoes and other food items.
Checks at Okordia-Zarama, a rural market in the outskirts of Yenagoa, and Swali Market showed that a four-litre plastic container of garri which sold for N600 a few days before the restriction commenced, sold for N1,500.
For sachet water packaged in bags of 20 pieces which sold for N100, it now goes for N150 as dealers said the lockdown had held down supplies from neighbouring states.
A bucket of garri which sold for N500 before the lockdown ordered by Rivers State government, rose to 1500 in Port Harcourt and environs.
The price hike also affected rice, sachet water, tomatoes, palm oil, and other essential commodities.
In Benin City, 25kg of local rice that sold for N8,000 now sells for N9,000. Prices of other staple foods were affected, making residents to revolt against sellers of the commodities.
At Oregbeni Market, Ikpoba Hill, in Ikpoba-Okha Local Government Area, protesting buyers pounced on sellers of garri in the market, forcing them to reduce the price they had inflated.
The price of garri had risen from N1, 600 to N2, 800 per landline rubber while the bags which were N8000 before now rose to between N12,000 and N15,000.
Prices of food items soared across markets in Ondo State increased immediately the state government ordered the closure of markets.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the prices of foodstuffs in Shasha market where traders relocated to after the closure of the main market in Akure metropolis had gone up.
The major market, Oja Oba Market had been shut by government.
Various essential commodities witnessed not less than 150 percent price hike.
For instance, four tubers of yam that sold for N1500, are now N3000.
A rubber bucket of garri now sells for N350 as against the previous price.
Traders lamented that the items were becoming scarce.
A market leader in Akure, Madam Abibat Ogundele, said:” lt is not our fault. Because of the lockdown, food items that are usually brought from the northern parts of the country don’t come in again.’’
Prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed in Abeokuta and some towns in the state.
At Kuto Market in Abeokuta South Local Government Area, the hike in price of garri did not go down well with youths in the area, who mobilised to the market to ensure that the price was brought down to N900.
At Sango, Ifo, Owode-Iyewa and Idiroko markets, garri was sold at N300.
A tuber of yam sold for N800 and N1300 as against N500 and N700. The prices of rice, meat, beans and pepper were affected.
Some market women, who spoke to our Correspondent said they bought the produce at high prices, adding that they had no choice but to sell at a high rate.
Residents of Ekiti State have continued to groan over the increase in the prices of goods and services as a result of the total lockdown of the state.
Those, who spoke with Sunday Vanguard in Ado, Ikere, Iyin and Ikole Ekiti, confirmed that the development had made life unbearable for them calling on government to intervene.
Before now, Ekiti, was one of the states in the Southwest with high cost of living, particularly in the areas of food, accommodation, transportation and even social services.
Osun State is also experiencing indiscriminate increase in prices of foodstuffs.
Many residents were bewildered upon discovering that prices had gone up.
A mudu of cassava flakes, popularly known as garri that sold for N150 now sells for N300. The price of the same measurement of rice also jumped from N650 to N800.
A civil servant, Michael Adewale, who went to the popular Igbonna Market to purchase frozen food told Sunday Vanguard that the traders were unnecessarily being exploitative.
He lamented that a kilogram of frozen chicken which sold for N1300 rose to N1800 while that of turkey, rose from N1600 to N2300 without any valid reason.
Virtually all food items, including bread, have had their prices reviewed upwardly in Enugu metropolis.
Shortly before the markets in the state were shut down last Tuesday, residents had rushed to the markets to purchase food items only to discover that prices had gone up.
Prices of non-edible items such as soaps, detergent, bleach, toilet cleaners and sanitizers increased with a wide margin.
A paint bucket of garri which hitherto sold for N400 now sells for N1400 while a bag of 50kg rice which was N14000 is now N22,000.
A loaf of bread is now N350 as against N300. It was also the same situation at the university town of Nsukka and its environs.
At Orie Orba, and Obollo Afor markets, both in Udenu Local Government Area of the state and Ikpa Market in Nsukka Local Government Area, customers lamented over the increase in prices of commodities.
In Abia State, despite the warning to traders by Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, prices of virtually every commodity were increased.
At roadside markets in Umuahia and Aba, a paint bucket of garri rose from N600 to N1, 500. A paint bucket of rice was increased from N2, 000 to N4, 000. Other items like beans, yam, and noddles among others were affected.
In Ebonyi State, the story is the same. The price of 100kg of yellow garri, which hitherto sold for N17, 000, now goes for N35,000 as the commodity is gradually becoming scarce.
A bag of 50kg rice, which formally sold for N12, 000 now sells for N22, 000 and N23, 000. The prices of other food items, including fresh tomatoes, Oat flour, beans, among others have equally gone up.
While declaring the lockdown in the state, Governor Dave Umahi had warned that: “There shall be no hoarding of foods, drugs and other essential goods and services within the state, or refusal to provide foods, drugs and other essential goods and services within the state for citizens to buy.’’
In Anambra State, prices of food items have increased astronomically since the closure of entry points into the state.
For instance, in Awka, a small bag of Semovita that sold for N2000 is now N3200 while a medium-sized tuber of yam which sold for N600 witnessed an increase.
Also, the prize of a 100kg bag of local rice increased from N16000 to N20000.
The price of a small bag of garri rose from N800 to N1500.
At Amansea Market in Awka North, which is noted for garri, women, who bring the product from the rural communities no longer meet the demand. With the directive that the number of passengers in tricycles should not exceed two, operators have doubled their fares.
Also, the prices of sanitizers and analgesics in pharmaceutical shops were increased.
Markets in Niger State have been under lock and key for the past two weeks now.
Transporting foodstuffs from rural areas to urban cities has not been easy.
The importation of foodstuffs from other states has become nearly impossible due to the restriction of movement. Most staple foods witnessed about 10 percent increase in prices.
Concerned by the plight of consumers, the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, vowed to prosecute traders, who are exploiting the situation.
Speaking with Sunday Vanguard, its Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Babatunde Irukera, said the Commission was being inundated with complaints from consumers.
He added that criminal charges would be filed against erring traders.
Irukera said: “We have put out multiple advisories and conducted surveillance and enforcement. Many have modified their behaviour but some have not. We have taken the further step of filing criminal charges against some.
“As I said, we are prosecuting some, and taking others through a regulatory process at the same time. We receive an innumerable number of complaints related to excessive pricing of basic hygiene products and associated items such as medication recently, on account of restriction of movement, food items too.
We have teams monitoring and enforcing. We have also created a dedicated platform for consumers to provide information, intelligence and details about wherever they experience price gouging.’’