Christmas: Prices Of Commodities Skyrocket Amid Border Closure

Christmas: Prices Of Commodities Skyrocket Amid Border Closure
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BY JOEL AJAYI

Though the closing of the nation’s border was the Federal Government’s decision, even as it has consistently applauded the policy as yielding unprecedented dividends, not a few Nigerians whose crave for imported commodities have been unyielding, may have to contend with any available options this yuletide and into the new year.

However, for many, the border closure is taking a toll on their purchasing power as food prices are hitting the roof across the length and breadth of the country.
Over the years, Nigeria has had a deteriorating security experience especially in the North-east partly because of arms smuggling through the porous borders which also allows foreign fighters coming to boost the terrorists’ onslaught against the nation’s forces.
As part of the government’s concern, through influx of arms and foreign terrorists, many lives and property that cannot be quantified have been lost. The outcome of insecurity in some parts of the country is still rearing its ugly head and the government thinks it could de-escalate by its moves.
Based on its conviction, the government ordered the arbitrary border closure against regional neighbours, on August 20, 2019 beginning with the Nigeria-Benin to the west, especially in the South-west, the nation’s main gateway into ECOWAS, the Nigeria-Niger to the North and other neighboring countries.
The policy today received both fierce criticism and blessings from various quarters since it came into force.
However, while the border closure is raking in more revenue into the federal government’s coffers, citizens find it very difficult purchase enough foodstuffs as the prices have skyrocketed.
Christmas is here and some days to the New Year celebrations, the prices of basic food items have hit the roof in most markets across the country.
Christmas will be celebrated world over and Nigerians would not be left out. But for some Nigerians, the celebration might not be as they would have loved it as a result of certain factors, such as high cost of foodstuff, hike in transport fares, to low patronage of goods.
Unlike years past, when Christmas was celebrated with fanfare amid plenty to eat, the usual bubble seems to have gone missing in the country this year as everywhere is dry and there is little or no cheerfulness being expressed by many.
A survey conducted by AljazirahNigeria in some popular markets in the FCT and neigbouring Niger and Nasarawa States revealed that the prices of foodstuffs, which showed marginal increases during the last Sallah celebration, have increased further almost beyond the reach of the average Nigerian.
Despite the “Christmas rush” a phenomenon associated with high demand for goods ahead of any yuletide, AljazirahNigeria gathered that buyers and sellers alike are in low spirits due to the high cost of goods necessitating low patronage.
Many have attributed the situation to the high inflation rate, poor economy and the lack of disposable income to the insensitivity of the government policy of closing the borders which they argue is the gateway getting cheap commodities into the country.
Besides the issues being raised earlier, another factor is the fact that some sellers believe that the festive season, especially Christmas and New Year provide the opportunity for traders to maximize profit, necessitating the price hikes.
As at the time of filling this report AljazirahNigeria can report that some goods like rice, chicken, beef, tomatoes, groundnut oil, palm oil, pepper, yams, onions and potatoes among others have witnessed noticeable increase in price notwithstanding the dwindling patronage.
Also, across the cities, transport fares have increased. A trip by commercial centre of Lagos to other towns have gone up by almost 50 percent; also from Abuja to other cities across the country.
AljazirahNigeria survey indicate that a carton of frozen chicken and turkey, which hitherto sold for between N9, 000 and N11, 000, respectively, now sells for between N14, 000 and N16, 000.
Similarly, a 25-liter jerry can of palm oil which sold for N10, 000 at the beginning of November now costs about N13, 500. While children’s clothes range from N5, 000 to N15, 000 while those for infants range from N7,000 to N12,000.
As for Joshua Oladele a trader in Kubwa market who heaped huge blame on the closure of borders, “It will be possible that the prices might be higher in the days ahead because the decision of the government to close the border has constrained many of us to source for the items locally and even as we speak, local goods are not available; Nigerians depend solely on foreign chicken, rice and others, the government did not put in place any policy that will first of all increase the production of local content before border closure and this is just Christmas only God knows what will happen before the new year.”
Also, a survey of markets in Mararaba revealed that prices of the food items have slightly increased. For instance, the price of a bag of rice has been fluctuating, and the sellers attributed the development to the non-availability of foreign rice.
A trader in Orange market Mararaba, Karu LGA of Nasarawa State, Idris Musa, who deals in foodstuff, expressed: “One bag of rice is now N37, 000, but we sold it for N35, 500 before. We don’t have foreign rice in the market now. We only have local rice; so, I will be talking about the local rice.
“One Mudu of rice is N500 now, while before this time it was between N400 and N450. Semovita is now N400 now, but it was N350. The reason for the increase is that there is no foreign rice in the market, so the prices of rice and other foodstuffs have increased.”
A trip to Kwali Market by AljazirahNigeria shows that, though the food was a bit cheap; transportation cost so much, a (Mudu) of rice now sells for N600; a bag of rice is between N15, 000 and N25, 000. Also, a five-liter of groundnut oil is sold for N3, 000. The investigation further revealed that a basket of tomatoes is now sold for N8, 000 instead of its previous price of N7, 000.
Murphy Kutigi a yam seller, at Giri along Abuja –Lokoja road said that the price of yam is now on the increase. According to him, the price of yam had increased because of the Christmas season. We don’t normally get yams easily like before, one tuber of yam was sold for between N500 and N600, but now, it is between N700 and N800. While five tubers were sold for between N2, 000 and N2, 500, they are now sold for between N3, 000 and N3, 500. That is how we sell yams now. The increase is not because of us, but the people we buy from. Sometimes, we buy from the farmers directly and now it is no longer rainy season.”
A higher trend was recorded in other markets in Abuja metropolis including Wuse, Garki, Utako and Area 2 markets.
In Utako, Wuse and Garki markets, a 10kg. carton of chicken currently sells at about N15,000 to N16,000 as against N13,000 two weeks ago while the 10 liters groundnut oil sold for N8,500 instead of N6,000 a few weeks ago.
The price of a basket of dried fish skyrocketed to between N30, 000 and N35,000 instead of the former price of between N20,000 and N25,000.
Talking about low patronage, it is obvious we have a dull moment in the country orchestrated largely by border closure with attendant hike in the prices of commodities, which affects the citizens.
AljazirahNigeria scooped that, many of the traders were disappointed with the low patronage after taking loans from financial institutions to restock their shops in anticipation of good sales during the Yuletide.
At the modern market in Markurdi, Benue State Mr. Fidelis Okpara complained bitterly of low patronage even as the customers blamed the trend on lack of money.
Mrs. Mary Onu of Modern Market, who lamented the poor sales, blamed it on the economy of the state.
“People are not coming to buy items because of the economy. Salaries are yet to be paid. Those who came, bargained lower prices on the wares,” she said.
She said that even though the prices of the clothes had not increased, patronage was still low.
Onu said that boys’ wears such as shirts and trousers were sold between N10,000 and N15,000 while those for girls were sold for between N12,000 and N15,000.
A customer, Mrs. Doris Terfa, said the high cost of ready-made clothes pushed her to buy a cloth material at a low price to sew for her children for the Yuletide.
“The material I bought at N900 per yard is better than some of the clothes sold at exorbitant prices in the market for children, and I will sew the design of my taste which will not be up to N3,000.”
AljazirahNigeria gathered that despite been the commercial hub of the nation the Lagos State, buyers and sellers were not left out in registering their displeasure over the increase in the prices of commodities this year’s Christmas.
Traders were glued to their wares in preparation for the Christmas sales, but buyers walked by uncomfortably with a quick glance at the wares on display.

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