As the 14 days lockdown imposed on Abuja, Lagos and Ogun states by President Muhammadu Buhari as well as restrictions of movements devised by states across the country to beat COVID-19 bites harder, prices of goods and services, particularly food items, have gone up astronomically.
Residents of Lagos are worse off.
The lockdown, announced by Buhari on Monday, has restricted vehicular and human movements in Lagos, the commercial nerve center of the nation, as offices, non-essential markets; religious and financial institutions are shut while those in operation are doing it skeletally in line with the social distancing directive by government.
Whereas Nigerians observe the stay-at-home order, difficulty in accessing consumable items took another dimension as prices of essential commodities rose by 300 per cent and above. Many households groan.
Some families reached by newsmen spoke about the situation they were facing as a result of the stay-at-home order, saying it was unbearable.
Before the lockdown took effect, a bag of beans was sold for between N6,500 and N8,000 depending on the type, a carton of frozen foods between N7,000 and N25,000 depending on the type, brand and size while a gallon of palm oil and vegetable oil was sold between N1,800 and N12,000.
Diaries went for between N50 and N1, 800 depending on the size, brand, quality and quantity, yam tuber between N500 and N2,000 while a measure of ginger, garlic and turmeric sold for between N100 and N500.
In terms of fruits, a small heap of oranges, pipeapple, cherry, mango, water mellon, cucumber, babana and carrot sold between N100 and N500 but as soon as the shutdown order commenced, prices shot up such that many bread winners could no longer afford them.
Some of the families who spoke with newsmen expressed difficulty in accessing markets to enable them make purchases as those items are daily needs.
Apart from accessibility, they said prices have gone beyond reach as the price of a bag of foreign rice is now between N35,000 and N40,000 while a bag of local rice is between N19,000 and N25,000 as against the initial price of N14,000.
Similarlly, a measure of crayfish, which sold for N800, now attracts N1,500 while a measure of gari, which cost between N300 and N600, has skyrocketed to between N600 and N1,200.
A survey revealed that before the lockdown, a bag of gari sold for between N5,300 and N8,500 while a measure sold for between N300 and N600, and a bag of foreign rice between N28,000 and N32,000.
A bag of beans has risen to N9,000 and N15,000, a carton of frozen foods N10,000 and N30,000 while a gallon of palm oil and vegetable oil is between N2,000 and N15,000.
As of last Thursday, dairies went for between N60 and N1,200 depending on the size, brand, quality and quantity while a measure of ginger, garlic and turmeric is between N200 and N800 depending on the location.
Onions are not left out. Five small balls go for a minimum of N200 instead of the initial price of N100 while a small basket goes for between N3,000 and N4,000 instead of the initial price of N2,000.
Meanwhile, a chat with some market leaders revealed that the hike in price was necessitated by the current situation in the country. The Iyaloja of Ikorodu, Mrs Fausikat Abiodun Allinson, exonerated her members from blame, saying the increase was circumstantial. She said, ‘’I sympathise with traders because freight costs have increased.
“When I noticed the abnormal increase, I summoned them to a meeting but by the time they gave the break down of how the goods are bought and transported, I almost shed tears.
“We cannot perform magic, the shutdown order is in our own interest to prevent further spread of coronavirus. “So, let us bear the situation and pray to God Almighty to help us out,’’
Corroborating Allinson’s view was the Chairman of Mile 12 Market, Alhaji Shehu Usman, who said the hike in food prices was caused by high demand, saying, ‘’Honestly, the demand is higher than supply apart from the fact that traders struggle to get the products.
“Vehicles have been restricted and we have to get these products at all costs to enable the goods get to the consumers”.
In a chat with newsmen, three Lagos residents, Mrs Sadia Omotola, Ifedayo Thomas and Bayo Adeyeye, urged government to provide for its citizens during this period of stay-at-home.
Omotola was met standing outside her one-room apartment at about 1pm on Thursday when she lamented that she had not eaten for the day, and was cooking a cup of rice for her three children when the cooking gas finished and she decided to stay outside looking for a good Samaritan that could bail her out.
Similarly, newsmen ran into a group of youths in Alimosho area of Lagos who lamented that the situation was beyond their control. One of them, who identified himself as the Youth Leader of Egbeda, said if care was not taken, the situation may force youths to the streets.
He said, ‘’Government is not fulfilling its promise of arranging stimulus package for residents despite the hike in the prices of foodstuff and donations by philanthropists”.
Some traders have, in the meantime, devised various means to cushion the effects of the lockdown including taking commodities to communities through mobile markets.
A leader at the Mile 12 International Market said Lagos State government had partnered the market to get food items close to residents.
‘’We have been to Ogudu, Magodo, Surulere and, hopefully, we shall get to Ikorodu, Eti-Osa, Bariga and several other locations in Lagos,’’ he said.
According to him, a bag of local rice sells for N17,000, a bag of beans N17,500 and a bag of gari N16,500 despite the rigours the traders go through to source for the items.
Also, some Community Development Associations (CDAs) have devised the means of getting items like beef, pepper, tomatoes and onions in bulk and distributing among themselves.
Last Thursday, Sholumade/Irepodun CDA, Macaulay, Igbogbo/Bayeku in Ikorodu contributed money to buy a life cow, baskets of tomatoes, pepper and onions to share among themselves.
The CDA Chairman, Mr. Adetola Badek, said the idea was to minimize costs and reach out to every member of the community. ‘’People contributed as low as N500 to get a portion and we are glad that many families participated in this show of love in our community.
“Since we cannot get succor from government, we have to make ourselves happy no matter how small,’’ the CDA Chairman said.