Traders across Nigeria are exploiting the lockdown of many states to indiscriminately increase prices of food items, leaving consumers 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.
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.’’