The Igbo adage that says when an anomaly stays too long in place, it becomes a culture and norm of sort is to say the least the most appropriate comparison for the present situation of things in Imo and Rivers States, South East and South South, Nigeria. In these two states that share common boundary and speak almost one language, prizes of goods and commodity items have so skyrocketed even when the yuletide is yet to come.
Food items are suddenly becoming an exclusive preserve for the rich and maybe the middle class, making life more miserable and somewhat hellish for the poor and poorest of the poor.
In Owerri and Portharcourt for instance, transport fare is not too high even when price of fuel was increased recently in Nigeria, yet there is this well coordinated and no-end in-sight hike in the price of food items and other goods and services daily needed by the people.
The two above mentioned cities are apparently the most expensive places to live and work in the entire South East and South South. A bag of Nigerian Rice which is sold for 23-24 Thousand Naira in Enugu, Uyo, Calaber, Aba and Onitsha goes for 28-30 Thousand Naira in Imo and Rivers, yet there is panic purchase when Christmas is still far from now.
One paint-container of Ohaji brand of garri which is processed and produced in Imo is sold between 1200-1300 Naira when Bendel, Benue and other brands that are transported from far away states are cheaper and sold at 800-900 Naira.
In the two states under reference, two to three bed-room flats are no longer affordable for the average especially in Portharcourt and Owerri, forcing many to relocate to the hinterlands yet coming to work in the main city. Naturally fish, crayfish, vegetables like Ugu, water leaf, bitter leaf, okoro etc are supposed to be very cheap in these states because of their closeness to the rivers and ocean, more so these items are grown, and easily processed in their domain but the reverse is the case, in that one will always get cheaper fish, garri or any vegetable in Enugu or Benin city.
The reason for this unnecessary food prices hike is not unconnected to the greed and unpatriotism among food dealers who tend to have this unquenchable appetite to make illicit gain. Just a few months ago, vulcanizers in these two states as if they converged to take a resolution, arbitrarily increased the price of one-point tyre pumping from 50 Naira to 100 Naira, some even collect 150 Naira depending on the weather condition-this is greed and wickedness in the highest order.
From one rural market to another, you hear market women and men swearing with the names of their forefathers, even with God’s name trying to convince their supposed customers that they make little or no profit from a particular item you are about to pick from their shop.
This situation for sure has precipitated the increase in the number of beggars, pick-pockets and other sundry crimes in these states. Youths from poor homes with no sound morals in Owerri and Portharcourt now resort to stealing, prostitution and lately hard-wire fraud popularly known as yahoo, yahoo.
We in the Nigerian Newsguide seize this medium to urge governments of Imo and Rivers to consider bulk purchase of rice and other food items from other states and subsequently coordinate sale of same at affordable prices during this Christmas so that the poor can have something to eat.
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