The strike action commenced by the cattle and foodstuff dealers under the aegis of the Amalgamated Union of Foodstuff and Cattle Dealers of Nigeria (AUFCDN) has is taking a toll on Nigerians, as the rise in prices of beef, food and vegetables in the South.
AUFCDN, an affiliate of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), begana nationwide strike Thursday after the expiration of a seven-day ultimatum given to the federal government to attend to their demands.
The Union demanded the protection of its members, payment of N475 billion compensation for lives of members and properties lost during the #EndSARS protest and the Shasa market crisis in Ibadan. It also demands the dismantling of all roadblocks on federal highways where their members are harassed and money extorted by the authorities.
The strike entails closing all routes between the North and South for vehicles conveying cattle and food items. Such vehicles are stopped from reaching the Southern region.
Butchers in the South who still have stock have capitalised on the strike to hike prices. So have sellers in perishable food items shipped from the North.
Lagos is one of the states worst hit. Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu had at the commissioning of a new semi-mechanised abattoir for cows and goats in Bariga recently said that the state consumes over 50 per cent of animal production in Nigeria.
A kilo of beef sold for N1, 200 to N1, 500 before the strike now sells for N2, 000. A basket of tomato, which sold between N4, 000 to N6, 000 before now, ranges between N13, 000 to N15,000.
The chairman of United Butchers of Lagos State Abattoir Complex, Oko-Oba in Agege, Abdullahi Ahmed, said that before the strike, about 1,000 cows were slaughtered daily at the abattoir while close to 1,500 cows were killed on Saturdays.
“Now, we cannot slaughter up to 200 because there are no cows. What we are slaughtering are the ones being reared here and they are small,” he said.
Ahmed told Daily Trust that the three cows he slaughtered on Saturday were bought at N630, 000. “I saw someone buy one cow at N900 000 on Saturday. The situation is very terrible,” he said.
It was also learnt that less than five cows were slaughtered at Odo-Eran, in Ojo Cantonment on Saturday.
Daily Trust observed that many have turned to fish while those who had planned to buy fresh pepper and tomatoes for storage purposes could no longer do so.
Chineye Okoroafor, a trader at the Agbara market, a border community in Ogun State, said that dealers have resorted to hoarding goods.
At Shasa Market in Ibadan, where civil unrest resulted in the death of many people from the North and helped trigger the strike, prices have also gone up.
The market is a major destination for trucks conveying food items such as tomatoes, onions and peppers from the northern part of the country to the state.
A resident of Agodi, Mrs Yinka Ojebode, said, “We know onion is just returning to its normal price but the crisis in Shasa has also affected other soup ingredients.”
The Babaloja of Shasa market, Chief Popoola Rasheed has denied reports that some Hausa traders have refused to return to the market.
“This is strange to me. We all attended our prayers on Friday. A session was led by Imam Hausa while Yoruba imam led another session,” he said.
A survey by our reporter in markets located in Port Harcourt, Oyigbo and Eleme shows that tomatoes, onions, yam and meat have gone up by at least 50 per cent.
At Eke Oyigbo Market in Oyigbo, a set of custard bucket of tomatoes which was sold at N400, now cost N700 while the prices of onions and yam have also gone up.
A small yam tuber that cost N400 now goes for N800, while a large yam size, which cost between N600 to N800, now cost between N1500 to N1800 at Eleme Market.
A trader at Mile One Market in Port Harcourt, Musa Shehu, said many traders were hoarding their food items.
In Imo State, prices have hit the roof. Our correspondent, who surveyed Eke Onunwa, Relief Market, Cluster Market, Amakohia Market all in Owerri, discovered that most residents have turned to chicken as a protein source.
Low activities at Shasa Market and Lagos State Abattoir Complex Oko-Oba
This has also driven up the price of chicken. Old layers, which go for 1, 400 previously, is now sold for N2,000.
At Relief Market, where foodstuffs from the North were offloaded, the prices of some items, especially fruits, have increased.
A foodstuff dealer who gave her name as Mama Nkechi said that the worst is yet to come if the current trend is not halted.
A kilo of beef in Akure, the Ondo State capital, has risen from N1, 500 to N2,000. Other items also affected are onions, tomatoes, beans, potatoes and others.
According to Mrs Bukola Oyinlade, a basket of tomatoes sold for N2,500 as of last week has jumped to N10,000. A sack of onion that was N9, 000 is now N15, 000 while a bag of beans now costs N40 000 as against N36, 000.
The situation is the same in Ogun State. However, the State Chairman of the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders Association of Nigeria (MACBAN), Abdulmumin Ibrahim, said that its members are not part of the strike.
In Benin, Daily Trust observed that meat for under N500 is no longer available as a kilo of beef that sold for N1,300 now costs N1,500.
A cattle dealer, John Okumaiye, said they had not received orders that there would be no supply of cows but the price is affected by the rise in the dollar exchange rate.
“But as from Monday, we will know whether there is a strike or not because we usually get more supplies of cattle on Sunday,” he said.
The price of beans and sweet potatoes has also gone up like a bag of onion now costs N20,000 against N13,000.
In Ekiti, a meat seller, Ganiyu Salau, said the cost of sourcing for the cows in nearby states like Kogi and Kwara has driven up beef price.
Our correspondent in Uyo, Akwa Ibom, reports that food vendors and restaurant owners lament the high price of beef and other food items.
A restaurant owner in the University of Uyo, Ms Affiong Ekpo told our correspondent that she had been forced to buy goat meat at a much higher rate than usual, adding that beef is not available.
“Goat meat is now expensive. I bought goat meat on Friday and it was on the high side. Ever since the strike was announced last week, the price of beef has skyrocketed,” she noted.
Our reporter also observed that some food items such as potatoes are scarce in the market.