Ramadan: Prices of food items increase in Abuja markets

As Ramadan, the annual Islamic fasting season, begins, prices of various food items have increased in Abuja and its environs.

As Ramadan, the annual Islamic fasting season, begins, prices of various food items have increased in Abuja and its environs.

A recent News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) survey of markets in the Garki, Bwari, Wuse neighbourhoods of Abuja as well as in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, revealed between a five to 10 per cent rise in the prices of foodstuffs.

For instance, in the markets of the four areas, the prices of different brands of a 20-litre gallon of vegetable oil have increased from N12,300, N10, 480, N9, 700 to N14, 200, N11, 100 and N9, 900 respectively.

Similarly, a 25-litre can of palm oil, which formerly cost N9, 000, now sold for N10, 500. But traders attributed the increase in palm oil price to the onset of the rainy season.

NAN observed that the price of tomato has spiralled, as a big basket of tomato now attracted prices ranging from N15,000, N22,000, N25,000 to N30,000; up from its old price of N15, 000 and N12, 000 and N9, 000, depending on factors such the freshness and the species of the tomato.

The prices of a big basket of chilli pepper had fluctuated between N12, 000 and N15, 000, depending on bargaining power of the purchaser, while price of a big basket of the pepper variety known as tatashe had also increased from N13, 500 to N17, 000.

NAN gathered that barely two months ago, a polythene bag of white garri sold for N10,000 but the price had now shot up to N14,000. The price of a mudu (measure) of garri had increased from N120 to N170, while that of a paint-rubber measure of the commodity had increased from N350 to N450.

The price of a 100kg bag of white beans had risen from N30,500 to N38,000; the cost of a similar quantity of red beans had increased from N45,000 to N60,000, while a mudu of red beans now cost N470.

In respect of rice, the price of a 50kg. bag of rice ranged between N13,000, N17,000 and N22,000 — depending on its brand — while the markets were fully stocked with the made-in-Nigeria varieties of rice.

Similarly, the prices of iced fish in some cold rooms in the Mararaba neighbourhood of Nasarawa State had increased considerably.

Before now, a carton of mackerel fish cost between N12,000 and N14,000; but the carton now costs N22,000, while the price of a carton of croaker fish nowadays was N35, 000.

‎The market survey also indicated significant increases in the prices of other food items like water yam, yam, cocoa yam and potato but the price of sweet potato had somewhat remained stable.

Going from the general to the specifics, price of a set of five big tubers of yam, which formerly cost N2, 800, now sold for between N3, 500 and N4, 500.

The price of the water yam species had also changed, as a set of five tubers of water yam now sold for N2, 500, as against its former price of N2,000.

A bag of Irish potato, which used to sell for N7, 000, now attracted prices ranging between N10, 000 and N10, 500.

NAN also discovered that the prices of frozen food items and poultry products, including eggs, fish, turkey and lobster, were on the increase.

Eggs were now sold in the markets at N1,000 or N1,100 per crate, compared to the previous price of N800 or N900 per crate.

A jute bag of dried onions, which previously sold for prices between N9, 800 and N11, 000, now cost between N18, 000 and N22, 000; while a jute bag of fresh onions now fetched N15, 200, as against its former price of N9,000.

NAN, however, noticed that the prices of other consumables like beverages, sugar, milk, bread and noodles have remained stable in the last two months.

Imoyosola Ajao, a civil servant, nonetheless, told NAN that she had resorted to buying only essential commodities, instead of going for all the things she needed because of the high cost of most items.

She said that a mudu of corn flour, which cost N245 a couple of weeks ago, now sold for N270, while a mudu of cassava flour now cost N175, up from its N140 price a couple of weeks ago.

“How can people survive now? What do we eat now? This is because the mixture of corn flour and cassava flour is a common staple food for most people.

“Now that the blended flour is getting out of the reach of the common man, what is the alternative? Semolina, wheat flour and yam flour are not within our reach. What then should we eat?’’ she quipped.

Mrs Ajao bemoaned the continuous increase in the prices of food items in the market, saying that government ought to initiate some price-control strategies to stem impulsive increases in food prices.

Nevertheless, some traders in the markets have attributed the price increases to seasonal factors, forced migration of farmers due to the current security challenges facing certain parts of the country and increase in transportation costs.

They also blamed the increase on factors such as flood, high cost of transportation, high interest rates of loans, ageing farmers and rainfall patterns, among others.

The traders stressed that price increases had caused some setbacks for them, saying that there had been a remarkable fall in patronage.

One of the traders, Eunice Nwachukwu, said that the fall in customers’ patronage had affected the economic wellbeing of the traders, adding that some of them who got bank loans for their businesses had not been able to pay back the loans.

She said most of the shops in the markets were owned by government officials who rented them out to traders at high rates, thereby forcing the traders to jack up the prices of their wares.

Another trader, Alima Agbaje, said that in recent times, most customers could not engage in bulk purchase of food items, adding that they instead make piecemeal purchases because of the prevalent cash squeeze.

She said that the development had affected sales in most markets, while the drop in sales had forced several traders to abandon their shops, thereby creating chances for the remaining traders to increase the prices of their wares arbitrarily.

However, Agnes Igiewe, a plantain seller, blamed the increase in the prices of food items on factors such as the unwholesome practices of middlemen, dealers and shop owners.

She stressed that the problem was compounded by the harmful habits of middlemen who impulsively jacked up the prices of food items arbitrarily.

“From Edo State to Abuja, a truckload of plantain usually costs N250,000, but the middlemen will make sure you pay extra costs before the plantain is moved from the farm.

“Nobody is checking the activities of the middlemen and they dictate food prices; their pronouncements on the prices are final and binding.

“All the extraneous costs would be added to the selling price of the foodstuffs in order for you to make some profit,’’ she said.

Ralph Abakuku, a stock fish seller, also attributed the increase in the prices of food items to the prevalent cash flow problems in the country, which had forced many traders to obtain bank loans without consideration for the high interest rates of the loans.

Another farmer, Abdullahi Danbaba, blamed the current increase in food prices on unstable rainfall patterns and erratic electricity supply.

He said most of the food crops were cultivated via irrigation farming, adding the unstable electricity supply had forced most irrigation farmers to rely solely on the use of petrol to operate their equipment.

He said that the farmers then had no other option than to increase the prices of their crops to enable them to break even.

In the main market of Bwari, a satellite town in the FCT, most of the traders attributed the high prices of food items to Ramadan.

Some traders at Bwari setting up their wares by the roadside after the market was burnt down on Christmas Day.

They said that some traders often review food prices up in the lead-up to the fasting period.

“Some foodstuff sellers know that consumers, particularly Muslims, often buy and store food items during the period; they, therefore, see it as opportunity to increase food prices and make more profits,’’ said Muktar Hassan, a beans merchant.

“It is so unfortunate that the market leaders are aware of such unscrupulous activities; yet they failed to stop such practice and those who engage in it,’’ he added.

All the same, Silas Alejolowo, an agriculturist, told NAN that prices of food would continue to rise if the country’s farmers continued to face myriad challenges.

He also noted that most youth in the country were not interested in taking up farming, while inadequate efforts were also being made to encourage the youth to embrace agriculture.

He said that this was as a major challenge facing efforts to boost Nigeria’s food security, adding that the challenge was reinforced by the fact that agriculture in the country was labour-intensive and still relied on the use of crude tools.

He said that the prevalent use of primitive farm implements had made Nigerian farmers less efficient and less productive, while creating perceptible threats to food security and stability of food prices.

(NAN)

SPECIAL REPORT: Women in Abuja communities abandon clinics, rely on traditional birth attendants for delivery

Asabe Joshua resides in Igu, a suburb of Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. Located about 15 kilometres from Bwari town

Asabe Joshua resides in Igu, a suburb of Abuja, Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory. Located about 15 kilometres from Bwari town of Bwari Local Government Area, the community is as rural as you are likely to find in many other parts of Africa’s largest economy.

A public primary health care centre is located in the village but it could just as well not have been there.

“I delivered my children through Mama (a traditional birth attendant (TBA),” Mrs Joshua, a mother of two, told this reporter.

“She does it better than the nurses in the (community’s) clinic and she is always available whenever we need her.”

It took the reporter a rough ride on a bike that set her teeth on edge to get to Igu. Along the dusty road connecting this rustic side to the glittering main city of Abuja are villages with names like Baragoni, Zuma, Gaba and Danko.

The commercial motorcycle bounced over bumps as the rider swerved from one side to the other, acrobatically avoiding the many ditches on the road. Residents who ply the road daily have accepted the rough ride on bikes as their fate. The earthen road has remained the same for over 10 years, apart from somehow managing to get worse every rain season.

An old wrapper tied around her chest under a blouse that was probably once white, 23-year old Mrs Joshua recollected how the health workers at the primary health centre in the community drove her into the welcoming arms of Mama the TBA.

“Before I had my first child, I attended antenatal on a regular basis. Sometimes, when I and other pregnant women get to the health clinic, it’s either the nurses are not on duty or they would ask us to come back the next day.

“When I began to have labour pains at about 5 p.m., my husband and neighbour went to the clinic to call the nurse. The one on duty told them to go back home and she would prepare to join us soon.

“After about 30 minutes, my husband went back to call her only to meet the clinic locked. My neighbour then called Mama, the traditional birth attendant who she said took delivery of her four children. After the delivery, I gave Mama N1,000 and she was happy,” Mrs Joshua narrated.

A TBA is a person who assists women at childbirth. She acquired her skills mostly by working with other birth attendants. They are usually old and experienced women who see their assignment primarily as helping their community with their skills.

WHY TURN TO TBAs

Women in parts of Nigeria, especially in rural communities, prefer being delivered of babies at home by a TBA than at a health clinic. The usual complaints are about the long walk to the clinic or the fees they charge. Some women think health workers are aggressive and so prefer the soft touches of the TBA who lives with them in the community.

Many health centres lack adequate medical facilities to take care of women during and after childbirth anyway, so many women do not see the sense in taking the long trip to such facilities.

Binta Nuhu is the Mama or TBA at Igu that Mrs Joshua spoke glowingly about. The reporter met her by the roadside sitting near a pile of greasy bottles and containers from which her daughter was selling engine oil. After the introduction, Mama excitedly dragged a plastic chair for the reporter to sit on beside her.

Mrs Nuhu said she is 55 years old and had been a TBA for over 25 years. She has seven children of her own, six of whom she proudly disclosed are adults blessed with children of their own.

Speaking in Hausa, Mama told PREMIUM TIMES about her experience and the challenges of being a TBA in Igu.

“I had a seven-month training at Rural Health Centre, Kafi Koro in Niger State. That was where I learnt how to take deliveries of children. I have taken deliveries of over 400 children and most of them are already married and have their own children,” Mrs. Nuhu said as she gleefully reeled out her professional profile.

“I used to collect N1,000 per delivery. But because of how difficult and expensive things are in the country now, I take N2,000 and sometimes N1,500. Whether they are twins or just one baby, I charge the same amount.

“Apart from farming, it is what I do for a living. I was also selling drugs but I stopped that last year because people always don’t pay for the drugs.

“I give injections and also treat malaria and Typhoid. When a patient comes to me, from the look on their face, I know the illness the person has so I collect money from them and go to a chemist to buy drugs and injections, if needed,” she said.

“When there are complications that I cannot handle, I refer the patient to the health clinic. But most times, the health workers are not available so we look for a vehicle or a bike to take the patient to the general hospital in Bwari.

“No woman has died under my care because I take action fast. Once I see that the woman is not responding well, I quickly call her relatives to rush her to the general hospital,” Mama said.

Hannatu Sunday was delivered of two of her children by Mama. Speaking in Pidgin English, she said she relied on Mama’s service because nurses at the health centre do not treat patients well “and they collect too much money.”

Hannatu Busala, a Traditional Birth Attendant at Shere Koro community

“Even during antenatal, they treat us harshly. Also, the delivery fee is N5,000, compared to the N1,500 we pay Mama.”

Mrs Sunday said she was delivered of only the first of her three children at the health centre in Igu.

“My church member introduced me to Mama. I had my second and last baby through Mama. She comes to the house to take deliveries, you don’t have to go to her place.

“I didn’t have any complications after delivery. My baby and I were okay. After delivery, we took the child to the clinic to weigh him and also for immunization. That is the only thing the PHC does for us,” she said.

Mama also took delivery of many of her grandchildren.

Joyce Zaka is Mama’s third child. Mama took delivery of her four children, she told the reporter.

“The PHC is not functional and there is no vehicle to take us to town. Another good thing is that Mama comes to your house to take the delivery. Just call her and she will come immediately. She is my mother, so I didn’t pay but she collects between N1,500 and N2,000 from other women.

“After delivery, we take the child to the health clinic for weighing. And we also take the child for immunisation at the recommended time,” Mrs Zaka said.

A visit to Igu PHC shows why the women who spoke to PREMIUM TIMES would rather be delivered of their babies by the TBA.

The centre was opened but empty when the reporter arrived. After about 30 minutes, Eunice Gagare, a woman in her late 30s, entered.

Mrs Gagare is a nurse at the clinic. She explained she was away at the next community to deliver a message.

She said most residents of Igu prefer the general hospitals in town.

“The women attend antenatal here but when it is time for delivery, we don’t see them. We will only hear that they have delivered or see them with babies. Sometimes when they have complications from the TBA, they rush them to the clinic but since we do not have equipment here to handle complications, we refer them to the hospital in Bwari town,” she said

On why the facility was closed when it should be attending to patients, Mrs. Gagare said: “There is no light in this community. So around 5pm, we close for the day because even if we stay till night, there is no light to work with.

“We only use our torch lights sometimes, when they call us for emergencies. But right now, our torch lights and phone lights are dead, until we see someone going to town to charge and bring them back the next day.”

LIKE IGU, LIKE SHERE KORO

This reporter next visited Shere Koro, near Igu where some residents also said they prefer TBAs to the community’s health facility because the TBAs’ services are cheaper and better.

Evelyn Mba, a mother of two, said she was charged N500 by the TBA who took delivery of her kids.

“She is very nice and friendly. She treats us like her daughters and tells us to pay whenever we have the money. But when you visit the health centre, you must pay immediately and it is N5,000. It is too much, most of us do not have such amount,” she said.

Another resident, Hannah Lazarus, said the distance of the PHC in Shere Koro was not a problem. “But people prefer the TBA because she sometimes take deliveries free of charge.

“If you tell her you do not have money, she will tell you to leave it. So sometimes after delivery, we give her foodstuff in appreciation,” she said.

The officer in charge of the PHC, Christiana Kagbu, however, said the women were not cooperating with health workers and do not appreciate their presence in the community.

“During antenatal, we advise them to come to the clinic when it is time for delivery but they never listen. They prefer the TBA to attend to them, but when complications arise they bring them to the centre. This makes our work really difficult because we don’t know what the TBA had touched or cut,” Mrs. Kagbu said.

“When we cannot handle a case we just refer it to the general hospital in town and it is far. We do not have ambulance, so the patients get people that have vehicles to take them to the hospital,” she said.

The TBA in Shere Koro was out of town at the times PREMIUM TIMES visited.

GOVERNMENT STREAMLINING TBAs

The Executive Director, National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Faisal Shuaib, said the government appreciates the place of TBAs in primary health care but is taking steps to streamline their services under the Community Health Influencers, Promoters and Services (CHIPS) programme recently launched by government.

According to Mr Shuaib, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, part of the initiatives of the CHIPS scheme is to identify TBAs and empower them to handle deliveries without complications.

He said the CHIPs are different from the traditional birth attendants, “who are typically not educated.”

“When a TBA takes births, they sometimes lead to complications such as death of the mother or child. The reason is because, they do not have the right skill.

“Now we want to be more rigorous in their selection. Now we want to set a bar below which we will not accept for Nigerians.”

“The CHIPS are community-based individuals who have been selected in collaboration with traditional leaders, religious leaders, opinion leaders, youth and community based organisations.

“Once that person has been identified and selected by the community members, they are trained over the course of three to six months. Not only in classroom-based training, but also practical field experience. These individuals will be responsible for basic interventions in the community.

“We are harmonising all those different interventions that are community-based and calling them CHIPS agents,” he said.

A public health practitioner, Qua’alar Katty, warned that women who patronise TBAs face a higher risk of having complications during delivery.

She said most complications in such situations lead to both child and maternal death.

“TBAs use tools that are not properly sterilized, which in turn causes infections that may lead to infertility,” she said

Ms Katty urged pregnant women especially those in the rural areas to always visit health facilities, because doing so benefits mother and child.

Bwari crisis: Normalcy returns as FCTA relaxes curfew

The Federal Capital Territory Administration has relaxed the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew earlier imposed on Bwari over the

The Federal Capital Territory Administration has relaxed the 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew earlier imposed on Bwari over the Christmas day crisis that erupted in the town.

According to a statement signed by the Special Assistant on Media to the Minister, Malam Abubakar Sani, the curfew is now to be observed from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.

The statement was made available to journalists on Friday in Abuja.

The statement reads, “the declaration was made by the FCT Minister, Malam Muhammad Bello, after a security review meeting on the situation in the town on Friday in Abuja.”

“This is as a result of visible signs of return of normalcy to the area,’’ Bello declared.

The minister commended all the security operatives and stakeholders for their efforts at working toward the restoration of peace in the town.

He, however, appealed to residents, community leaders and faith-based organisations to work toward the final return of peace to the town, saying it was only then peace and development would come to the community.

He also called on all the residents to be alert on their neighborhoods and to report all suspicious movements to the security agencies.

Bello praised the residents for being law abiding and supportive of the efforts of the Administration to ensure that normalcy returned to the town

The statement also quoted the Bwari Area Council Chairman, Musa Diko, after the meeting, as calling on the security agencies to intensify joint patrols in the various neighbourhoods and contiguous border towns.

Diko also called for synergy and sharing of information with their colleagues in Niger, Kaduna and Nasarawa states.

The curfew was relaxed last in January from 6 p.m. – 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. – 6 a.m. after the security meeting reviewed the situation.