By Our Correspondents
As Christians all over the world mark this year’s Easter which signifies the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Nigerians are groaning under the yoke of high food prices and transportation cost.
This is as the Christian Association of Nigeria, state governors and other eminent Nigerians sued for peace, unity and tolerance among the citizens.
Checks by LEADERSHIP Weekend revealed that prices of perishable food items have soared in major markets in Lagos and other major cities in the country.
A survey conducted in some major markets at Mile 12, Oyingbo and Mushin showed that prices of some food items jumped by more than 25 per cent.
A 40 kilogramme (kg) basket of tomato, which was sold for N6, 000 in March has risen to N8, 000.
The price of a 50kg bag of Scotch Bonnet pepper jumped by 50 per cent, selling for N14,000 against the previous N7,000.
Similarly, a 50kg basket of bell pepper (Tatashe) rose to N15,000 from N10,000.
The survey also showed that a 100kg basket of onions is now selling for N19,000, up from N14,000 last month.
The price of 25 litres of vegetable oil has risen from N17,000 to N19,500 but the same quantity of palm oil dropped from N18,000 to N12,000.
However, prices of both local and foreign 50kg bag of rice remained the same at N22,000 and N23,000 respectively for short grains in spite of the Easter celebration.
Mr Femi Odusanya, spokesperson for Mile 12 Market Traders Association, attributed the situation to the seasonal nature of the farm produce.
In Oyo State, prices of foodstuffs have gone beyond the reach of the people.
At Bodija, Ojo and Iwo road markets, there is low patronage due to the high cost of foodstuffs.
One of the traders, Mrs. Fatima Egunjobi, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that the high cost of goods had affected patronage, saying customers were not buying from her.
Also, at the Sango and Ojo Motor parks, there was no sign of people travelling out of the state for the celebration.
A transporter who simply identified himself as Wasiu said there was no flocking of passengers as only a few people were travelling out.
In Edo State, prices of some food items like pepper, tomatoes, and onions have increased in most markets in Benin City according to a market survey conducted by LEADERSHIP Weekend.
At the popular Oba market, it was discovered that a small basket of tomatoes which hitherto sold for N800 now goes for N1,500
A 50kg basket of chili pepper increased from N4,500 to N8,000 and a basket of tatashe rose from N4,000 to N8,000.
A jute bag of onions which previously sold for N13, 000 now costs N14, 000, a 100kg bag of beans costs N30,500 while a 50kg bag of rice ranges between N13, 000 to N18,500, depending on the brand.
A full frozen chicken at Vegetable market along Aideiyan that hitherto sold for N4,000 now goes for N4,700 while a rubber paint of garri still maintains its price at N1,000
Traders at the markets attributed the price increases to seasonal factors, increase in transportation costs and the lingering security challenges in the North-east geo-political zone.
Juliet Osagie, a pepper trader seller at Oliha market, said that the quantity of the produce had reduced due to seasonal factors.
Mallam Isa Umoru, a butcher at Aduwawa market, attributed the high cost of meat to the crisis between herders and farmers.
A similar scenario played out in Akwa Ibom State as residents are marking the celebration in a low key.
Our correspondent who visited the popular Akpanadem main market in Uyo the state capital to inquire about the market situation in relation to the Easter celebration revealed that some parts of the markets were scanty, as some of the traders lament low patronage despite the presence of buyers amidst Easter celebration.
As some worry over the hike in the cost price of their goods, most were seen attending to customers, a few were concerned about the safety of their goods and others decried poor sales.
They attributed their plight to the current banditry and coronavirus pandemic which is still lurking around in the country and added that despite the situation they have good reason to celebrate in a low-key.
Meanwhile most motor parks within the state capital recorded low patronage as some intending passengers on Uyo/Lagos route at the main park along Ikot Ekpene road lamented the hardship they had to go through as a result of high fares by commercial motorists.
Some passengers who spoke with our correspondent at the popular Itam Park in Uyo said they were made to part with a lot of money by motor drivers plying long distance journeys such as Lagos Abuja, Kaduna, Benin, Kano and others.
In Ebonyi State, there is an increase in the prices of commodities and foodstuffs less than 24 hours to the Easter celebration. Though the market is relatively dull, it is believed that it would gradually witness an inflow of people especially those who would be travelling and those purchasing different items for the celebration.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend visited the Abakaliki International Market, Kpirikpiri market and the Ekeaba market, it was observed that the prices of tomatoes, pepper, spices, onion and other commodities increased likewise that of goat meat, cow meat and chicken.
LEADERSHIP Weekend observed that a basket of tomatoes that was sold at 13,000 is now sold at 15,000, a small bag of onion that was sold at 6500 is now sold at 7,500 and 8000. Small bag of pepper that was sold at 7000 is now sold at 10,000.
Some of the people interviewed revealed that they decided to buy the items needed for the celebration as the prices of the commodities might skyrocket more between Saturday evening and Sunday morning.
The Peace Mass Transit, Abakaliki to Enugu still remains N700, Abakaliki to Afikpo at Romchi Mass Transit still maintains its price of N600, Abakaliki to Lagos still stands at N4500 while those conveying passengers from Abakaliki to Abuja range between N5000 to N6000.
Meanwhile, the Public Education Officer, Federal Road Safety Corps Ebonyi State, Mr. Okechukwu Nnorom, told our cdorrespondent that the command had commenced its Easter road patrol and had also deployed its officers to the roads to ensure accident-free celebration.
Similarly, the police public relations officer, Ebonyi State Command, Loveth Odah, said the command had deployed its men in most of the crisis areas to ensure a hitch-free Easter celebration.
Furthermore it was gathered from travellers who said that the inconsistency in fuel price increase by the government had affected all sectors, the cost of transportation of food items from rural areas to the urban centres had increased drastically.
Abdul Sule who travels through Auchi from Asaba on his way to Abuja said, “There was a Country ‘’, by Chinua Achebe had now unfolded all persuasive untold stories about Nigeria.
Sani Sule, a transporter between Anyigba and Lokoja who regretted collecting N1000 from commuters explained that the road had deteriorated to the extent that after one trip motorists would have to visit mechanics, electrician and vulcaniser to fix the car.
Ahead of the Easter celebration in Jos, the Plateau State capital, markets and motor parks are devoid of the usual hustling and bustling that characterise such a festive mood.
Our correspondent observed that although most of the transporters still maintained their usual.
At the Plateau Riders motor park, it was business as usual as nothing so spectacular about the celebration. Only few people can be seen obtaining tickets to travel.
Furthermore, at the Bukuru and Terminus markets prices of essential commodities like rice, fish vegetable oil, meat have been on the high side.
A kilo of meat is now sold for N1700, while a kilo of Scumbia fish at the cold room goes for N1500. Again 4 litres Soya beans vegetable oil is sold for N3800 as against N3500 respectively.
Similarly, the section where vegetables for salad are being sold was very scanty, it was not with the usual crowd of people.
Also, a passenger going to Jalingo the Taraba State capital told our correspondent that if not because of his junior brother’s wedding he would not have contemplated to travel at this time stressing that though transport fares had not been increased, only a few people who had very important things to do would embark on a journey.
Speaking to our correspondent in Jos, the Plateau State capital, the chairman of NTA Motor park, Alhaji Ibrahim Maikudi, said his association was not contemplating increasing transport fare as a result of the celebration of Easter.
Meanwhile, the Zone 4 Command of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) comprising Plateau, Benue and Nasarawa states has called on all road users and transport fleet operators within the zone to abide by traffic rules and regulations as well as the COVID-19 protocol during the Easter festive period or risk arrest and prosecution.
The Zonal Commanding Officer RS4, Assistant Corps Marshal Kayode Olagunju, gave this warning in a statement signed by the Acting Public Education Officer, Route Commander Olusegun Owoeye in Jos to herald the commencement in the zone of the nationwide Easter special patrol operation.
A total number of 3, 077 personnel comprising 1969 Regular and 1108 Special Marshals are to be engaged in Traffic Management, Rescue Services, Public Education and Enforcement during the period. All operational vehicles and other logistics shall be fully deployed for maximum impacts.
In Cross River State, at Etim Edem popular Market Calabar, stationery cars were seen at the motor park with few passengers boarding the vehicles to travel home for the Easter celebration.
Findings revealed that prices of market commodities had skyrocketed due to Easter celebration.
A big cattle that used to sell for N200,000 now sells for N250,000.
Also a bag of Onions which was sold before for N14,000 now sells for N21,000, Chika Moritz told LEADERSHIP Weekend.
On what the Federal Road Safety Commission is doing to achieve zero road crashes throughout the Easter period, Sector Commander of the Corp (Cross River State Command) Mr Cyprian Ofordu, stated that the command had mobilized about 125 men spread in the southern senatorial district for special and traffic control.
Representing the Sector Commander, Assistant Corps Commander Vincent Igbo Nwachukwu warned motorists to ensure that vehicles plying the roads were road worthy and called on motorists to be cautious so as not to be charged to court for road offenses.
Christians in Ekiti State like their counterparts across Nigeria are preparing for Easter celebrations.
People were seen buying goods, especially food items in some of the major markets like King’s market, Irona market and Bisi market all in Ado Ekiti, the state capital.
The situation at the markets cannot be said to be different from what is usually witnessed every Thursday and Friday when people throng the markets in preparation for the weekend.
Our correspondent who visited the markets observed that prices of food items remain as they were since late last year when everything started going up.
Speaking with the LEADERSHIP, Mrs Eunice Akerele said there was no obvious increase in the prices of food items despite the fact that Easter celebration is around the comer.
A transporter that operates an 18-seater bus between Ado Ekiti and Akure, Mr Amuda Oladeji, said fewer people are travelling despite the fact that Easter celebration is only two days away.
A traveler, Miss Debbie Akpan said she is travelling to Lagos not because of Easter but to catch up with an appointment.
Meanwhile, the Commissioner of Police, Ekiti State Command, Mr Tunde Mobayo has directed all the area commanders, DPOs, operational heads and intelligence officers to ensure the deployment of adequate operatives to all the strategic points across the state to forestall any form of breach of security during Easter celebration.
CP Mobayo in a statement by the Command’s Police Public Relations Officer, Sunday Abutu, assured everyone of adequate security before, during and after the Easter celebration as enough operatives had been deployed across the state.
In Benue State, traders and consumers had attributed the continuous hike in prices of food items to the hike in transportation fare which according to them is as a result of increase in the pump price of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS) popularly called fuel.
This is even as our correspondent observed that activities in markets and parks remained as normal.
A visit to some major markets in Màkurdi Metropolis by our correspondent, it was observed that there was almost 100 per cent hike in prices of food items.
Meanwhile the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Benue State Command has disclosed that it has deployed 1220 personnel across the state to maintain peace and order as well as provide strong surveillance on every National Critical Assets and Infrastructure before, during and after the Easter Celebrations.
According to the Command’s Public Relation Officer (PRO), Ejelikwu Michael, the deployment is drawn from the Counter Terrorism Unit (CTU), Chemical Biological Radioactive Nuclear and Energy Unit (CBRNE) Disaster Response Unit, Medical Unit, Crisis Management Unit, Special Force, Anti-Vandalism Unit and Critical protection Unit (CIPU).
Also the State Police Command has also disclosed that about 3000 personnel had been deployed to major towns in the state for vehicular and foot patrols.
Also the Corps Commander (FRSC) Benue State Mohammed Yakubu has said that it has deployed about 1000 officers comprising officer, Corps Marshal as well as Special Marshal to ensure free flow of traffic obstruction to ensure accident free Celebration.
Prices of tomatoes and pepper which skyrocketed recently due to the blockage of food items supplied from the north to the southern parts of the country have dropped in Ilorin, Kwara State.
Most civil and public servants have not been paid their March Salaries and this has made it difficult, if not impossible for them to take care of the needs of their families.
Speaking, Chidi Nwachukwu, stressed that it has not been easy as he had not received his salary for the month of March, explaining that his family is suffering from lack of adequate food supply and appealed to the state government to expedite action and pay the workers their salaries as a worker deserves his wages.
Speaking, Mma Olebara stressed that the consumers are passing through an excruciating period in the hands of traders as they increase the prices of goods astronomically without cogent reasons .
In his contribution, an economist with the Imo State University, Prof.Dominic Chima, explained that the law of supply and demand sometimes affect the market forces as traders adjust the prices of items depending on the frequency of demand.
Speaking, Mike Oduh explained that Imolites are in a very precarious situation, and hope that the government at all levels will emulate the international community and make provision for the citizenry.
Speaking, John Okoronta stressed that the hope that they were not going back to the old order when pensioners were relegated to the background and appealed to the governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, to take the issue of pension payment as a priority, so as to assure them that his administration is people oriented.
When LEADERSHIP visited Arugo and Okigwe Parks, the environments were wearing a dull look as passengers were seen negotiating for a reduction in the cost of transportation.
In the midst of uncertainty, traders, especially food staff in Sokoto State have decried continued increment in prices of foodstuff.
The traders who warned that should the increment go on unabated, it would get to a point where they could no longer buy hence nobody would be willing to buy from them at such a terrible price.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend visited the popular Sokoto Vegetable and Food Stuff Market also known as Kasuwar Abu Dankure, both traders and buyers alike were all not smiling at each other because of the hike in prices.
Another trader, Alhaji Kabiru Muhammad, said things were getting expressive by the day because of increment in fuel.
At the famous Kaduna central market, there is no sign that celebration is around the corner, the business has been the same as normal day.
Speaking to some traders in the market, James Ayamelum who sells grains told LEADERSHIP Weekend that there is no difference between the sales on an ordinary day and this period.
In Taraba State, motor parks and markets were observed carrying out usual activities, with no sign of fiesta coming.
According to the travellers, buyers, traders and the transport workers, this is caused by the ongoing strike action by the NLC, and failure by the state government to pay salaries for the month of March.
Speaking to Paul Okoduwa of the FRSC, he said, normally, every year the agency launched an operation to control motorists and traffic in the road, and this year is no different as the operation has already kicked off.
In Jigawa State as people prepared for the Easter celebration the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) has deployed 900 personnel to some strategic places across the state to ensure peaceful celebration.
The state sector commandant Alhaji Garba Muhammad stated this in his office, added that, special priority was given to places of worship, government buildings installations, markets /malls, motor parks and other vulnerable spots.
The commandant who spoke throught the command’s spokesman, SC Adamu Shehu, advised parents and guardians to look after their wards and always know their whereabouts. He however charged the public to abide by COVID-19 protocol during and after the celebration.
On their side, the Jigawa Command of the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) said no fewer than 536 personnel were engaged to ensure road traffic crash free Easter celebrations in the state.
The FRSC sector commander in the state, Mr Ahmed Mohammed revealed this, he explained that the personnel consisted of 88 officers, 268 regular marshals and 108 special marshals.
Governors, CAN preach unity, peace, tolerance
Governors in the country and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have called on Nigerians to unite, tolerate one another and live in peace.
Gombe state governor, Alhaji Muhammadu Inuwa Yahaya, in his felicitation with the Christians on the occasion of this year’s Easter celebration, called on the faithful to use the period to pray for continued peace and stability of the state as well as the country in general.
In a goodwill message signed by the Director-General, Press Affairs, Ismaila Uba Misilli, Yahaya noted that the Easter period provides an opportunity for unity of purpose, reinforcement of the bond of brotherhood and dedication in service to God and humanity as exemplified by Jesus Christ.
He said Easter symbolises love, sacrifice, service to God and country as well as triumph of good over evil, urging the people to always reflect on the lessons and significance of the season and demonstrate the same in their lives.
“On this occasion of Easter feast, I want to enjoin our Christian brothers and sisters in Gombe State and the world over to continue to promote peace and good neighbourliness.”
“I want to also urge you to remain steadfast in prayers and continue to sacrifice for the good and advancement of our dear state. I also call on you to continue to pray fervently against the security challenges in the country as well as the COVID -19 pandemic which is still very much with us,” the governor added.
Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State and chairman of the Northern State’s Governors Forum has said there is every reason for Nigerians to appreciate God for his mercies over the nation throughout the difficult period of lockdowns and other disruptions occasioned by the corona virus pandemic.
The governor said his Easter message said the period calls for deeper reflection on the grace of God and the strengthening of faith in his love for mankind which is the essence of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Gov Ahmadu Fintiri tasked Adamawa citizens to tolerate one another during and after celebration of this year’s Easter.
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike also felicitated with Christians on the celebration of Easter, urging them to emulate Jesus Christ by making sacrifices that will advance the course of development.
Governor Adegboyega Oyetola of Osun State urged Christians to emulate Christ’s virtues of love, sacrifice, perseverance and humility as they commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ,
Amidst the challenges bedeviling the country, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has urged all Christian in the country to rejoice in hope and touch the lives of others positively.
The Christian body in a statement made available to LEADERSHIP yesterday in Abuja, signed by the president, CAN, Rev Samson Ayokunle, said this is the time for Christians to exercise patience in tribulations and to continue prayers.
Rejoicing with all Christians in the country, CAN thanked God that the nation is not under complete lockdown this year.
The association said that “he that rolled away the stone from the grave shall roll away insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, herdsmen’s attacks, ritual killing, armed robbery, unemployment and other challenges we are facing presently in this nation in the name of Jesus Christ.”
The statement reads in part: “I rejoice with all Christians all over Nigeria and the world at large for the grace God has given to us to celebrate the Easter of this year.
“We thank the Lord that we are not under complete lockdown this year as it was last year. Blessed be the name of the Lord who has shown us His mercy in Nigeria.
Police Beef Up Security Nationwide
The Nigerian police have beefed up security nationwide as Nigeria joins the rest of the world to celebrate Easter.
Also, the inspector-general of Police, IGP Mohammed Adamu, has ordered an intensive round-the-clock security of all public spaces and critical national assets.
Force PRO, CP Frank Mba said this is to ensure that Nigerians enjoy crime free Easter celebration
Mba said the IGP specifically directed all state commissioners of police and their supervising assistant inspectors-general of police (AIGs) to ensure adequate deployment of police personnel – both covert and overt operatives, and other operational assets to areas of security interest within their respective areas of responsibility (AoRs).
They are also to ensure confidence boosting, proactive and high visibility patrols are carried out along the highways, motor parks, train stations, airports, worship centres, banks and other financial institutions while taking adequate measures to provide a peaceful, crime-free and enabling environment for religious, cultural and other socio-economic activities to thrive.
Mba said: “In addition, the commissioner of police and their supervising AIGs have been directed to ensure proper supervision of the men assigned for these assignments.
“They must be professional and courteous to law abiding citizens but firm and ruthless to criminals. To this effect, the IGP monitoring unit and X-squad have been given marching orders to monitor and police activities of police officers policing the highways to ensure respect for the rights of citizens and operational conformity with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and Rules of Engagement (RoE) of the Force.”
While felicitating with Nigerians, and the Christian community in particular, on the commemoration of the crucifixion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the IGP appreciated the citizenry for their support and calls on them to continue to cooperate with the Nigeria Police and other security agencies by providing timely information that would help in the prevention and detection of crime.
The IGP has assured Nigerians that the Nigeria Police will continue to do all within its powers to provide safety and security to the teeming Nigerian population, while once again wishing them happy Easter celebrations.