As the latest inflation rate is pegged at 18.72 per cent from 18.55 per cent by figures released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), showing a 0.17 per cent rise in the consumer price index (CPI), Nigerians, in no small measure, are feeling the bite, as the prices of foodstuff maintain an upward trend.
This rise has occasioned the influx of some residents of the Federal Capital Territory into the local markets in Kaduna, Nasarawa, Niger and Kogi, in order to get better deals and options away from the markets in the city-centre, where the cost of food items have scared many off the markets.
With this development, the markets in the hinterlands, which were once considered “too far,” and “too local” have become the best places to get reasonable prices on food stuff and other household items.
The regular markets within the city centre are experiencing a constant decline in patronage by salary earners, who have found fortresses in markets as far as 150km from the city. The Katari Market (Sunday) located in Kagarko local government area of Kaduna State which is more than 100 kilometres from Abuja; the Lambata Market, more than 70km away; Dikko Market (every Saturday) in Gurara and Suleja local government of Niger State, Farin Doki, Paiko, Tugan Malam, Gwom and Kuta markets (Niger State), as well as a few others in Nasarawa and Kogi states.
Put off by the constantly high-jacked prices placed on foodstuff by traders within the city centre, a resident and civil servant, Mrs Chidinma Okafor, who was spotted stocking up at the Dikko Market in Niger State, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that feeding her seven children with her “true salary” means a “search for a new market.”
She said: “I just bought over 200 pieces of yam tubers for N20, 000, local rice, beans and other items at reasonably low prices. It would have been different in Abuja and [the price would have] consumed my income for the month.
“With these, I can afford to feed my ever-hungry boys. The distance is not a problem, as long as the food items are highly affordable. OPne can no longer pretend about Nigeria’s economy,” Okafor said.
She confessed that she was introduced to the market by a colleague who convinced her that buying from rural markets will save her thousands of naira in these times.
“You know that Treasury Single Account (TSA) has brought in more financial discipline in the public service. In the past, many public servants lived above their incomes, giving rise to high corruption in the public service.
“The reality of today calls for financial discipline and that has encouraged lots of civil servants, especially, to cut their spending,” Okafor added.
Another resident of Abuja who visited the market for the first time, Michael Ayuba, drove with his wife from Wuse to Dikko in Niger State to get better prices. He could not contain his joy at having spent far lower than he would have spent in one of the markets in the city-centre.
Ayuba, a banker and father of four, with two relatives who live with them, said the family thought it wise to look elsewhere for its food supplies, if it would meet up with other financial obligations, going by the economic crunch.
“Yes, it’s abnormal for us to come there, but I can tell, it pays. Do you know the cost of a bag of rice in Wuse market? I bet you to visit and find out for yourself. Do you know that N70, 000 shopping means that the family is secured for months?
“It’s good that we are going local now, especially for the rice and other staple foods. Henceforth, our major food items will come from rural markets, while other minor items can be bought in the big city. There is no shame in coming here. After all, we are also empowering our rural economies,” he said, somewhat proud of his choice.
Umar Abdallah, who resides in Kubwa, confessed that he discovered the pocket-friendly prices while returning from a trip to Kano.
“Curiosity made me stop by and by some food items for my family. On getting home, my wife asked for the details of prices and discovered that we could save more by visiting markets outside the city. Since then, I and my wife have made the rural markets our hub for food stuffs,” he said.
When this writer visited the popular Lambata Market located about 86 km from Abuja in Gurara LGA of Niger State, more than a handful of residents of Abuja could be seen hurrying to buy up essential items and return in good time.
The market opens for business every four days, attracting buyers and sellers from far and near.
A trader, Alhaji Abubakar Sarki, said that they did experience a surge in patronage from residents of several towns, including Abuja.
Sarki, who said the development was good for traders in the market, added that some customers from Abuja would come early in the morning, so as to buy directly from farmers coming with goods.
“The situation is good for us, but, as you know, if the demand is much, it might push prices up. Also, I am worried at the rate food prices are going up, especially in big cities. The situation calls for intervention from government,” Sarki said.
LEADERSHIP Weekend learnt that, to save cost, two to three buyers could hire small trucks to convey their purchases to Abuja.
Before now, markets in Abuja which were considered consumer-friendly were the Friday Gosa Market along Airport Road, Karmo Market, Kuje Market and a few others on the outskirts of the capital city.
Why go to the hinterlands for foodstuff, anyway? Economic expert, Kefas Ali, told the media that the rising inflation rate and the inability of the nation’s policy makers to protect the Nigerian economy from the influx of foreign goods means less money in the hands of Nigerians.
He lamented the lack of liquidity in the country, partly due to poor funding of the budget, lack of foreign exchange earnings, too much importation, insecurity and the activities of militants in the Niger Delta region as some of the key factors responsible for the downward trend.
“Going outside Abuja to find cheap food items tells you that reality has dawned on residents of the sprawling city of Abuja that they can no longer afford the kind of lifestyles they hitherto lived in the past.
“Resources have to be spent wisely, as it does not come easily anymore. A bag of rice is about N25, 000 and rice is not the only food consumed in homes. There are others and that means more spending. People do not patronise Abuja markets anymore, so that they can save more. I think the decision is wise,” he said.
The influx has just begun.One can only hope the prices in these new-found hubs can remain stable and not go the way of the Abuja markets if the situation bites harder and when the traffic to these markets increase.