By Ntiedo Ekott
As fuel scarcity continues in the Federal Capital Territory and other major cities in Nigeria, prices of food items in Abuja have skyrocketed as a result of an increase in transport fares in the country.
Although there has been an increase in the prices of almost every other good and service in the country for some time now, the fuel crisis has worsened the situation despite promises by the government to put an end to the scarcity.
Checks in some markets and food selling points in Abuja by PREMIUM TIMES show that there has been a rise in the prices of food. The price surge affects staples like rice, beans, garri, and yam amongst others.
“The fuel scarcity is affecting me seriously. Before now, I used to pay N1000 to convey these goods from my house to this place, but now, I am paying between N1800 to N2000 just to convey them down here,” Victoria Ene, a roadside food vendor at Wuse, Abuja, said.
The crisis started last year after the government said it would remove fuel subsidies to save revenue. As a result, marketers began to reduce the amount of fuel they sold. This continued even after the government announced a reversal of the plan.
The scarcity became worse in February when the federal government said its agents had imported substandard fuel.
Transport fares have since increased across the country. In Abuja, from Kubwa to Berger junction or Wuse market is now N300 or N250 against the previous price of N200. From Lugbe to Secretariat is now N200 or N250 against N150.
Traders have passed the increased fares to customers and their products have therefore become more expensive.
A container of yellow garri that was N350 in 2021 is now N400 and white garri now goes for N350 against its previous price of N300. Similarly, five tubers of yam now cost N3500 from N2500, while a mudu of rice that was N900 before, now goes for N1100.
Also, one litre of palm oil that was N700 is now N750, 25kg of groundnut oil is now N34,000 from N23,000 and a crate of eggs is now N1800 from N1500.
According to Joy Attir, a yam seller in Kubwa, Abuja, the increase in the price of yam is a result of insecurity and the current fuel scarcity in the country.
“Yam is expensive now; the farmers-herders fight and the current fuel scarcity situation is affecting the price of yam. Where we normally buy yam in Niger State, there is a fight going on there, so getting products from there is difficult. Even the first set of yams we sent, they are inside a bush now in Niger State, the driver and passengers ran and left the car with yam inside in the bush because of the fight,” Mrs Attir said.
“So these ones I am selling, I bought them from another market, not directly from the farmers, so they are a bit expensive now. Also, the transport fare to bring them down here is high now. For instance, these small ones are N2500 for 5 tubers, initially, we used to sell that size N1500.”
Victoria Ene, the food vendor, said the changes in the price of food items and transport fare have affected how she sells food now.
“Initially, I used to sell a plate of food for N250, but now it is N400 and N500 depending on the number of meat I add for you,” she said.
“25kg of groundnut oil that I use to buy N22,000 or N23,000 before, now it is N34,000, 5kg of semolina before was N5000 or N4500, but now it is N5500 and N6000 in the market, even 25kg of palm oil I use to buy N19,000 before is now is N24,000 or N25,000.
Another trader, Grace Ephraim, at the Arab Road market, described how fuel scarcity has also affected her small business.
“I was selling a mudu of palm fruit at N500 before, but now, it is N600 due to an increase in the transport fare. For instance, this morning I paid N700 instead of N300 to convey my market goods from Gwa Gwa market to the Arab market here, so with that, I cannot come and sell the items at their previous price, I won’t make any gain if I do so,” Mrs Ephraim said.
The checks also confirmed that there is at least a 50 to 60 per cent food price increase in some restaurants in the city. A plate of food that was sold at N500 initially now goes for N800 at some restaurants in Wuse, Area 1 and Apo Axis.
According to Sam Amadi, a Director at the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought, the increase in the fuel price will definitely have an adverse effect on the economy considering the existing high rate of inflation in the country.
“The increase in fuel and electricity prices will adversely affect the economy by increasing general inflation. Already at more than 15%, inflation is high. The recent increases will further increase inflation which will worsen hunger and starvation in the country and reduce mortality and social-economic wellbeing,” Mr Amadi said.
“Already, the world bank estimates that about 13 million Nigerians became poor because of COVID-19 and the policy to contain it. This new wave of Inflation will drag more people into poverty. It will also affect household income for most Nigerians, constrain businesses and commercial activities and therefore result in more unemployment. The end result will be an increase in generalised insecurity,” he added.
This article was first published in Premium Times