Saturday, January 14, 2012

Angry, hungry Nigerians rush to stock food after fuel strike

Weary and hungry, scores weave their way through rutted and chaotic alleys in a food market in Nigeria's largest city, seeking to replenish their food stocks after a week-long strike against soaring fuel prices shut down the country.
Roads to Mile 12 market, Lagos's largest food market, were jam-packed with vehicles as people jostled for parking space.
One woman, a shopping bag in hand, stops by a stall selling yams, a staple food in Nigeria. The vendor says his price. She walks past -- it's too expensive -- but steps back.
"I have to buy. It's food. We have to eat," said Funke Kayode, a furious 45-year-old mother of two.
But both sellers and buyers have one common problem: food prices have hit the roof.
"The price of yam is high. All the same, we still have to buy because we have to eat," lamented Olabisi Adekoya, a mother of four.
Traders say prices have been affected by the hike in transportation costs since fuel prices went up.
Fish trader Oluwatoyin Oluwaseun has not sold much.
"Although many people have come, very few are buying due to the high price," he said.
In some cases prices of vegetables such as tomatoes have risen seven-fold after fuel prices abruptly more than doubled in Nigeria since January 1 when the government lifted subsidies on petrol prices.
The decision sparked anger, and labour unions called an open-ended strike which totally shut down Africa's most populous country for five days.
Sunbo Ahmed said a basket of tomatoes now costs 7,000 naira, up from 1,000 naira last week.
For Abiola Ayansanya the strike has brought misery to her family.
"I came out today because I am hungry. No money. No food. We are suffering. My children suffered a lot during the strike," she said.
"Some of them were crying for food but the older ones were able to show some understanding. Government should go back to 65 naira," she said.
A decision by the government to end petrol subsidies without warning brought tens of thousands of people out into the streets in protest during the week.
The decision caused petrol prices to more than double overnight, from 65 naira ($0.40, 0.30 euros) per litre to between 140 naira and 145 naira.
Strike organisers ordered a two-day pause on Saturday and Sunday to allow people to stock up food in case unions and government fail to reach a deal.
Government and labour representatives held a first round of talks on Thursday and began meeting again late Saturday. Unions are sticking to their guns, refusing accept any deal but a return to the old petrol price.
The talks are to take place with government under intense pressure after the country's white-collar oil workers' union PENGASSAN threatened to stop production at midnight if no deal is struck.
Most of the population of Africa's leading oil producer live on less than two dollars a day and see cheap petrol as the only benefit they get from their largely inefficient and corrupt government.
"Everybody is angry and hungry. We voted for (President Goodluck) Jonathan so that he can improve our condition," said Muda Ogunniyi, a 25-year-old driver reading newspapers near the market, summing up the mood in the country of 160 million people.

0 commentaires:

Post a Comment