Imolites Make Hard Choices,Four Months After Removal Of Fuel Subsidy

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Ms. Anna Okereke is a petty trader. She is also a widow with three children—two boys and a girl. She leaves her home as early as 5 a.m. for the popular Eke Ukwu Market in Owerri, where she hawks pap (akamu).

On a day business is good, she goes home with N2,700 as profit, excluding the cost of producing one tray of akamu.

“When I leave the market by 8.30 or 10 a.m. after selling the pap, I go home with my profit, which I use to feed my three children,” she told INNONEWS.

That was four months ago. The story has changed for Ms. Okereke since the fuel subsidy was removed by President Bola Tinubu. She hardly sells all her pap, and the profit has declined to between N500- N550.

“Business is bad. My profit has reduced, and it is not enough to even buy three square meals for my children. I come to the market, and most times, I do not sell all my pap,” she said.

Mr. Stanley Okebata, a dealer of male clothes at Relief Market, Owerri, said business has gone from bad to worse since the subsidy was removed. He said he barely sells a pack of shirt a day.

“Before the subsidy was removed, I used to sell about eight or ten packs of ‘Turkish’ shirts a day. It has not been so since the subsidy was removed. Most of my customers seem to have shifted their attention to feeding. It is only when they have excess that they can think of buying clothes.

“Because of the slow pace of business, I’m thinking of going into another business to enable me to sustain my family,” he said.

This newspaper observed that most residents of the state are grappling with the impact or effects of subsidy removal, which has led to an increase in the price of petrol and rise in the prices of transportation, goods, and services.

“I occasionally use my vehicle to go to work because I noticed that I spend over N20,000 to fuel my car and generator in a week,” said Mr. Cosmas Okorie, a surveyor.

“I now go to the office if I know I will receive a client, and I have reduced the number of days my secretary comes to work until, may be, I can increase her salary.

“The hardship is unbearable, and governments, at the federal and state levels, have no solution to it.

“Inflation is on the rise. Soon, schools will reopen, and I need to pay for my three children in secondary school and two in university. Where will I get the money to pay when the purchasing power of the naira is so low?” he noted.

In some markets visited in Owerri metropolis, there are lamentations by both traders and consumers.

At Eke Ukwu market, sellers of perishable food items such as tomatoes and watermelons lament poor sales.

Mazi Obinna Igwe, a tomato seller at the Market, said the increase in the price of fuel is largely responsible for the hike in the commodity.

“Before the removal of fuel subsidies, we sold a paint container of tomatoes for N2,900; now we sell them for N4,500. Depending on the size of tomatoes you are bringing in, the cost of transporting the commodity has increased by over 300 percent,” he said.

Further observations show that a small paint size for rice, which was sold for N2, 000, leapfrogged to N3,400 after the subsidy removal. A carton of Indomie noodles, which earlier sold for N2,900, now sells for N4,000.

Agbono, which was sold for N800 per cup, has gone up to N1,700. Same for egusi, which was sold for between N100 and N150 per cup but is now sold for N500- N650.

A medium tin of baby milk, depending on the variety, which was sold for N2,500 before the hike in the price of fuel, now sells for N2,900 and N3,500.

A businessman, Mr. Sylvanus Udemba, told this newspaper that he has drastically adjusted his expenses since the hike in fuel prices and subsidy removal.

He said, “The economy is biting, and I wonder what manner of palliatives by the Federal and State Governments will solve this problem.

“The palliative, I was told, is to share some bags of rice and other items.

“And I ask, how will the sharing of bags of rice change the high cost of living in the state?” he stated.

Mr. Eze Akujor, a public policy analyst, said the sharing of palliatives to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal is archaic.

“Are we refugees that palliatives will be shared to?. It is only in war torn countries where palliatives are given to those displaced or affected by the war.

“The sharing of palliatives is an insult to our intelligence. There is no need to share palliatives because there is no war situation in Imo State or Nigeria.

“Use the money used for buying the palliatives to subside petrol, and the economy will stabilize” he said.

However, the Imo State government, insists that part of plans to reduce hardship on the people is to share palliatives and a Marketing and Commodity Board, to be constituted to checkmate the prices of food items.

While the Board is yet to be constituted,the State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodimma, has flagged off the distribution of palliatives in the state, reminding the citizens that the items for distribution are meant for all Imo citizens regardless of their political affiliation.

“You recall the incident of the policy of the removal of fuel subsidies and the temporary hardship that followed.

“That policy was one of the most cogent policies that this government has taken to be able to save our economy from collapse.The policy we observed came with some initial challenges, which included a high cost of living and poverty in the land.

“The federal government deliberately brought out measures that will cushion the effects of those negative impacts occasioned by the policy.

“The federal government, working with state governments, has lined up a lot of measures and actions. The federal government has recently supported all the states with what they called fiscal support. I can confirm that Imo State has received her own.” Uzodimma stated.

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