Fear of the unknown now rules traders and buyers in many parts of the country following the decision of the Federal Government to redesign the Naira, take more control of the amount of cash in circulation, and checkmate the hoarding of currency by nefarious persons.
However, as that lofty programme takes effect in the second week of December this year, some “money bags” and smart businessmen in the country’s Northern borders with other countries are said to be mopping up available livestock and food stuffs from major markets in the borders with other countries and warehousing the stock ostensibly to sell at higher prices once the new Nigerian currency hits the market.
The action of the money speculators, it was revealed, has already resulted in a significant increase in the prices of foodstuffs and livestock in the markets surveyed by an Arewa Voice correspondent. During a visit to the Mamman Suka Market at the Sokoto border with a northern African country, it was found that the development has caused serious hardship for rural dwellers, who can no longer afford to buy their staples and cater for their households. This has resulted in more pain, hunger, and desperation as many families are cash-strapped.”
Arewa Voice correspondent noticed a heavy buyout of cattle and other domestic animals from the Sokoto border market by merchants who invaded the market with long trucks and buses and virtually bought anything on sight. As a result of the mopping up, a two-week-old lamb that is normally sold for N4000, was bought off at N15,000, while a goat of the same age previously sold at for N4,000 was sold for N14,000.
Similarly, a can of vegetable oil was sold for up to N30,600, compared to its usual price of N22,000. The scramble to exchange cash for valuables at the moment, has significantly pushed up prices and also paved the way for merchants to return with similar goods and receive higher pay with the redesigned currency. But the negative effects have been telling on the average trader and buyer at the market, with many speaking out against the level of hardship thrown up by the action of the speculators.
Speaking with our correspondent about the rising prices of commodities in markets around the state, Malam Yahaya Illela blamed the Federal Government for waiting until now to effect the needed policy change on currency and inflicting avoidable pains on the ordinary Nigerian. Illela said: “Rich men in the cities who were in custody of old currency have taken over our markets, buying anything they can lay their hands on just to make more money, while unleashing more hardship on the local populace.
“Imagine the situation in which we now find ourselves: we cannot even buy a staple like beans. One can hardly find enough beans to buy from our local markets because of speculators who mop up every available quantity with long, big trucks. Others go to the farm to buy anything the farmer harvests. This is worrisome, but we are handicapped. It is so bad that a Mudu (measure) of beans, which we bought for N800 three weeks ago, is now being sold for almost N2000.
“Everything is now beyond the reach of the common man, and we can no longer provide three square meals for our families due to the skyrocketing prices of foodstuffs in our markets and the fact that the ‘moneybags’ are becoming so desperate to spend whatever amount is in their hands before the expiration of the time frame for the return of the old Naira notes for the new ones being redesigned by the CBN,” Illela lamented.
Also, Rabi Basharu, a 73-year-old housewife, described the situation in the local markets around the border as unbearable and uncontrollable. She said: “I am here with N1200 to buy two Mudus of corn to prepare for my four young children, but they say it is now N800 per measure. It is difficult for me to buy at that amount because it will not be enough for my children; but there is nothing that I can do about this. It is simply worrisome.
“I feel like crying because I have no money on me and in the house. Maybe they want us to die before our time comes. May God touch this government to take steps that will be beneficial to us, the ordinary people in this country, and reduce our suffering.
“As old as I am, I spent hours voting in the 2015 general election, hoping that when the government came, they would address some of the fundamental challenges that we face, but we were wrong. Life has been made more challenging for the ordinary citizens of this country. In my village, bandits took away all our animals and killed some young people who tried to block them. My husband was also killed during the invasion by the daredevils, leaving me with the four underage children. Feeding them is my major problem; sometimes I have to meet our village head for assistance,” Rabi lamented.
Reacting to the situation, the chairman of the Sokoto State Chambers of Commerce, Mines, and Agriculture, Alhaji Muazu Bello Magajin Rafi, described the proposed currency redesign as an afterthought, saying it was too late in the day for the policy to salvage the plight of the common man from currency speculators. He claimed that if not handled properly, the redesign had the potential to aggravate the plight of the common man, while also providing more opportunities for speculators to smile to their banks.
The redesigning of some denominations of the Naira notes by the apex bank will neither bring anything positive nor improve the lives of the people. At best, it will exacerbate the hardships that the vast majority of citizens are already facing, according to Dan Marake, a concerned citizen.