… Motor parks close as drivers lament poor patronage
As the enforcement of market closure directive in Anambra State continues, the popular Eke Awka Market in the state’s capital has remained congested, even while adhering to the government’s directive that only food item sellers should remain open.
This was observed when National Light visited the ever-busy Awka Central Market to examine the level of compliance by the traders.
Arriving there, it was observed that there was still a large crowd at the market, as people were seen selling and buying food stuffs in clusters, while some of the opened shops had tapped buckets with runny water and soaps at their entrances.
It was also observed that the buying and selling were exclusively done outside the main market, as some of the major routes leading into the various market lines were locked, thereby denying people access thereto. All shops where non food items are sold were also locked, in compliance to the directive.
Speaking, the Chairman of the market, Ozo Emeka Jude Agumadu said the market leadership had done well in enforcing the directive in the market and in ensuring that traders fully comply and adhere to it on daily basis.
Responding to the question of why some fish sellers whose shops are located in the fish line inside the main market were not allowed to sell in their shops, and why the line was locked; Chief Agumadu said the aim was to ensure full control and total compliance, owing to the fact that some other goods other than fish and food items are also sold in some of those lines.
This, he said, implies that opening those lines may have a chain of effects and produce a chain of actions, such as theft and pilferage, and even lead to other non food item sellers in those lines opening their shops, which would amount to noncompliance and disobedience to the government’s directive on markets closure.
Reacting to the directive and how it affects them, some of the market women, including Mrs. Obiageli Eze who sells rice and beans; and Mrs. Añulika Iloegbunam who sells food condiments, said the period favoured them immensely, as they have begun to record high sales, such that had not been witnessed even in the festive periods.
On why they increased the prices of various items they sell, the women confessed that they were doing so because it would be very difficult and almost impossible for them to buy those goods again once they finish selling the ones they have, which also means that they and their families would remain indoors and hungry until everything subsides.
And when that would end, they said, still remains unknown to them, thereby compelling them to enjoy the full economic advantage of the ones they have in stock now, in order to survive the period themselves.
On her own part, one of the women who came to buy food stuffs, Mrs. Chinenye Izuka who is also a private school teacher decried the incessant increase in prices of items, especially those items that can be produced within the state, describing that as act of wickedness, man’s inhumanity to man, and taking advantage of evil.
Confessing that many people are no longer working or earning money now due to the ‘stay at home’ directive; Mrs. Izuka who held her bottle of hand sanitizer handy called on government to wade in and stop the unnecessary increment in prices of items, so as to assuage the effects of the time on the people, as such things can increase hunger and crime in the society if not addressed.
Touring round the market, National Light sighted an opened shop where bakery items, zobo leaves, and other things that are apparently not food items, such as calabash, turning stick, scale, cake pots and cups are sold.
The shop owner, Sir Sunday Nwaka, who initially harassed our reporter for taking photograph shots of his shop, but later apologized remorsefully; said he opened the shop simply to make sales, arguing that, at least, some of the items in the shop are food related.
He however disclosed that he currently records low sales, compared to before, as most of his customers no longer come to market, probably due to hardship and fear of contracting Coronavirus.
Our reporter however, noted that more actions should be taken by the government and other relevant agencies or associations, to decongest the market, as people still throng and ‘romance’ one another in the course of buying and selling there, hence, exposing themselves to the risk of contracting the highly dreaded COVID-19.
Also,our reporter who monitored the level of compliance among transporters observed that motor parks where transporters engage in interstate transport were totally empty and not functional except for some drivers who were seen discussing, sleeping or receiving fresh air; while some other commercial drivers were lamenting the reduced number of passengers even as some are totally out of business .
One of the commercial drivers who operates in Onitsha South LGA Mass Transit, Victor Udeze, explained that,” normally, this company transports people to Lagos, Calabar and so on, but yesterday, the road was blocked in Asaba and we had to bring back the passengers back to Awka and refund them their money regardless of the amount of fuel we bought.
Those that travelled to Calabar on Saturday had to go through Umahia, which is longer compared to the normal route and the situation was so bad that the passengers had to contribute money to that effect.
My family stays in Enugu. I cannot return to them because as at this morning, Amansea is blocked, so I am here in this park until God knows when.”
Mr Chukwuebuka who is a driver for Anambra Landflight Company said the lockdown came late and at a shocking moment.
He said, ”I appreciate the fact that the government took the Coronavirus serious to the extent of locking down, but it came late. I cannot go back home. Awareness should have been done earlier.
Now, the price of foodstuffs has skyrocketed. I’ m stuck here and provisions should have been made for people whose source of income comes daily. The last time we transported passengers to Lagos was last week when students were returning back to their places.
CEO of First Anambra Comfort Line, Obiora Samuel Ezenapo, “ for now, we are just here receiving fresh air, we don’t have enough money here to sustain ourselves. The last time we made reasonable travels was last week Tuesday. We just hope this thing will come to an end soon.
GIG and ABC Transport Companies were empty and free of buses and non of their staff was available for comments.
Meanwhile drivers that operate within the state were also finding the situation challenging.
Mr Ughamandu, a driver of Star Sunny Transport Company said, “We now carry seven passengers rather than 12 passengers. We carry two persons per seat now instead of three persons. In fact, Road Safety Officers and policemen have been here twice today to make sure we comply to the direction of the authorities. Normally, it takes us nothing less than 30 minutes, now it’s taking us hours, but I understand why the government took that directive”.
Mr Frank of Ekwulobia Mass Transit was not happy about the situation. He said, “since 8am,I have been looking for passengers and now this is almost 12pm, no passenger. This is not funny. We used to carry 12 people before now but we carry only six, they no longer allow people to sit at front. We have no choice than to increase our price from N250 to N300 to Onitsha.