A cross-section of Port Harcourt residents have appealed to the Rivers State governor, Barr. Nyesom Ezenwo Wike to consider strategies for re-opening of markets in order to alleviate the sufferings of the people, most especially traders who have been affected for some months following the prevalence of coronavirus pandemic across the country, including Rivers State.
In a survey conducted by National Network recently, it was revealed that the worst hit by the inevitable closure of markets in the state are traders, mainly the market women who depended sole on displaying their commodity items in an open market to consumers.
Baring her mind on the effects of what some of the affected persons described as prolonged market closure due to COVID-19, Esther Adolphus, a trader at Oil Mill Market, disclosed her displeasure over government's subsisting order on the closure of markets. According to her, Rivers State appeared to have taken the war on COVID-19 too far by embarking on decision which over a period of time has affected a large number of market traders who are currently going through a lot of hardship.
Esther drew comparism between Rivers State and neighbouring state, concluding that, “if you move from here to Imo, Abia, Anambra and many others they do their normal things without market closure, but Rivers State is different. Since February, I did not go to the market to sell.
A resident of Port Harcourt, Okey Junior, on his part criticized government continued delay in relaxing closure of markets order and said that since the relaxation of inter-state movement, he had been moving from one state to the other because of the nature of his business.
He cited an occasion where he attended a burial in Imo State and noted that everything there was okay. He said that after fumigating many public places in Port Harcourt he had expected that the re-opening of major markets was imminent, but was surprised that up till now “Our markets have remained under lock and keys.”
He went further to say that election campaign that took place in Edo State few days ago went without an obvious social distancing among the crowd who attended the rally and yet government preferred to close markets.
He highlighted further that, the governor would have considered re-opening of open markets following the recent fumigation exercise which many people had applauded. He advised the government to consider women especially who most times are the ones bearing the burden of family challenges.
Sunny Tonte, a resident of Borokiri advised the governor to reopen market so that commercial activities can return fully to the state. “people are suffering, let the government have mercy on the people, he lamented saying the trend would continue to push many to the poverty line without corresponding economic package to help people cope with the problem of hunger.
According to another resident, Martins Ige, if government continues to leave the market closed, that would give more access to some traders to continue to increase the prices of their commodity items. He stated that, as a result of little or no competition, a custard bowl of garri now sells for N1,000 on his street market, as against N400 it used to be before the outbreak of coronavirus.
“I want the government to please open the market because what is happening in Rivers is not the same in Abia and few other states I know.
Uduak Amadi a housewife living at Rumuokoro stated that the market situation in the state is an indication that women as a group has been shortchanged. She noted that politicians used women to gather crowd during their political campaign and now that they needed help they were being abandoned to suffer. She said further: “they open the roads and the airports for businesses to continue, why is it difficult to open market for the people”?
Madam Uduak called on the government to rather focus on ensuring sanity whenever the markets are open.
“Let everyone who understands the reality of coronavirus be prepared to observe protocols by wearing facemasks before going into the market,” she said adding that if this can be done the situation can be brought under control.
Similarly, David Agi, an architect and resident of Port Harcourt enumerated how the COVID -19 had taken its toll on people's social and economic life. “Things are rough for many who could not pay their rent because of their inability to enter the markets to sell their products and commodities.
“Many damages have also been done to those selling perishable items, such as provisions and things like that some traders were known to have died of hardship, not even the COVID-19 we are running away from”.