By Kasarachi Azuka, Asaba
Ogbogonogo Market is a daily market but from April 1, 2020, lockdown order by state government led to closure of all markets in the state while government made temporary arrangements at public school premises, for trading activities, to enable residents purchase foodstuffs. Government said the move was to help public observe COVID-19 protocols.
After a month of total lockdown, government gradually began to relax the lockdown order. Within this period, it allowed all markets to operate three times a week and this was called partial lockdown.
All the markets observed the partial lockdown. After a few weeks, most markets in the state resumed for daily trading activities and they were not stopped by govt. Ogbogonogo Market still under partial lockdown with the traders groaning. This sparked off massive outcry last week and that led to state government’s order approving normal trading activities in all the markets across the state.
Traders in Delta State, especially those at the popular Ogbogongo in Asaba, the state capital, have spoken of their hardship and how they saved their businesses during the protracted lockdown. This is as they have commended the state governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, for harkening to their cries and opened Ogbogonogo which was locked down when others were opened.
The action of Gov Okowa, approving resumption of normal trading activities in all markets across the state, has also endeared him to the traders, especially those in popular Ogbogonogo market located along Nnebisi Road, Asaba, that they now address him as father.
Their joy know no bound as they now join their counterparts across the state to trade daily rather than just three times a week that they had been forced to, since the gradual relaxing of the lockdown against Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the state.
Their situation appeared so pitiable that some other residents of the state joined in calling on the governor to look towards their direction. No one could understand why traders in a particular market should be restricted to trading on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays because of COVID-19 whereas markets like Abraka market (now Okoh Market), Okwe market, amongst others, had progressed from that level to trading daily.
Investigations revealed that the about N40,000 paid per space by each trader that stays under umbrella around the market to the market authorities may have contributed largely to the gang up against the traders inside the market. Outside the market and it’s premises, one is free to trade daily as long as you were able to pay for space, said a source. But inside, it was just three times a week, the source added. But the Oshimili South Local Government authorities in the market has said only N100 daily for environmental sanitation and market upkeep was being charged. Any other money is N5,000 per year for those interested in yearly arrangement of space but that has been suspended since COVID-19 lockdown, said Ajufoh Christopher, Oshimili South LG, Ogbogonogo market chairman. We even intervene on behalf of the traders, he added.
With most Deltans passionately appealing to the governor even via the traditional and social media, the governor immediately ordered the resumption of normal trading activities in all markets across the state. The order was contained in the statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Chiedu Ebie, Wednesday, August 12.
Reacting to the development, Alibor Tina, who runs a provision store in the market, told newsmen: Yes, I’m thanking God for the state government’s announcement approving daily markets in Delta State.
At least, now in a day, even if it is N500 sales we are able to make in terms of sales, we would not be able to exhaust it. We will still have ‘carry over’ to the next day. Unlike when we were selling for only three days a week, we came and sell in the market and then, we went home and spend two days at home and all the money gone.
The lockdown, both partial and total were aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 in the state but
Alibor has this to say: “Yes, but when we considered what was happening outside and found out that we in the shops were doing it better than the way they allow markets to trade in open places and people were crowding and squeezing themselves. Then, the social distancing was not observed. The aim of closing the market was defeated.
I give my customers sanitizers and they sanitize their hands before they came into the shop. Infact, if there was anything like COVID-19, it (the open markets) aided the spread of the virus. There was no check in the open places at all. But now, we thank God the market is opened to daily trading, so we can still resume our normal businesses.
Huge loss occasioned by lockdown and partial lockdown:
“I lost so much. For instance, this my little place (shop), in a week, I could count like N50,000 worth of sales. In a month I could have atleast N200,000.
That is, if I come to market everyday. Then, spending may not be much. At least, if I buy a bucket of garri, we could consume it within two days in the family. And I come back as market opens after a day. You know, as we were in the house, we were consuming more without savings.
So, when you come to the items in stock, the three times a week trading really made our stocks to go down because we were just consuming and nothing was coming in. It reduced the capital seriously. When trading everyday, assuming I just saved N10,000 now, I can rush to Onitsha and pick something (product) and come back but that wasn’t the case when we were trading thrice a week.
Amaka Ucheonye, another trader who runs a foodstuffs shop, exclaimed, “Let the daily market continue. I really lost much during both the total and partial lockdown. My salad stuffs like Hens, Bama, oil, maggi, tomatoes, expired and I had to throw them away.
I didn’t go to the open market designated at schools premises by government that time during the total lockdown because the stress was much and means of getting there was a huge cost.
All my products were in the shop and you cannot consume them because they (market authorities) won’t allow you entry. You can only enter when you pay between N500 and N1,000. So, we were really affected.
Before lockdown, my sales were like N40,000 to N50,000 monthly with just N5,000 gain. We keep borrowing money to stay in business. There’s no job and I can’t stay at home.
Uche Okpala, running a Cosmetics Shop, said they’ve been praying for.the market to return to daily trading, adding that the governor’s approval was a step in the right direction.
“Coming three times a week was a setback to us because we lost some customers and some of our products got expired. Some of our customers were afraid to come to market to buy from.us. They preferred going online to buy products, which was not too good for us. So, we want them to know that market has resumed fully, they should be sensitized to that effect. They should come wearing their facemasks and we pray government to help us sensitize them”, he said.
“Daily, I could make between N15,000 to N30,000 sales. In a week about N100,000 but with COVID-19 market has not been stable as I made like N5,000 daily. Because of this, I did not border to stock my shop with new goods. With daily market, I can now stock with confidence.
We appreciate the Governor for acting like a father”.
Rose Okolie, palm oil seller, adding her voice, “Lockdown made us eat our market money and now go a borrowing. This year is only about spending, no savings. I’m happy I can begin to save now.”, She disclosed.
Vivian Okonkwo Salad Stuffs seller who has been in the market for six years, said this year has been the worst for her since she began trading in the market. “I’ve enjoyed my business except this year, because of COVID-19. You trade today and eat the money tomorrow. No savings. Our customers left us and began to go to Onitsha to buy what they needed. I buy a bag of fruits and sell half, throw away half. Even if I buy small quantity, I still had remaining portions to throw away, she lamented.
She recalled how she used to save money via Daily Pay. “Before the lockdown, I used to save up to N50,000 and withdrew same at the end of the month for my business. Due to the partial lockdown, I’ve not been able to save a dime, instead I continue to borrow to support my business”.
Monday, Wednesday, Saturday… All that is reversed and we thank God for his intervention. Our Governor has acted like a father. We thought he was aware we were not trading daily while traders in other markets were trading daily. But this action he took following massive outcry has proved to us that he was not aware, she said.