• Abuja residents living on a knife-edge as government policies worsen poverty

From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

Abuja residents are living on a knife-edge. Not the rich parliamentarians and other top civil servants enjoying a larger slice of the national cake, but the lower class literally living in dumpsters in various suburbs.

Just like millions of other Nigerians, these poor folks have been battered by a bouquet of harsh economic policies of the Tinubu administration, which are not accompanied with any palliatives. Practically, they do not know where the next meal will come from.

They do not know what lies ahead, especially as it is being hinted that petrol prices will rise soon in reaction to tumbling naira and other market forces. Just when they feel they have reached the lowest bottom of despair, another basement opens, making their woes unending.

Markets are scanty. Many businesses have packed up as they cannot restock amid reduced patronage. The few surviving ones are now on the final gasp of ruins.

On the flipside, crimes are on the rise. Many hitherto tranquil residential areas have come under attack by criminals.

The rate of robberies, carjacking, kidnappings and other crimes has also increased in Abuja due to the rising unemployment rate occasioned by businesses failing and employers reducing staff numbers as a result of the terrible economic situation.

Highways are now patrolled by criminals at night, with many motorists reportedly attacked as they try to troubleshoot their broken down vehicles.

Car owners using low-fuel consuming vehicles have had to fortify them with additional security measures to avoid being stolen. E-hailing drivers and carjackers slug it out everyday.

A visit to some of the city’s markets, especially Garki, Wuse and Utako, showed that these places are fast becoming a shadow of themselves. These previously bustling markets are dry and sparse, with vendors napping off in their stores owing to little or zero customer patronage.

Online sellers are also feeling the pain, as many bemoan the fact that the cost of shipping items has risen, deterring customers and adversely affecting sales.

Some have concluded that operating a successful business in the current state of the nation is no longer viable and have decided to give up on it in favour of finding alternative sources of income or concentrating on leaving the country.

Obianuju James, a thrift cloth vendor in Kubwa, was livid over the worrisome decline in sales, describing it as extremely frustrating: “Hell can’t find a better description as what currently plays out today in Nigeria, especially Abuja.

“Like it has never been worse than this. I invested over N40,000 on sponsorship and social media advertisements to reach more audiences and boost my sales but l sadly, I didn’t even generate enough revenue to cover the cost of the ads.

“In three months, I only went to the market once a month to restock. Normally, I did this twice weekly. I’ve had a pile of clothes for weeks without buyers. To even get my capital back, I had to lower the prices. Yet, it’s not working. People are not just having the money to buy clothes when they can’t feed.

“Many customers will chat you up when they see something they like but after showing interest, before you know it, you won’t hear from them anymore. Some will say the price is high, but then it’s not our fault. Prices have increased where we buy from and we also have to factor in the cost of transportation, which has also increased.  My colleagues are equally complaining.”

Mr Victor Joseph sells plastics and kitchen utensils in Garki Market: “As you can see the market is very scanty today. This is how it has been lately.

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“Those of us that sell non-food items are the most hit. Many consumers spend their meagre resources exclusively on necessities. Sometimes, when I go to the market, I stay all day long without making even a quarter of what I used to.”

Agatha Benedict, a flea clothes vendor at Lugbe village market: “On some days, I am only able to sell one dress. Other days, I make no sales at all. It’s even my online shop that helps me.

“Sometimes, I have to borrow transport fare to the shop. When my shop rent expires, which is soon, I’ve chosen not to renew it. I’ll concentrate solely on my Internet sales and job hunting.”

Gift Wada, a perfume vendor in Lokogoma, told Daily Sun: “Locations where it used to cost N1,500 to N2,000 to transport items now cost between N3,000 and N4,000. Recently, a customer in Kubwa wanted to purchase a N4,000 oil perfume but immediately rescinded her decision when I told her that the dispatch firm would charge her N3,000 to deliver the item to her home. ‘So, that’s N7,000?’ She screamed in shock but that’s the harsh reality.

“I lost that transaction. I mean, how can you buy something for N4,000 and transport it with N3,000? As it is now, I may have to shut down this business given the current situation.

“I started it as a side hustle to support my job and earn extra income. It was really helpful initially but right now, it is no longer profitable.

“Sometimes, I have to offer to pay half of the delivery fee for my customers in order to encourage them to buy and maintain relationships which greatly affects my profit and even makes me lose out at times.”

Mrs Rose Ugwu sells variety of drinks at Lugbe Market, said crime rates are on the rise, especially in market locations: “Just last week, a man walked into my shop and introduced himself as Pastor Isaac.

“He claimed to have just left a nearby church where a programme was being held. Then he asked for four cartons of malt beverages, saying he had to rush back to the church since they were running out of drinks.

“The man, who was nicely dressed in a suit, claimed that the person who was supposed to pay for the drinks had left to take care of some matters and that they would return to pay me by 1pm when the event would be completed.

“I requested a transfer, but he argued that all they had was cash, which the supposed colleague was in possession of. I phoned my husband to let him know. He told me to collect their contact information and give them permission to take the drinks.

“When it was 1 o’clock and they still hadn’t arrived, I kept calling the number they gave me, but the man would pick the call and not say anything. I called several times and the same thing kept happening.

“When I visited the church they mentioned, the folks I spoke with there informed me that there was no programme that morning. I lost almost that money.

“When I raised an alarm, my neighbours in the market were shocked to learn that almost every merchant on my line had had similar experiences. While they were inside the store attending to a customer, some of them had their products stolen.

“In the market, it has become commonplace. Criminals roam the area looking for sellers they can rob. But I’ve learned from my mistakes. I’m more cautious now.”

Daily Sun gathered from the police that the rate of burglary, robbery and other crimes were on the rise judging from a spike in the number of complaints.

While assuring the public to be more security conscious, the police source who, did not want to be named, as he was not officially authorised to speak, said the criminals were being dealt with decisively, urging the public to lodge incidents at the nearest police station.