Traders, buyers disobey social distancing directive
Okafor Ofiebor/ Port-Harcourt
Major Markets in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State Capital witnessed an unprecedented surge of anxious traders and buyers as residents of the oil city engaged in panic buying in the window allowed for Easter shopping by Governor Nyesom Wike amidst the COVID-19 lockdown.
The Governor had in a broadcast on Monday said residents of Port Harcourt will be allowed to do Easter shopping from 7a.m to 12 today, Tuesday April 7 and Wednesday April 8 .
Our Correspondent who monitored some markets, however, discovered that contrary to expectations, prices of foodstuffs in the market have dropped compared to when the lockdown was initially declared.
For example, at the Rumuokoro Roundabout Market, a custard bucket of tomatoes that was initially being sold between N2,500 and N3,000 was sold between N1,000 and N1,200 today.
There were similar reductions in the price of Irish potatoes, fresh pepper, beans etc went down.
At the Creek Road ,Choba and Rumuokoro markets, traders displayed their wares even on the main road making almost impossible for motorists to meander through.
It was also observed that in all the markets, anxious traders and buyers didn’t observe the social distancing directive as they rushed to make purchases to beat the 12 noon deadline ordered by Governor Wike.
However, various traders and women interviewed complained about the short duration allowed for transaction of businesses in a state where markets have been previously shutdown for more than one week.
A woman, popularly known in Rumuokoro Market as Mama Chidinma who deals on food items like garri, pepper, tomatoes, smoked fish etc said: “Our shops were locked since on Friday March 27, most of the foodstuffs went bad, even when people demanded for them, we couldn’t sell because of the task force that were impounding our goods”
However, Mrs Mula Akani, a mother of five, commended the Governor for his efforts to ensure that the Covid-19 does not spread in state with the lockdown, but she advised that there must be a very creative way to ensure that people have access to food by allocating few hours for shopping in specially designated areas like schools in an orderly manner manned by security agencies to observe social distancing.
Governor Wike had announced that all markets in the state shall operate between 7am and 12noon on April 7 and April 8, 2020 to allow residents shop for Easter and also replenish their stock of foodstuffs.
He declared that Oil Mill Market, Mbiama Market and Slaughter Market will remain closed till further notice.
He said: “All markets in the state except Oil Mill Market, Mbiama Market and Slaughter Market at Trans-Amadi shall be open on Tuesday April 7 and Wednesday, April 8, 2020 from 7am to 12noon. After those two days, the markets will remain closed. This is to enable residents shop for Easter and also replenish their stock of foodstuffs.