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Farmers, traders suffer as Army shut down market in Gaidam

For over a century, Gaidam market, in Yobe state, has appealed to and attracted huge range of customers that transact businesses, under hundreds stalls, weekly.…

For over a century, Gaidam market, in Yobe state, has appealed to and attracted huge range of customers that transact businesses, under hundreds stalls, weekly.

In the recent push by the Nigerian Army to defeat the remnant of Boko Haram insurgents in the area, the market was shut down 14 weeks ago, which crippled the residents’ sources of livelihood.

The market, known for sale of farm produce, livestock and other items, is run by residents that supply the commodities directly from their local farms is facing serious threat.

The latest action, according to farmers, traders, transporters, revenue collectors and other market dependants, has made thousands of residents unemployed, forcing vulnerable youths into stealing and other forms of crimes.

An onion farmer, Mala Masa Gaidam, said the market closure was a disaster to farmers of perishable farm produce like onion, tomatoes, pepper and water melon.

He said they have cultivated onion and pepper in vast hectares of land thinking it was business as usual but the market was shut at the peak of the harvest season.

“Our buyers are people coming mostly come Lagos, Ibadan, Port Harcourt and other parts of south and northern Nigeria. Some come from Niger, Chad and Cameroon but they have all stopped coming.

“We helplessly watch our hard earned crops perishing after 99 days now without any hope of re-opening the market. Many of us that have invested between N1million and N2 millions will soon lose everything.

He complained that, at times, they are forced to transport the onion to a far distance place and sell it at a give-away price before it turns rotten.

“Our soil is such that no other seed sprouts other than onions. Cereals and other food crops hardly germinate in the soil. If not we will have abandoned the onion for food crops farming,’’ he said.

Our correspondent, who visited the area observed that a temporary onion market had sprung up with few buyers around taking advantage of the helpless farmers.

Another farmer, Lawan Kachalla, said that only few buyers come to buy.

“Most times, we have to transport them back home unsold, remove the decayed ones, put the good ones in a new sack and transport them back again without any guarantee that they would be sold,” he decried.

He explained that last year around this time, a bag of onions was sold at N7000 as against now that it is being sold at only N3500 or less.

An onion buyer from Maiduguri, at one of the temporary markets along Gaidam Bayemari road, Zannah Ibrahim, said it has always been difficult transacting business outside Gaidam market due to the risk involved and lack of access to food and water.

“Most of these places are prone to attacks, that is why we only spend few hours here and leave. We are suffering but, it’s pity how these farmers harvest their onion and transport it to these places without potential buyers. Government should look into their plight,” he appealed.

Musa Bappa Gaidam, an official of Transport Employers Association of Nigeria, Gaidam chapter, said the state was losing huge revenue as a result of the market closure.

He said that every Tuesday, when the market was functioning, over 500 trailers were being loaded out of Gaidam with onions and livestock to other parts of the country but the figure has reduced to less than 50 now.

“We have four receipt and waybill collectors here, and each of them,  including myself, usually issued not less than a bunch of 100 pieces of receipts, and at N1000 each. Imagine what the truck owners and the traders will make,” he added.

He said the chain of people benefiting from the market that have been laid off are numerous and urged the government to consider re-opening the market especially now that fasting is around the corner.

“Ramadan fast is approaching and we have no food to feed ourselves and the children. The authority concerned should please look into our plight and open the market for us,” he said.

Public Relation Officer of Chamber of Commerce, Gaidam unit, Idris Alhaji Bappa, said the market has been the major employment opportunity to over 3000 people in the town, despite traders that visit the market from other parts of the country as well as Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic.

He said market closure had disrupted vegetables business that sustained over 50,000 people ranging from farmers, labourers, buyers, sellers and transporters.

“Only five per cent of Gaidam’s population are civil servants and the remaining 85 percent largely depend on the market for their livelihood.  We have over 10,000 hawkers who sell food and drinks that by estimation make N1000 weekly, which runs into over N10 million lost…”

“We also have 1, 785 registered tricycle operators in Gaidam, and each of them make an average N5,000 from the market every Tuesday, which is about N8.92 million per annum. If you compare it with the loss that incurred within the 14 weeks of the market closure, a lot personal income has been wasted, and the revenue derived of the state and federal government record a serious setback,” he added.

He noted that majority of people in the businesses are able youths that refused to allow themselves to be deceived by Boko Haram terrorists.

“We have over the years seen a lot of changes in Gaidam. Youths have changed to be more productive than ever, what they need is encouragement from government to take charge of their lives.

“There is no attack coming that people from the villages would not inform security about the insurgents’ movement. We wish that it would be reciprocated with giving back to us our only source of livelihood,” he added.

A Senior Security Officer told our correspondent that they were forced to shut down the market because the insurgents were taking  that advantage to infiltrate the town for attacks and access to food and information.

 

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