Fishmongers in Ogun State and other parts of South West are battling to stay in the business due to ceaseless hike in the prices of fishes, Daily Trust correspondent in Abeokuta reports.
It all started with fish sellers at Oojo market in Ibadan, Oyo State, and it is fast spreading across south-western states. Fishmongers abandoned their trades and stormed the streets over the soaring prices of frozen fishes, which they said are pushing the businesses to the brink.
According to WorldFish, fish is an important part of the household diet in Nigeria, accounting for around 40 per cent of the country’s protein intake, with fish consumption at 13.3 kg/person/per year.
The species eaten in Nigeria include crayfish, sardines (freshwater and saltwater), bonga and mackerel, as well as cultured fish, such as tilapia, carp and catfish.
Being a daily need, those who engage in the business of fish, most especially the retailers, smile to the banks every hour. However, their trade is battling to stay afloat.
Fish sellers at Ojoo market in Ibadan on October 26 abandoned their trade and took the street, lamenting that they now struggle to stock up their goods for sale due to the continuous inflation in the market.
A market woman who spoke in Yoruba said: “A carton of a sick fish (Eja Alaran) before was N30,000 and we were okay with it but now the price is N80,000, a carton of Herring fish (Shawa) was N8,000, we endured it for N20,000, now it is N35,000.
“European hake fish (Panla) is now N26,000, and a carton of Horse Mackerel (Kote) N40,000… It is too expensive.”
On November 2, the protest hit Sagamu in Ogun State. Like their Ibadan counterparts, Sagamu traders expressed frustration that the skyrocketing prices have adversely affected their business.
The traders, carrying placards and singing solidarity songs, marched through Makun market and later stormed the palace of the Akarigbo and paramount ruler of Remoland, Oba Babatunde Ajayi, to register their displeasure.
to the fish sellers from various markets in Sagamu, the skyrocketing prices of fish have affected their business as customers blame them for the arbitrary increase.
They demanded immediate action to alleviate the economic hardship in Sagamu and other parts of the state.
One of the protesters said: “The way they are increasing prices of fish is too much… What is happening?
“This is Sagamu right now. Titus is now N2,000 while Sawa is N1,000. Is that not too much?”
A resident told Daily Trust that, “A fish of N1,200 last week suddenly became N1,800 this week.”
A cold room business operator, Deji Soyemi, explained that the peaceful protest was meant to keep the customers and residents abreast of the ceaseless hike of price of fish.
“They embarked on the protest due to the high cost of fish. The customers felt the retailers were just increasing the price at will. The outcry started in Ibadan when people started to question the ceaseless increase in fish price.
“We buy fish from Lagos. You can buy a carton of fish for N10, 000 today and the next day, the price will jump to N15,000. The price of fish now increases within two to three days.
“So, the fish sellers believed that with the rally, the customers will be aware of their plights in order for them to know that the retailers are not the ones increasing the price of fish arbitrarily,” Soyemi said.
He added that the fish sellers have demanded suspension of fish sale by the cold rooms in Sagamu between Wednesday and Thursday as part of the protest.
“They have also mandated all the cold rooms not to sell fish to anyone for today and tomorrow. So, we have to abide by their demands,” he said.
And after Sagamu, it was Abeokuta’s turn last Wednesday. Hundreds of fish sellers in the state capital stormed the governor’s office at Oke-Mosan, saying prices of fish have increased 100 per cent.
The protesters, under the aegis of the Fish and Seafood Sellers’ Association of Nigeria, were armed with placards with various inscriptions.
The protesters, however, met heavy resistance from the police and other security personnel who prevented them from gaining access into the premises of the governor’s office.
Angered by this, the fish sellers chanted anti-government songs to express their frustration over the development.
Speaking to journalists, the state chairman of the association, Owolabi Onajobi, lamented that the ceaseless hike in the prices of fish has forced many of his members out of business.
According to Onajobi, the skyrocketing prices of fish have adversely affected their business as customers blame them for the arbitrary increase.
He called on the government to immediately take action to alleviate the economic hardship caused by the increasing prices of the commodities.
“Many of us are shutting down our businesses because we cannot continue to run at a loss. For instance, a carton of Titus we were buying for N45,000 before is now N87,000. We cannot continue like that; this is why we have come to the governor to tell him our plight.
“The government should please look into this and save our business from imminent collapse. We are operating under huge debt, this hardship is too much”, Onajobi said.
Mrs Hadiat Om’owo, Head of Fish Sellers in Egba division, told newsmen that many fishmongers have abandoned their trade due to the soaring prices.
“We don’t want to turn into beggars and that is what brought us here (to protest). The high cost of fish is getting unbearable.
“I can tell you categorically that a number of fish sellers have abandoned the trade and are now searching for another means of survival due to the skyrocketing price of fishes.
“As their leader, they come to me every day seeking the way out. I had to inform them that we need to come and tell the governor our challenges to find a solution to it.
“The government should please address the challenges and make life more meaningful to the traders and Nigerians at large,” she said.
Addressing the protesters, the Commissioner for Women Affairs and Social Welfare, Adijat Adeleye, appealed to the traders to be more patient with the government, saying the hike in fish is not peculiar to Ogun State alone.
“To my understanding, I think this is not just happening in Ogun State; fish sellers from other states are also complaining about the increase in price.
“The issue of fish is not just about Ogun State; it is something that cuts across the nation. There has to be a holistic approach to the problem,” the commissioner said.
Speaking with Daily Trust, an economist, Dr Gbenga Adeoye, blamed the rising cost of frozen fishes on the cost of importation, exchange rates, increased interest rates, transportation and poor electricity.
“The owners of cold rooms buy fishes that are imported and they cannot sell below their cost price. Imported items in the last few months are based on exchange rates. In the past, you had them buying at the exchange rate of N400 or N500. So, we are now buying dollars at the rate of N1,400…,” Adeoye said.
On the way forward, Adeoye said, “Government needs to address the exchange rate. Floating of the naira has not yielded the desired result. How best can we improve our power generation? Since 1999, we are still talking about power generation. If you don’t have power, there is no way you can reduce the cost (of fishes).
“Alternative transportation systems also need to be in place. We should have rail that can take off from the port and appear in every state of the federation.
“So, the government has the responsibility of power, alternative transportation system, and addressing the exchange rate. Everything lies with the government, but more importantly, we can encourage large-scale fish farming.”