Hoarding: Kano warehouse owners, traders worsen economic hardship

It took a swift response by operatives of the Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission (PCACC) to burst 10 warehouse owners identified to be hoarding essential commodities and foodstuff in Kano. The operation, which came at the same time traders and residents of the ancient city were literally up in arms against the dire economic challenges that were unleashing unbearable hunger and starvation, is seen by many as a sad tale of self-inflicted hardship and hypocrisy.

The past few days have been tension-soaked, particularly in Kano, in the Northwest. Residents of the ancient city have been literally up in arms, challenging the worsening economic hardship in the country, which, according to them, made them and, indeed, most Nigerians, unable to fend for their families due to the skyrocketing cost of food commodities and other essentials.

Even business operators in Kano took the frustration and anger a little further when, a few days ago, they threatened to close down markets in the metropolis. For instance, the Singer Market Traders’ Association, one of the largest sections of the Kano business hub, threatened to shut down the entire section of the market.

The market union, The Nation learnt, has been lamenting undue pressure on its members from the government and the public over the unstable and hyper-cost of food items and provisions, saying they prefer to keep their goods in stores.

However, it took the Chairman of the Kano Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission (PCACC), Muhuyi Magaji Rimin-Gado to calm the traders down.

Rimin-Gado was said to have reminded the aggrieved traders that the business community has no authority to needlessly embark on actions that could exacerbate hunger and frustration in the state. He advised the traders and dealers of essential commodities to make their goods available to the market for people to buy at stable prices.

But as it turned out, the Kano traders and dealers were not the only ones that needed to be pacified. Their frustrations and lamentations struck a chord with a more critical stakeholder-the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Aminu Ado Bayero.

The highly revered royal father lent his voice to the growing outcry over the prevailing food crisis. He specifically requested that the First Lady, Mrs. Oluremi Tinubu, communicate to the President, the dire economic challenges facing Nigerians.

That was when the President’s wife paid him a courtesy visit to his palace in Kano. The monarch seized the opportunity of the visit to express his desire for the First Lady to personally convey his message from the palace to the President -her husband.

“Although we have several means of communicating to the government on our needs and requests, your way and means is the surest way to tell the President the actual happenings in the country,” the Emir of Kano said.

Mrs. Tinubu was in Kano to commission a multi-purpose hall named after her at the Faculty of Law, Maryam Abacha American University Kano campus.

Reporters gathered that the Emir’s message to Tinubu was a re-echo of Governor Abba Kabir Yusuf’s plea for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene and alleviate the suffering of less privileged Nigerians who are the most hit by food insecurity. Governor Yusuf, who noted that the masses were starving, said he would personally and officially ask the president to roll out programmes that would address hunger in Kano state.

He spoke during a meeting with members of the business community in the state at Africa House, Kano.

“I will personally go and ask President Tinubu to intervene and check the prevailing hunger situation in Kano State, to save our people from starvation. The situation has become so serious that the Federal Government must wade in to get the people out of the predicament.

“We know that other parts of the country are experiencing the same thing, but we will make a case for Kano State, being our constituency,” Governor Kabir Yusuf told Kano traders who were threatening to protest by shutting down their shops.

However, in a sad turn of events, 10 Kano warehouse owners identified as hoarders of food commodities while residents of the ancient city were starving and lamenting their frustration over food scarcity amid rising prices, were busted and sealed by the Kano Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Commission (PCACC).

Operatives of the Commission were said to have stormed the Dawaunu International Grain Market, Kantin Kwari Textile Market and Singer Grocery Market, sealing 10 warehouses identified to be hoarding essential commodities and foodstuff in the face of food scarcity troubling Nigerians.

The goods confiscated in the sealed warehouses are worth hundreds of millions of Naira, it was learnt. The operation was as a result of intelligence gathering by a special committee set up by the Commission to identify warehouses where foodstuff and essential commodities were being hoarded to be sold at exorbitant prices to the public.

However, no arrest was made during the operation as owners of the affected warehouses reportedly went into hiding upon hearing that agents of the Commission were coming to raid their stores.

However, while briefing newsmen in Kano, Muhuyi vowed that the owners of the warehouses would be identified and sanctioned according to appropriate laws. According to him, already, the offenders have already been invited to the anti-graft commission to face charges before the court for their illegal roles that are having negative impacts on the masses.

His words: “As you can see, the Kano State PCACC has made true its promise that we are going to embark on a fight against hoarding of essential commodities in the state.

“We started last Thursday and we have made a significant impact towards stopping the instant rise in the price of essential commodities. It was such that within a week, rice had jumped from N52,000 to N61,000. From what we have done so far, we are certain that there is an impact. From here we are going to the market to ascertain the situation.

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“Firstly, we were able to stop the instant increase in prices of the commodities and secondly we have the belief that if we sustain the tempo, we will be able to bring down the prices from where they have gotten to. As you can see now, we are going around the warehouses and we met a lot of issues which after we go back to the office we are going to digest.”

Muhuyi said one fundamental problem was that in each store the Commission’s operatives entered, they claimed to be the World Food Programme Store.

“We wonder if the world food programme will starve the country while taking the food somewhere else,” he said, adding, “You can see, I was told that the price of maize has jumped from N30,000 to N60,000. So, you see, it’s a 100 per cent increase. This is unacceptable.”

Continuing, the Kano PCACC boss said: “You can see these stores; there are hundreds of millions of Naira worth of hoarded commodities. We are taking over the stores now and we are going to make some arrests because this will not be tolerated. This is not a market, but a warehouse. We have activated our intelligence mechanism and have come up with reports on where and how they are hoarding it.”

We’ve reduced food prices -Kano traders

However, some traders at the Kano essential commodities market, popularly known as the Singer Market, on Monday, announced their resolve to reduce the prices of food commodities.

“The spaghetti that we sold at N11,500 or N11,700 in the market is now sold for N12,800 in companies. Sugar in the company is sold N72, 000, but we sold it for N70,000. Rice is sold at N65, 700 now, but we sold it at 57,000 to 60, 000,” one of the market leaders stated penultimate Monday.

The Chairman of the marketers, Ibrahim Danyaro, told reporters about the price reduction shortly after a meeting with the Chairman of the Kano State Public Compliant and Anti-Corruption Commission (PCACC), Muhuyi Magaji Rimin-Gado.

Danyaro said they currently sell food commodities at prices less than company prices. He also vowed to weed out those hoarding foodstuff in Kano markets.

The decision by the traders followed the public outcry over the soaring prices of essential commodities and the high cost of living in the country.

The market leader also vowed to assist the Commission to fish out bad eggs among those who are hoarding goods and arbitrarily increasing their prices.

He said they were at the Commission to disassociate themselves from those hoarding food commodities to sell in upcoming months at exorbitant rates.

“We have come forward to the Commission with our evidence and the Commission is convinced that we are not involved in hoarding.

“The rising price of commodities, which is recorded in the market, was not arbitrarily done by our members. This development is brought about by the companies. And we suggested measures to address the situation at hand.

“One of them is for the commission to hold similar meetings with the manufacturers of these commodities to find out the reasons for the inflation of prices.

“We have expressed our resolve to cooperate with the Commission to bring down prices of commodities to bring succour to the people. However, this, we can only do with the stocks we have at hand now. The prices we sold our stock in the market is not up to the current company prices,” Danyaro said.

Hamisu Rabi’u, another leader of the traders, assured the residents of maintaining the old prices of the stocks at hand against the high prices being experienced at various markets across the state.

“We will ensure that our stock at hand won’t go beyond the company prices for the sake of our people. We agree to run at a loss than to throw our people into difficulties,” he promised.

The Chairman of the anti-graft agency, Muhuyi Rimingado commended the traders for their readiness to contribute by reducing the prices of their commodities.

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