Being in the market around 5am, agonizing over the hike of prices on consumable goods and transport fare, facing harassment from security officers, low patronage from consumers and other plights are some of survival impediments the Uyo market women face, even while adhering to government orders and regulations in curbing the spread of the coronavirus in Akwa lbom State.
Market women voiced their stories on how they are battling with survival both during the Covid-19 lockdown and its relaxation, especially as they are being directed to sell three days in a week. Their stories obviously show how the most endangered species are coping in the unprecedented tides.
Grace Wilson may have had her rough times, while joining other traders to early markets and retiring usually late on a daily basis.
“During the lockdown, it was a hard time to cope because l rarely had a good sleep at night because I always left the market very late just as I would rise so early to meet up the morning market by 5am.
“If you were in the market that early, you would purchase the best of consumable products; but if you were a bit late, the situation was tagged bad omen because by then, market women must have purchased almost the best food items”, she said.
According to her, the hike in prices of food stuff during the lockdown was affecting the Uyo market women negatively. Unfortunately, the prices have not come down after the lockdown. She added, “It is indeed a tough time but we thrive for survival daily.”
Another market vendor in her early forties bemoaned how her gain was reduced drastically to a thousand naira, compared to the gain she made prior the lockdown period.
“I try so hard to convince my buyers to understand the reality on ground; but unfortunately, most of them turn deaf ears and in the process of selling the goods to meet up their thirst, l lose a lot of gain.”
Eno- obong also laid her plight of how her consumable products normally sold at N32,000 was increased to N40,000. The experience becomes worrisome, especially on how she would cope with her business and also fend for her family members.
Addressing the issue of security harassment on market women during the lockdown, Mrs Ogunte narrated the ordeal of market women who were sent out of the Anua market to a location that was so uncomfortable for the traders.
“l was so bothered because the location that the security personnel sent us to was so crowded and some of our products were affected by the rain. They didn’t care how uncomfortable we were, their only job was to obey the directives from the state government.
“Being relocated to such a building also raised concern that some of us could likely suffer the risk of infection with the COVID- 19 because social distancing was not observed and most of us lost our customers due to the hidden location.”
Now that market is opening three times weekly, together with the existence of interstate travel ban, as well as the ban on livestock sales, some market women are very disturbed.
One of them fondly called Eka Uduak lamented on the scarcity of goods in the market. She disclosed that after usually purchasing about four bags of kpomo prior to the lockdown, she could only get a parcel due to interstate travel ban and the high demand of the products.
Another market vendor said, “The new order from the state governor, directing the opening of market to be three days in a week is really affecting my market. Selling goods everyday made me save a good sum of money. But this has changed since the new law was put in place.”
The women equally complained about the curfew. They pointed out that most of their customers purchase goods after they’re back from work in the evening . They lamented that harassment by security agents get them off the hook and shatters their expectations at the moment.
Mrs Okon who sells meat observed that she is highly frustrated. In her words, “l don’t really know what to do now that the Governor has banned livestock in the market. Changing to another line of business is a bit hard because l will know nothing regarding such market.”
Voice Your Stories team observed that Uyo market women are among the most vulnerable citizens to be infected with the Coronovirus because of their exposure to so many people in the market. With low preventive measures like lack of social distancing, low usage of their nose masks and not applying their alcohol based sanitizers where necessary, there is a rising concern. Some of them don’t even believe there is any disease called COVID-19. Even if some do acknowledge it, they all believe in God to protect them from such disease so they are reluctant to observe precautionary measures.
By Mercy Obot