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COVID-19: Women lament hardships over market, border closures in Rivers State

Iruoma Douglas, Port Harcourt

Traders of major markets in Port Harcourt, Rivers State have lamented hardship following Governor Nyesom Wike’s directive that all markets be closed to curtail the spread of coronavirus already confirmed in the State.

Passengers and drivers are having tough times entering Rivers State through its borders following the lockdown directive by Governor Nyesom Wike.

Wike, in one of his numerous pronouncements to curtail the spread of the deadly virus, directed the closure of all borders leading to the state and set up a Task Force comprising all security outfits in the State to monitor compliance.

Governor Wike had last Thursday announced the closure of all markets in Rivers State from Saturday, March 28, 2020.

The Governor made the announcement after he confirmed the index positive case of Coronavirus in the state, declaring that the State Government has commenced contact tracing of all those she had contact with. 

He noted that “The positive case is a 19-year-old female model from Edo State who resides in Port Harcourt. Her travel history reveals that she travelled to France, Italy and Greece before returning to Port Harcourt on the 16thof March, 2020. On arrival to Port Harcourt, she was asymptomatic and commenced self-isolation in her family house before her samples were collected and sent to the Reference Laboratory, Irruan in Edo State.”

Meanwhile, reaction has trailed the sudden closure of the markets across the State.

Our Correspondent who went round to some of the markets in Port Harcourt reported that the action has created a serious panic and hardship on the masses, saying that traders took advantage of the situation to hike their products.

The traders, mostly those that deals on foods stocks increased the cost of their products by over 50 per cent.

A basin of garri which was sold at N2500 as at Wednesday, was sold between N5000 and N7000. A bag of rice was increased to N30, 000 each etc. Despite the hike in the sales of the food products, population in the market was very tremendous as some people were afraid that the world has ended. 

Some female traders that spoke with GUN, noted the level of hardship the market closure will caused them from Saturday.

A female trader who gave her name as Onyinyechi said: “The closure of this market is very painful. Is not encouraging because so many do not have money, they only come here daily they sell before they can have their daily meal. But now that they have announced the closure of market things have gone high, one bag of rice now is N30, 000. Is only God that can help us. A bottle of palm oil that was sold at N250, N300 is now sold at N500 and more while the big bottle is now sold at N1000 just with two days”.

Also Aunty, a female trader on natives said: “I don’t like the current development because staying in the house neighbours children used to make alot of noise. They bark, they stay in the house always making noise and gossiping, I don’t want to be part of them. For me coming out daily I like it whether I sell or not I am always happy. For the Governor to suddenly close the market, to me is a big challenge, they should either give us short time than total closure.” 

On her part, Faith David said that “most of the companies shutdown because of Coronavirus and this resulted to high cost commodities in the market. We are feeling very bad because there is no money and the government has not paid monthly salary yet. The closure of market, at least they are supposed to give us one week notice to prepare ahead. The situation has made things very hard in the state, a basin of garri that was sold at N2500 is now sold at N7500, N5000 increment. What about those who cannot afford to buy food stocks with the present cost of commodities. Sincerely, is not right.”

It was, however, gathered that most people living in Port Harcourt were outside their domains when the directive was given, were stranded at the borders to the state.

Others, who were on important missions to the capital city especially health-related referrals were said to be adopting various means to gain entrance to the state.

It was gathered that following the directive, the Task Force blocked all the entry points to stop people from either leaving the state or coming into Rivers State.

A resident of Port Harcourt, who identified himself simply as Williams, said his neighbour was one of the persons trapped at Obigbo, the border community between Rivers and Abia State.

He said: “My neighbour travelled to Aba in Abia State to buy some goods. On getting to Obigbo, the security operatives there didn’t let their vehicle in. The driver asked them to alight at the border. He made a u-turn and went back to Aba. But my neighbour and others in the vehicle had to trek many distances to Oil Mill, where they bordered a vehicle to Port Harcourt. My neighbour said the border was chaotic. Most vehicles especially the ones conveying passengers were not allowed into the State. The worst hit were private vehicles driven by their owners. They were stopped at the border.”

Also Kehinde, a driver that conveys newspapers from Port Harcourt to other neighboring States such as Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and States in South East, was trapped on when the enforcement of the order started in the State.

He said: “I got to Mbiama, a border community between Rivers and Bayelsa at about 1am. The Task Force asked me to park my vehicle. I went to talk to one of the security operatives, a policeman, who later allowed me to pass the border. I delivered all the papers but, on my way back to Rivers State, Mbiama was blocked. It was almost impassable. I saw many vehicles trying to enter the state but they were not allowed entrance. People were stranded especially those living in Port Harcourt. They didn’t know where to go.

“I approached the security agencies, but they would not listen to me. I stayed there for over five hours begging them to allow me into the State. I explained to them to that I was on an essential duty to deliver newspapers to other States from our printing press in Port Harcourt. I showed them my branded vehicle but they were still adamant. It was a painful experience. I was the only one in the vehicle. I was not carrying other passengers. They told me they could only allow trucks conveying materials, food items and other essential products to the State.”

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