Starving residents of Maiduguri will sell just about anything if it will help them to make ends meet and put food on their tables. The high cost of living has meant most people cannot survive on their salaries – if they’re lucky enough to have a job – and the increase in foodstuff is hitting where it hurts most, their tummies.
Some had resorted to stealing, others to begging.
And it’s not just food. The price of renting a house, utilities, basic essentials, such as soap and washing powder, petrol and transport had all increased.
The COVID-19 pandemic had exacerbated the situation. People lost jobs, some lost loved ones. There were many families who had lost their breadwinner and this had added to their already difficult lives.
RNI reporter Fatima Grema Modu interviewed Abour Kanembu, a father of five, who sold some of his family’s belongings at the Budum market.
“The standard of living is costly now in Maiduguri. I’m a cleaner and I earn less than 10,000 naira a month. That is not sustainable and that is why I sell what belongings I can to buy food with the money so that my kids can eat.”
Kanembu said prices had been steadily increasing for months. He said it was not just the pandemic. Bandits and insurgents had greatly affected the production of food by attacking farmers and that had pushed up the prices.
Many people were unemployed and many had resettled in Maiduguri, especially now because of the closure of state-run internally displaced persons’ camps, which pushed up the number of people in the city and made it “harder for the common man”.
“The prices continue to rise but they do not hike your salary,” he said.
A vendor at the Budum market said a bag of potatoes used to cost between 17,000 naira and 20,000 naira. Now it could be as high as 30,000 naira. A crate of 30 eggs was 1,800 naira and a loaf of bread that used to be 100 naira was now 150 naira.
Umar Albani, a businessman who buys and sells used kitchen utensils at the Budum market, said more and more women were selling their belongings. They used to sell old wares to buy new ones. But now they were selling just to get the money.
“Lack of food and the high cost of living is affecting many people. When they come to sell their wares they complain about having to pay off debt and having no food. They say they are forced to sell their belongings because that’s the only way they can feed their families,” he said.
Pots, spaghetti-making machines, dishes, furniture and ornaments were just some of the items brought in for sale.
Albani said some people had resorted to stealing things and then bringing them to him to sell. “Sometimes we have to check if an item has been stolen and it has been. That’s how hard it is.”
He said: “People are proud of their possessions and many are embarrassed because they have been forced into selling their belongings. It’s not in our culture to have to do this. But now it is happening. Sometimes we buy outdated items that we know will not make a profit. But we pity the condition of some of our customers.”