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Tuesday 21 March 2017

Hunger? Akwa Ibom Residents and Workers Relocate from Cities to Villages... See Details

File photo: Nigerians
Several residents of Akwa Ibom state have begun to relocate to villages as the economic recession take its toll. A Vanguard report has shown that many disheartened residents and civil servants at Uyo and other cities in Akwa Ibom State are re-positioning to nearby local communities, following severe food shortages and razor-sharp increases in the cost of living, occasioned by the current economic depression.
The affected civil servants complained that their monthly income could no longer sustain them in the cities as prices of foodstuffs have hit the rooftop. Some of them, who spoke to NDV, explained that they moved to Itu and Ibesikpo villages where their lean finances can support their families. Signs of stress and frailty were palpable on the faces and gait of the workers and depressed residents grappling with astronomical increases in prices of essential commodities at Uyo, Eket and Ikot Ekpene and other cities we visited.
“There is hunger everywhere. I have a family of five and my salary in the state Ministry of Education has remained under N35, 000 for the past 10 years. I decided to leave Uyo to my village where I now reside in my late father’s house,” a civil servant, Iboro, told NDV at Ikot Ekpene.
Iboro, who works as a clerk, asserted dejectedly that his salary in the state’s civil service does not take him and his family beyond two weeks. His words: “Before I relocated to the village, I was depending on my customer in the market where I get foodstuff on credit to feed my children and struggle to pay the debt and my house rent when I receive my salary. I could not afford to buy clothes for my children and wife. I now concentrate on buying foodstuff for the family now that I am in the village since I no longer pay rent to the landlord in the city.”
At Eket where most oil companies have their presence, residents complained of high cost of living in the city and preferred returning to their local communities where rent is free and feeding less expensive. At the major markets in Eket and Ikot Ekpene visited by NDV, a cup of garri, a staple food mostly consumed by residents, which was selling at  N200 for five cups had now risen to N500 , while a cup of rice has moved from N60 a cup to N120, 100 per cent increase.
Traders lament: Traders who travel from Uyo to Ogoja and Gboko in Cross River and Benue states respectively to buy foodstuff, blame the sky-scraping prices of their wares on cost of transportations. A business woman who trades in yam and gari in Uyo Main Market, Akpan Andem, popularly known as ‘Mama Atam”, who spoke to NDV, said: “These days, our customers come here to complain about lack of money but who do we complain to.”
She explained: “In March, last year, a basin of garri from northern Cross River State costs between N2000 and N2500, but the same basin is now selling for N12000, excluding transportation.”
Extortion by policemen, LG officials: She also identified bad roads, extortion by policemen on the highway and haulage fees charged by government officials in all the local governments, along the highway as some of the reasons for the high cost of foodstuffs, lamenting that government was sadly doing little to ameliorate the situation.
She disclosed that from Uyo in Akwa Ibom State to Gboko in Benue State, there are over 15 local government areas and the driver would stop at every produce check point mounted by council to collect haulage fees as well as over 100 police check points, they were forced to part with some money, adding: “All these build up the cost price of food stuff in the cities.”
Business owners lament: Business owner, Mr. Chima Ebuka, who deals in fabrics and other luxury items, complained: “Nobody buys cloths any longer. Everybody is thinking of food items for the family, not clothes, shoes. I stocked my shop in December, last year, hoping to make profit, but nobody is even coming to price them.”
Another businessman in Uyo, Obong Okon Ikotidem, said the situation in the state capital was becoming unbearable, pointing out: “Before now, I have been selling with joy but for the past six months; it has become difficult to sell up to two percent of what I used to sell.”
He blamed the federal government for banning the importation of foodstuff such as rice before asking citizens to go back to the farm, saying: “It is like government took the very serious economic policy without imagining the economic consequences on the people. The federal government should have encouraged local farming by providing farming inputs for at least two years before the ban placed on importation of rice and other commodities.”
Monarch slams govt: A traditional ruler in the state, Ete-Idung David Etuk, who spoke with NDV, blamed the state government for being insensitive to the plight of residents in the state. Chief Etuk said the state Ministry of Agriculture has not developed any agricultural policy to reduce the state’s dependence on other states of the country for supply of foodstuffs.
“Over 90 per cent of the food consumed in the state comes from other states. We cannot produce anything in this state, and most people are leaving the cities to the villages where they can survive with their families,” he said.
NNHS rates A’Ibom high in starvation index: In 2015, the National Nutrition and Health Survey, NNHS, ranked the state highest in rates of stunting 24.1%, wasting (7.4%) underweight (21.4%) maternal malnutrition (5.3%) among the other states in the South-South region.
Commissioner for Health, Dr. Dominic Ukpong, at a two-day advocacy and sensitization meeting for wives of policy makers and women policy makers on leveraging resources for Infant and Young Child feeding, IYCF, programme, organized by the state ministries of Health and Women Affairs in collaboration with UNICEF, in Uyo, recently, disclosed that the state government has budgeted N59m to handle malnutrition through micro-nutrient supplementation activities under the “save one million lives” fund donated to the state
He identified major causes of malnutrition in the state to include ignorance, lack of adequate education, poverty, diseases, worm related problems, tuberculosis and other infections, diseases passed from mothers and poor medical services. Ukpong, who admitted that investment in nutrition has been minimal compared to the scale of the problem, said the state was now poised to mobilize the resources needed to accelerate progress against malnutrition, adding: “We will, therefore, require that countries, donor agencies, businesses, innovative financing mechanisms and even households must act in state solidarity.”
Gov’s wife to carry out advocacy: Lending her voice to the advocacy, the wife of the state governor, Mrs Martha Udom Emmanuel said she has, through her pet project, FEYReP, begun a systematic process of eliminating the prevalence of malnutrition and infant mortality through donation of food items to special sectors in the state, with plans concluded to carry out campaigns and advocacy across the 31 local government areas of the state.

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