The Igbos have an adage that says that when hills learn to break an old woman’s waist, old women learn to take breaks every now and then as they climb hills. This adage is the same thing as saying that when the going gets tough, the tough gets going. I found these sayings appropriate enough to describe what Nigerian traders, especially those in Abakpa Market, Enugu, are doing to sustain themselves during this lockdown.
The worries of every Nigerian at the onset of this lockdown were focused on how Nigerians, especially those that live out of daily incomes, will survive. People complained and cried out bitterly even though they knew the lockdown was for the good of everybody. With time, everywhere became quiet as if people had accepted their fate and gone into starvation. But that was not the case. The truth is that people have discovered how to survive within this lockdown, though they might be endangering their lives and that of those around them.
One of the fears of the numerous Nigerians that went into panic-buying before the lockdown order took effect was that markets will be shut down completely. Even the broadcast of the president that essential services and foodstuff selling will continue did not quell this fear. It was total madness in Enugu on Monday, 31 March, 2020 as people rushed to markets to buy everything they see, even the ones they will not use in the next four months. ATMs also received their share of the madness because some people withdrew money as if ATMs will also be on lockdown. But a few days into the lockdown taught those of us in Enugu the difference between lockdown and shutdown.
The lockdown order issued by Enugu State government affected some traders. Those that do not sell foodstuff were compelled to close shops. This means that buyers cannot go to markets to buy non-edibles and sellers of these goods are banned from operating within this period. But did they obey that instruction? Well that is the essence of this article.
Kindly understand that this essay does not have the intention to witch-hunt anyone. Its sole purpose is to reveal how traders here in Enugu are surviving the lockdown. Hopefully the information will help some people who might need to adopt their methods. So here are these traders’ ways of observing the mandatory lockdown order:
- Renting Out their Shop Fronts: Most of these traders that couldn’t sell within this period rented the fronts of their shops to food stuff sellers. The good thing about this is that as the shop owners make little money from renting their shop fronts, those that rented them saw where to sell their wares. Some of the people that sell things at these shop fronts are not career traders, but people displaced from work because of COVID-19. So in essence, they have found the means of keeping body and soul together until this is over.
- Hanging Around: This was the first thing I noticed when I went to market within this lockdown. I was surprised to see some of my “customers” that were not supposed to be in the market sitting in front of their locked shops and chatting with their neighbours that were also seated at the front of their own shops. It was later that I realised that these people did not come out of their houses to look around and chat; they were waiting for customers. What they do is that if you need something they have, they will unlock their shops, hand it to you and then lock up again. The only thing here is that price haggling takes place before the customer sees what he’s paying for.
- Selling Early in the Morning and Late in the Evening: Some of these shop owners open their shops very early in the morning and late in the evening to sell. Immediately they settle their customers early in the morning, they lock up their shops and then sell in trickles until evening.
It is true that non-compliance with the lockdown order will increase the spread of COVID-19, but people need to eat and take care of other necessities. Since the government cannot provide those things for them, the citizens have to go out to fend for themselves. However, it should be understood that Enugu has no active case of COVID-19 presently. Maybe that is why people still move around despite the lockdown.