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‘I took loan for Ileya ram business, now I’m in debt’

Selling rams during the Eid el Kabir celebration had always been a lucrative business which leaves sellers smiling to the banks after the festive period. But those who ventured into the business this year, have unpleasant stories to tell. TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE spoke with some of them.

The rams are tied to poles and tree stumps. They look lean and emaciated. These rams have just been beaten by the rain, while the sun is gradually making its way through the sky to shine its rays, hot and harsh.

A few days before the Eid el Kabir celebration and shortly after, these were looking well-fed and robust as they were displayed for sale. Many people who would have bought rams for the celebration couldn’t due to their lean purses. All they could do was haggle, bargain and go away. Others simply passed by not bothering to ask for their prices.

Those who purchased rams during the period were very few compared to previous years.  This was the scenario during the last Eid el Kabir celebration.

In the past, when the nation’s economy was buoyant, many ram sellers went smiling to the banks having made huge sales.

For many who ventured into ram business this year, and especially for those who borrowed money to carry out this business, it is no gainsaying that they had bitten more than they could chew. They all have stories of woes to tell.

Saturday Tribune spoke with some of them.

“It has never been this bad,” Alhaji Okiki lamented. “If I had known, I wouldn’t have got involved in the sale of  rams during this year’s Sallah. I took a risk like any businessman and this has landed me in debt.”

Kuadri Akande who sells rams at Iyana Liberty also in Ibadan  didn’t have a better story to tell.

“My heart beats whenever I sit to count my loss. This is a trade I learnt from my father and I have been into for the past 15 years. I bought 45 rams from the North to sell during the Eid el Kabir celebration, but I was only able to sell 24 out of them. Bleating over there, (pointing to a flock of rams) are the ones remaining.

Okiki deals in electronics. His display room is located at Ogunpa in Ibadan. He cut his tooth in this business 33 years ago and according to him, he was doing fine. But about eight years ago, he started joining others to travel to the North, Kano precisely, to purchase rams for sale during the Eid el kabir celebration.

He explains his reason for this.

“It’s true that the electronics business blossomed for years but the gradual reduction of cash flow in the society has automatically affected it.

“The rate at which people patronise us has drastically reduced while we, sometimes, don’t sell more than two refrigerators or television sets in two months.  Many times  we go home without selling just an item. “Also, it has now become a common practice for some individuals to bring to us their used electronics to help them sell because they are financially handicapped.

“Since it’s compulsory that I meet my obligations at home as a husband and father, I sought for some other ways out of the woods one of  which was buying and selling rams every year during Eid el Kabir celebration. I must confess that I make reasonable profit from this, but this year’s venture has ended in a regret,” he said.

Can you shed more light on this? Saturday Tribune asked.

“I started the ram business with N1.6 million. With this, I was able to buy up to 100 rams in the outset of the business. But due to the downturn of the economy, I had to go with more money and always came back with fewer numbers of rams.

“This year, with N2 million, I was able to buy just 52 rams. From the North, the big ones cost N74,000  and if  you divide the cost of transportation and add it on each ram which is N1,500, then the price of each ram would come to N75, 500. The smaller ones went for between  N40,000 and N61,000.

“ After putting the rams on display under the sun and rain for days with just a few people  coming to  price and not buying, I decided to  sell them at give away prices,” he said.

Okiki explained why he took this decision.

“We all know that the nation is presently experiencing scarcity of fund and this has cut across the different classes. Many who would normally have bought ram would tell you what is important to them now was their children’s school fees and some, their house or shop rent

He added:

“I normally kill six rams during this celebration, but this year, I could only kill three. I know I disappointed many who I normally give a share of the rams.

“I’ve been in the business for a while and I know that if I don’t sell the rams during that festive period no one would come to buy again. I eventually sold those for N75,500 at N71,000  and less while the smaller ones went for as less as N26,000.

‘’There were some who deposited small amount like N1,000 and put marks on their desired rams. They promised to come back with the balance and take their rams, but none of them came back.

“At the end of the day, I was able to sell 39 rams and had 13 remaining.

Akande also shares almost the same fate with Okiki. He narrates his experience to Saturday Tribune.

“I rely on loans for my business and as you know, these run with interests. I secure these from either individuals or micro finance banks.

“We travel to the North in groups for the purchase of rams. We normally move into the interiors both in Kano and Kaduna so as to get well-fed ones at reasonable prices.

“Last year, I was able to buy 60 rams but this year, I could only afford 45. Transporting the rams down here alone cost me N200,000 while we came across security men at  different  points on the roads. We gave these N10,000 in all.”

Describing sale this year, he complained that, “It was just too low.”

According to him, ‘’The prices of my rams this year ranged between N50,000 and N60,000 unlike last year, when they went for between N20,000  and N35,000.

“Many who came with the intention of buying rams priced so low. Even many of my so called customers didn’t show up this year.

“I have a customer who pays any amount I put on a ram as long as he likes it. When he called me on the phone I was happy and quickly picked his call. But when he started to speak, he appealed to me to save him from embarrassment this year because he was experiencing paucity of funds.

“He came with N20,000 and  went away with a ram worth N45,000 which was smaller than the size he used to buy. He told me he was expecting a sum of N25,000 from someone who was owing him and that he would pay back in few days time. But he’s yet to pay up the balance till date.”

Akande confirmed Okiki’s statement when he also stated that,” some people  deposited  little amount and made marks on their choice rams but never came back to buy them.

“While waiting to sell my rams, I kept feeding them so that they won’t lose weight or look lean and this also cost extra money.

“At the end of the day, I sold 24 out of the 45 rams and these were at a loss.

“Now that Ileya celebration is over, the few who come to price the rams when they hear the price would ask,”Is Sallah celebration still on?”

As he was speaking, a boy brought him an amount which he showed to Saturday Tribune after the boy left.

“Counting the money again, he said, “The mother of that boy is one of my customers.  She’s a prophetess in one of the white garment churches and for the church annual anniversary, she would normally buy a big ram which doesn’t go for less than N60,000.”

He went on.

“But she called yesterday and explained to me that she couldn’t afford a ram of that amount this year due to scarcity of fund.  She therefore opted for that of N45,000. Again, she is also not paying the full amount at a go and that’s why he sent her son with this N10,000  as deposit. She promised to pay the N35,000 soon, but  I don’t know how soon that will be.”

For Okiki, running into debt rather than making a gain on his rams was enough pain, but what to do with the remaining has also become a problem.

He explains: “I pay daily for the spot on which I display the rams while I also feed them regularly.  Since the Eid el Kabir celebration is over, and  I have to go back to my electronics business, I therefore sold my left over rams to someone who is mainly into the business.

According to him,” Of course I’m at his mercy.  I sold to him at ridiculous prices since their sizes vary and I can only have my money when he has sold them. With this year’s experience, no one needs to tell me that I’m through with this business,” he concluded.

Saturday Tribune sought for more explanation from Akande on this.

“It’s true that people sell to us their left over rams, but this set  of people don’t survive mainly on ram business, they depend on some other means for survival.

He went on,”Although we buy them cheap, they don’t come that cheap again since we have to feed them till they are bought. The truth is that rams don’t look well- fed when they are kept on a spot. They look better and grow bigger when they graze.

“I’m in a big financial mess.  How to pay off my debt is now my major concern because the interest on it is killing,” he concluded.