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Thieves now target restaurants, canteens to cart away food as hunger bites harder

Many canteens and bukas are now wary of midnight raiders who burgle their shops taking away foodstuffs and stew meant for the next day’s business. TADE MAKINDE, OLALEKAN OLABULO and SEGUN ADEBAYO report that the trend is a disturbing story of hunger in the land.

 

IT was a hot afternoon. At a restaurant in Victoria Island, Lagos State, two members of staff of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), sat to eat their favourite meal for lunch when a man in suit walked to their table. He took a seat opposite them and dragged the plate in front of one of them towards himself and began to eat voraciously. The two friends were taken aback, but soon composed themselves.

Without saying a word, the man in suit consumed the rice, beans and dodo meal to the last morsel. The two friends kept quiet, waiting for what could happen next.

“I thought the guy was mad. There are many mad people in Lagos wearing suits, my brother. I winked at my friend that he should not do anything but watch.

“After the guy finished eating, he apologised and said he had not eaten a good meal for three days and could have fainted if he didn’t put anything in his tummy. He apologised further, saying that if he had started begging us for support when he came in, he was not likely to be taken seriously. I gave him N1,000. My friend didn’t say anything, he just ordered for another plate of food for himself and a takeaway for the guy,” the man told Sunday Tribune.

This event was just a trending narrative of the situation in the country as hunger, occasioned by the economic recession, continues to bite harder. It is no news that prices of foodstuffs have risen, just as some people are now midnight raiders of restaurants and canteens, stealing foodstuffs, pepper, fish and meat, which the owners had prepared for sale the following morning.

Carol, also known as “Iya Ropo,” is a very popular canteen operator in Araromi area of Sango in Ogun State. Between January and now, her shop had been burgled twice by yet-to-be identified people who went away with her foodstuffs and other items.

Ope, one of the attendants at the canteen, who spoke with Sunday Tribune, said that her boss had decided to be taking her foodstuffs home when it became clear that the perpetrators might come back.

‘Since I came here last year, our shop had been burgled thrice. I heard that they did that even before I came. The first one since I came was the worst. They took our raw rice, stew, fried meat and even our disposable plates,” Ope stated.

She also said that: “after the first time, they came back and still stole some foodstuffs, but after that, we decided to be taking our foodstuffs home. It is very strenuous, but that is the only thing we can do.”

Iya Ropo confirmed that her shop had been burgled on three occasions this year. She also stated that she never reported any of those incidents to the police. The canteen operator decided not to report “in order not to waste more money.”

Iya Ropo, who claimed to have been operating in the area for over 13 years, stated that she never experienced such burglary incident until the last one year.

“I started with hawking before I got this shop. I have been here for about eight years and my shop was never burgled until about a year ago.”

In Ibadan, Oyo State capital the same occurrence is also trending. Within one week of this month, two restaurants at Imalefalafia, Oke Ado area of the city, were broken into and foodstuffs carted away. One of the restaurants had been locked up for days as customers were left in the dark as to what might have caused the closure. It was assumed that the owner had travelled for a social event outside Ibadan until those close to her informed others of her predicament.

“Neighbours called early that morning that her shop had been broken into. Many heard movement from around her shop in the early hours of the morning. They thought she was the one working. She used to get to her shop between 4.00 a.m and 5.00 a.m everyday to prepare for the day’s work.

“When she told them that she had not been to her shop and had neither sent anyone there, we knew something was wrong the moment she began to run to her restaurant. When she got there, we saw the back door opened and when we got inside, everything in her shop – raw meat, yams, semovita, yam flour, pepper, drinks, salt, matches, plates, bottled and sachet water, everything except the deep freezer that was too big for the door – were taken away. They would have taken it too,” one of the neighbour who did not want to be identified told Sunday Tribune.

According to the Chairperson of Oyo State Food Vendors Association, Alhaja Hamudalat Lawal, otherwise known as Iya Dunni, the situation has become so rampant in the last few months with many food vendors forced to close their shops and stay in their houses until the trend is checked. She blamed the problem on hunger, adding that: “I don’t know what burglars could possibly be looking for in the shops of food vendors. We don’t keep money in our shops. What is happening now is an indication that there is hunger in the land. It is frustrating and very disturbing.”

Sunday Tribune investigation revealed that about 100 shops have reportedly been burgled in Ibadan in the last few months, most of them located around Ijokodo, Oke Ado, Sango areas of the city. Iya Dunni said the condition of the country’s economy had forced many people to take to other means of survival.

“I want to appeal to the government to please look into this matter before it drives many food vendors out of business. I really don’t understand why people would break into food vendors’ shops to steal foodstuffs and soup ingredients. It shows that the people are hungry. If people are no longer interested in stealing money but foods, then the government should know it has big task in its hand.

“At this point, we can only appeal to the government to come to our rescue because things are getting bad by the day and nobody is giving us any explanation. We hope that this unusual development will not drive us out of business,” she said.