NIGERIANS trading in animals used by Muslims for Eid al-Adha, the 2019 edition of which will be marked tomorrow, have attributed the high prices of the animals, especially ram, to the pervasive insecurity across the country and extortion in the chain of the business.
The majority of ram sellers in some South West states, as well as Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, claimed that the poor state of security, especially in the North, where most of the animals are sourced from, had debarred many people from partaking in the business this year, thereby causing the few individuals who could defy the odds to place a high price tag on the commodities.
In Ibadan, the Oyo State capital, ram sellers lamented that the rate of extortion in various channels in the course of doing business caused the prices of rams to increase before they reach members of the public.
They cited tips offered to security operatives who mounted checkpoints on roads linking the North and the South, high cost of transport fare and arbitrary levies as some of factors affecting their business, as residents made a final rush to purchase rams on Friday.
The sellers, mostly from the North, in separate interviews, shared tales of extortion from various quarters and how high cost of transportation affected the pricing of rams with Saturday Tribune.
They claimed they spent as much as N100,000 as tips for security operatives on the road for a journey of about 24-26 hours.
According to Muhammed Maji from Damaturu, Yobe State, who claimed to have been in the trade for about 20 years, so many third parties ‘live’ on the business chain, thus making life difficult for them as their profit margin reduced.
Maji, who spoke with the help of an interpreter, said: “Bringing rams from the North is getting too expensive and becoming unbearable. Presently, transporting a trailer-load of rams costs nothing less than N350,000 and we spent about N100,000 on security operatives found at countless posts along the way.
“The local government will come and collect N30,000 per trailer without evidence of payment. We pay environmental charges. Still, area boys will come and ask us for ‘titles’. This is too much for us. In fact, the business is not profitable again.
“Everybody is out to milk us. The chairman of the area boys that collect N30,000 from us claims they are working for the local government without any proof of payment.”
For Alhaji Tijani Geidam from Borno State, who displayed his rams on Dugbe railway line at Alalubosa Junction, the patronage since arriving in Ibadan has not been encouraging.
“Considering the prices we bought the rams from Borno State and other expenses we incurred in the process, I can say business is not good.”
“People who come with small money want to go home with big rams. It cost N3,000 to transport a single ram to Ibadan. We paid N30,000 per truck to have space here. We plead with the government to pay people so that they can come and buy rams,” Geidam said.
For Ibrahim Hambli from Gombe State, high cost of transportation of rams from the North has been the biggest factor for the high costs of rams.
Efforts to get the reaction of the information officer of Ibadan South West Local Government, where most of the ram sellers from the North are based, proved abortive but the immediate past information officer, Prince Segun Adeyemo, refuted one of the claims of the traders.
According to him, the local government is not directly or by proxy collecting any money from the Hausa sellers.
On the issue of area boys, he said “the local government knows nothing about that, thus I cannot speak about it, especially when such was not reported to the council.”
In Lagos State, many buyers expressed dismay as the prices of rams continued to increase.
Checks at the Kara ram market along the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway revealed a significant increase in the prices of rams of various sizes, compared to last year.
Currently, the average-sized ram sells for between N40,000 and N50,000, while big ones cost N75,000 and above.
Speaking with Saturday Tribune, a customer, Al-Amin Ibrahim, expressed displeasure over the high prices, pointing out that an average Muslim might not be able to buy if the prices kept increasing.
A ram seller at Kara Market, Nasir Ibrahim, said the increase in the prices of ram was due to short supply.
Nasir explained that the fall in supply was as a result of the fear being nursed by dealers that they might be waylaid by armed men on the road.
In Kwara State, ram sellers blamed insecurity in the North for the high prices of the animals this year.
Traders told Saturday Tribune that they struggled to buy a few animals from farmers in some remote villages as many of them could not go to where they normally bought rams due to the prevailing insecurity in such areas.
A seller at Agric Roundabout, Malam Ismaila Kannike, said there was scarcity and high prices were charged for rams in the North West.
“Most of the villages where we ought to get rams in the North, we can’t get there again. We and traders from Lagos struggle to buy the few animals we get. Rams we are supposed to get at cheap prices, we fought to buy them.
“Insecurity has a lot to do with the scarcity. Those villages we normally go to to get rams at cheap prices, we couldn’t go there due to killings and lack of adequate security,” Kannike said.
However, in Niger State, the story is different. Influx of rams from Niger Republic and other states in north-western part of the country are said to have occasioned a crash in the prices of rams in major markets in Minna, the state capital.
A survey by Saturday Tribune in some major ram markets and makeshift markets which sprang up as the festival drew near indicated that prices of rams are lower this year, compared to 2018.
It was learnt that ram merchants from Katsina, Zamfara, Kebbi, Kano and Sokoto states and also from Niger Republic and other neighbouring countries trooped into markets across the state annually with different species of ram.
According to a local dealer in Bosso market on the outskirts of the state capital, Malam Abdullahi Usman, the increase in the number of makeshift ram markets across the state has adversely affected the business.
“Rams are cheaper this year, compared to last year, probably because of the preparations for the just-concluded general elections in the country because during last year’s Salah period, politicians who were canvassing for votes bought rams of different sizes and prices for their supporters, party leaders and even for both religious and traditional rulers.
The Wakilin Sarkin Turken Minna (leader of ram dealers), Alhaji Sabo,explained that although supply of rams had increased, the situation had not positively affected the market as demands have been very low.
He attributed the situation to influx of merchants from the North West and the Republic of Niger, adding that the participation of local breeders had also brought down the prices of rams.