Severe food shortages and high increments in the cost of living caused by the current economic recession has reportedly forced residents and civil servants at Uyo and other Akwa Ibom cities to relocate to the rural communities.
The affected civil servants complained that their monthly income could no longer sustain them in the cities as prices of foodstuffs have skyrocketed.
Consequently, some of them explained that they moved to Itu and Ibesikpo villages where their lean finances can support their families, as they are tired of struggling with the astronomical increase in prices of essential commodities at Uyo, Eket and Ikot Ekpene and other cities.
According to Vanguard reports, one of the affected civil servants at Ikot Ekpene simply identified as Iboro lamented saying:
“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.”
Iboro, who is a clerk at the ministry, 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, a city which hosts most oil companies, residents complained of high costs of living in the city and preferred returning to their local communities where rent is free and feeding less expensive.
Investigations at the major markets in Eket and Ikot Ekpene reveal that a cup of garri, 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.
On the other hand, traders who travel from Uyo in Akwa Ibom to Ogoja and Gboko in Cross River and Benue states respectively to buy foodstuff, have blamed the sky-scraping prices of their wares on the cost of transportation.
Some other reasons identified by the traders as responsible for the high cost of foodstuffs are; bad roads, extortion by policemen on the highway and haulage fees charged by government officials in all the local governments, along the highway.
For instance, a business woman who trades in yam and gari at the Uyo Main Market, 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 men to collect haulage fees as well as at over 100 police check points, where they were forced to part with some money.
Sadly, the traders further lamented that government was doing little or nothing to ameliorate the situation.
Similarly, other business owners who deal in fabrics and other luxury items lamented that the situation in the state capital was becoming unbearable.
While some complained saying “Nobody buys cloths any longer. Everybody is thinking of food items for the family, not clothes, shoes,” some others cried that “it has become difficult to sell up to two percent of what they used to sell.”
More so, the traders blamed the federal government for banning the importation of foodstuff such as rice before asking citizens to go back to the farm, saying government took the very serious economic policy without imagining the economic consequences on the people.
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.”
In their opinion, the federal government should have instead, encouraged local farming by providing farming inputs for at least two years before the ban placed on the importation of rice and other commodities.
Corroborating the economic hardship stories of his people, a traditional ruler in the state, Ete-Idung David Etuk, 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 the supply of foodstuffs.
According to the Monarch; “Over 90 per cent of the food consumed in the state comes from other states. We cannot produce anything in Akwa Ibom, and most people are leaving the cities to the villages where they can survive with their families.”
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.