Uyo Residents ‘Not Interested’ In Government’s 100k Bags Of Rice


(News investigators) The plan by the Akwa Ibom State Government to distribute 100,000 bags of rice to residents of the state would not ameliorate the economic hardship in the state, some residents of Uyo have said.

The oil-rich state is said to have over five million population as of 2016.

Prices of goods and services have continued to climb in Nigeria, and many families have been thrown into poverty and severe hardship since President Bola Tinubu announced the federal government’s withdrawal of fuel subsidy in May.

The pump price of petrol is now N650 or more (it was N250 before the subsidy was removed).

“A total of 100,000 bags of rice will be distributed statewide. Forty bags per village to the 2,272 gazetted villages and other strategic groups,” the Commissioner for Information in Akwa Ibom, Ini Ememobong, said on 31 August, as part of the state government’s intervention.

The government had approved N2 billion in financial support for government workers and pensioners.

Fridays will become a ticket-free day for transport operators and traders in markets in all the local government areas until December 2023.” Mr Ememobong said.

The government also approved the payment of N10,000 bursary to undergraduate students of Akwa Ibom origin in all public tertiary institutions in Nigeria and the distribution of free exercise books to primary and secondary schools in the state.

“Discussions on transportation means like CNG buses and electric taxis are ongoing to ensure an effective, efficient and sustainable rollout,” the commissioner said.

‘Not interested’

In separate interviews with a PREMIUM TIMES reporter, on Monday, some residents of Uyo said the state government’s intervention would not offer meaningful help to the people.

We have seen government interventions through palliatives before, but the impact is always minimal. Random, unorganised palliatives rarely help the situation,” Daniel Nweke, a dealer in automobile spare parts, said.

So I am not interested in this kind,” he added.

He advised the state government to create access to credit for small businesses in the state.

Uduak Godwin, a periwinkle seller in Itam Market, said other foodstuffs, not only rice, are required in families’ food menu, and therefore, it would not make much sense to distribute rice to residents.

“The real solution to the hardship we are facing is to return the price of fuel to N250 (per litre),” she said.

Ms Godwin spoke on how the fuel price increase has hit her business.

I used to buy a bag (of periwinkles) for N7,500, but today I am buying it for over N20,000. Even to collect the bag of periwinkles, I pay up to N1,500 for the waybill as against the N600 or N700 I used to pay,” she said.

Jennifer Edoho, a fashion designer in Uyo, said her business relies so much on electricity and that in the absence of electricity supply from the national grid, she had settled for a power-generating set, which compelled her to buy petrol frequently.

She had to increase her charges to customers to offset the high fuel cost, adversely affecting the business as patronage reduced drastically, she told PREMIUM TIMES.

The situation forced her to reduce her charges. “There is basically no profit (for me),” Ms Edoho said.

Saviour Jack, a student at the University of Uyo, advised the Akwa Ibom State Governor, Umo Eno, to go for a sustainable solution like making education affordable instead of paying N10,000 as a bursary, which he said he was not even sure of getting.

“They should reduce school fees and provide scholarships to the less privileged students.”

Pay raise, not rice

Aminigbo Paul, a software developer in Uyo, said the challenge of providing electricity for his tech business in the city has “drained” him and brought down his productivity.

James Agbom, a resident of Uyo, said, “Sharing rice and relief materials is not the answer to the problem we’re facing right now.

“Let’s start with how the government intends to determine the poorest of the poor in the country; what are the parameters? My fear is that the people who need these things the most may not get it, and at the end of the day, it will still be the same old story.”

Mr Agbom said the sharing of rice and other items to residents was not sustainable and that the people would continue to suffer the impact of the subsidy removal.

“I am not particularly interested in the rice or other materials they want to share. After collecting five cups of rice and cooking it, what happens tomorrow? I think making fuel easy to buy at this moment is what we need and not palliative,” a petty trader, Monica Silas, said, adding that her business has been experiencing low patronage since the fuel subsidy was removed.

“I have to pay my rent, pay for other bills, yet there is no money,” she said.

Hamza Osaro, a paediatrician, said he would prefer a pay raise to receive rice from the government.

Mfon Sam, a university student in Uyo, said she sometimes skipped classes because of the lack of transport fare to school.

“I was happy about the N10,000 bursary for students, but when I found out that we needed to register with N1,000 to be able to get it, I just quit.

“The money my parents send to me goes for my feeding, and it’s not even enough. N10,000 cannot do anything for me right now. Let the government subsidise the price of fuel and transportation, please.

“There are rumours about the increase in our fees; I just pray it is not true. If it comes to pass, the government should know that they would have denied Nigerian students the right to education,” she added.


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