Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
The closure of borders by the Federal Government is taking its huge toll on the Illela, in Illela Local Government Area of Sokoto State, a border town with Niger Republic. It is host to an international market, which in those good and jolly times, attracted traders and buyers from different parts of Nigeria, Niger Republic, Chad and Benin Republic.
But that is no more. The people are startled by poverty and lack, occasioned by the slump in their businesses in the wake of the new border policy.
One of the market leaders, Muhammad Abdullahi, linked their current misfortunes to the closure of the nation’s border. He claimed that the poor economic activities presently being witnessed in the market has forced many traders to borrow money from different sources to survive as their regular earnings can no longer match their domestic financial requirements.
He told Daily Sun: “What else do I say than what you are witnessing here by yourself? The decision to close the border that our customers use to enter the market is affecting us. I don’t know if you have ever been to this market before the recent bad decision of closing of borders.”
Another trader, Salisu Umar, was emphatic that the market was doing well prior to the border closure: “Believe me, you hardly have a place or space to pass through here then as almost all the available spaces here would have been occupied by animals.
“We have people bringing animals from Niger Republic to sell here while some others come from different countries to sell theirs. There is no part of the country that people do not come from to buy goods from this market. They come from the East, South and even from the North Eastern part of the country.”
He regretted that Nigerians who usually come from places like Lagos, Ibadan, Onitsha, Borno, Gombe and many others have stopped coming to Illela Market: “Though no reason was actually given for their failure to come again but we know that it is due to the fact that only few cattle and animals are available.
“It is unfortunate that the market has been reduced to this level. The most annoying part of it is that sales are so bad that most market days, we hardly make single sale.”
A trader from Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Chuks John, who deals in livestock, said his fellow traders are no longer coming to the market to buy goats: “Here in Illela, our neighbor is Konni people in Niger Republic. When you close border because of rice, what happens to those coming to sell animals or to buy them here to resell in the South?
“What happens to those coming here to buy animal feeds from our farmers in Nigeria? Is the Nigeria Customs or government ready to buy all the animals or animal feeds from our farmers?”
For some of the traders interviewed, the solution is not lamentation or self pity, but to engage the government and make them understand the need not to rob Peter to pay Paul.
“They should do the needful in the interest of ordinary people. I appeal to government to please look at this issue again and come up with a lasting solution to help us. We have no other business than what we are doing here and we can’t start another business or job now,” said Umar Nagida.
“They should please look at the case of those of us dealing in these businesses and consider those that bring in animals to sell or intend to buy from the Illela International Market. We are all Nigerians and tax payers for God sake. They should help us and let us be useful to our families.”
Mouhmoud Yousuf, a Nigerien and trans-border trader, described the situation as terrible and discouraging: “I have been patronizing this market for over 15 years now, coming here to buy cows and rams from my place in Niger Republic, I have never witnessed what we are seeing here now.”
The chairman of the cattle section in the market, Bashar Zubairu, admitted that the situation of the market is unimaginable while appealing to government to review its policy on border closure in the interests of those living in border towns: “Business activities are presently going on but before now the whole market is filled up with different kinds of people from every part of the country and beyond.”