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Hunger protests will go viral unless govt moves fast —Suya seller

• Says ‘A piece of suya that was sold for N20 in 2018 is now N200’

Asuya merchant and street tailor, Muhammed Ahmed, a resident in Warri, Delta State has warned that hunger will kill more people than COVID did unless the government moves fast to stem the slides.

When he was asked what he felt about the hunger in the land vis-à-vis his menial means of livelihood, he retorted with an air of finality:

“The way the country is going, if government does not come up with a reasonable plan to make the economy better, the death rate as a result of hunger will surpass that which was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he told Saturday Tribune.

Ahmed hails from Sokoto but has been residing in Warri since the early 1980s. Speaking with our correspondent while preparing his suya for the night, he unwrapped his identity thus: “I am from Sokoto. I have been in Warri for a very long time now. I don’t know my exact age but I will be in my 60s. I was very little when my elder brother brought me here.

“Before he brought me here, he was selling suya (grilled meat) and after staying and learning from him for some time, I started my own grilled meat business in 1985 and I have been doing it since then.

“I have a “wife and three children, but my children are not here with me; they are in the village.

“I couldn’t marry more than one wife (when asked why) my power no fit carry am. Na watin my power fit carry I dey do,” he noted amid laughter.

According to him, “My first son is up to 22 years. He is through with secondary school so he now farms with his mother in the village in Sokoto State.”

Ahmad has seen the golden days of the commercial nerve centre of Delta State when indigenous oil and gas companies, including oil multinationals such as Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Delta ports among numerous others held sway and sources of good life in the area.

As of today, he lamented the present squalid state of Warri, saying his grilling beef to sell or carrying a mobile sewing machine on his soldier to seek clients in the street brought inadequate income for him.

“This my business is not one where you trust to make profit everyday. You make profit according to the price rate of cow in the market. ‘Everyday nor bi Christmas!

“There are times if you buy cow at a cheap rate from butcher, you make a reasonable amount of profit, but if it is expensive, you will just get your capital back or sometimes, you can even sell at a loss.

“Though I have been doing this business for a very long time, if I am privileged to start another business that will yield me a better income, I would start.

“Apart from this business, I walk around with sewing machine to patch up people’s clothes for money. It is what you people call ‘Obioma’ and I do this during the day and sell the grilled meat at night,” he disclosed.

To what extent are his coping strategies paying off, following the removal of fuel subsidy and the steady rise in the exchange rate vis-à-vis the repercussions on Nigerians? Ahmad lamented the situation and wished the situation could subside in earnest.

“The fuel price increase is affecting my business because it is what cow sellers use in transporting cows here.

“So, if the price of fuel goes up, the price of meat will increase and we grillers have no choice than to sell ours at a costly rate so we can get back our capital and a little profit.

“If the cow is expensive here, just know that it is not that expensive in the North. A cow that is sold for N70,000 in the North won’t sell for N100,000 here. It will sell for from the range of N150,000 to N200,000.

“Sometimes, transporters pay a lot of money on their way to bringing them down here and this also adds to the price.

“I use N15,000 capital to buy meat to grill for a day and at the end of the day, after subtracting my expenses, the profit that I make will be N1500 or less. We have no choice but to continue so that we don’t have to steal or beg to feed,” he noted.

According to him, it’s from the meager profits he makes from grilling suya and mending clothes for people around the streets that he sends to his wife and children in Sokoto to manage their lives.

“The pockets of protest against hunger ongoing in some state capitals will soon go spiral unless the government does something fast. Dead bodies will litter the streets of Nigeria’s towns, cities and villages not courtesy of war but excruciating hunger,” camera-shy Ahmad warned.

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