Abuja, Lagos, Maiduguri, Port Harcourt, Minna, Owerri — Few days to the celebration of Eid-el-Adha in Nigeria, ram sellers across the country are groaning over low patronage as the downturn of the economy bites harder.
Eid el-Adha, also called the "Festival of Sacrifice", is the second of two Islamic holidays celebrated worldwide each year, and considered the holier of the two.
Daily Trust markets survey revealed that the livestock were available with few buyers seen due to what many attributed to paucity of fund.
For instance, major sellers of fat and lean rams in Kasuwar-Shanu, a popular livestock market in Maiduguri, and tens of other emergency ram markets that sprang up across the city, were wailing over absence of salary earners in the markets.
Modu Kukawa, who offloaded many rams at an emergency market situated along Baga road, attributed his lack of sales and that of his colleagues to the absence of private and public workers who were yet to be paid.
Three rams sold
"As you can see, here are rams in different sizes, but there are no buyers.
"One has been here in this market since Friday, but could only sell just three rams or five rams at most.
"Me and two other friends here brought one truckload of rams to this market a few days ago, and other friends proceeded to other markets within town; and we were all told that we would not see buyers until salaries are paid either by Borno state or the federal government," said Kukawa.
It was gathered that the price range of rams was N150,000/N170,000 for biggest ones; N70,000/N80,000 for the medium sized while N55,000 and above for the third category and the small ones were being sold at N40,000 or thereabouts.
According Kukawa, one of the major ram sellers, the price would "definitely" go up as soon as salaries were paid and more buyers troop the market.
Village to the rescue
In Minna, the capital of Niger State, it was observed that most buyers in the state travelled to surrounding villages to get their rams at cheaper rates while some stock the rams some months back and bring same out to sell to other buyers.
Depending on capacity, rams of moderate sizes were sold for between N30,000 and N45,000 while medium sized ones were sold at between N50, 000 and 75,000 and bigger ones sold for N80,000 to N140 000.
"It is not affordable but we have to find means of getting the ram to slaughter, first to thank God and second to pray to Allah to heal the world of the coronavirus pandemic," some of the buyers remarked.
Some sellers around UK Bello Road in Minna lamented low patronage but expressed optimism about making huge sales before Friday slated for the celebration.
Some of them, who brought rams from Kano State, said they were not surprised about the low patronage because of the COVID-19 outbreak that affected all sectors of the economy.
Prices cheaper in Kano
In Kano, both buyers and sellers were on the same page that the prices of rams, and other domestic animals meant for Eid-el-Adha, are relatively cheaper this year compared to what obtained last year.
Malam Ali Ahmed, a ram seller at the Yan Awaki livestock market, Unguwa Uku, said: "Generally, in terms of prices, one could say that the animals are cheaper compared to last year.
"This is largely due to the fact that people don't have money in hand due to this problem of COVID-19."
He, however, added: "When you consider that people don't have money, then the issue of affordability becomes a different thing.
"Nevertheless, we load 7 to 8 trailers to other parts of the country, especially southern part".
Also speaking with Daily Trust, another seller at Hotoro Tishama, Abdullahi Muhammad, said prices of animals ranged from N65,000 to N75,000 for the moderately big rams and as low as N15,000 for the smaller ones.
However, at 'Yan Awaki, some of the bigger rams cost as high as N175,000 to N200,000.
These were rams mostly brought from Niger Republic, while others were brought from Potiskum in Yobe State.
A buyer at Unguwa Uku, Muhammad Sani Kofar Wambai, who purchased the animal for sale in the southern part of the country, said what was sold N40,000 last year is about N35,000 this year.
He said despite the economic hardship, people were still trying to buy animals for the celebration although not as much as last year.
Rivers market closure
The continued closure of markets in Rivers State by Governor Nyesom Wike as a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19 has led to scarcity of rams in the state.
Our reporter learnt that there was scarcity of ram in Port Harcourt and other nieghbouring communities of the state because of the continued closure of market.
Governor Wike, in March 2020, shut down all the markets in the state as a measure to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Some of the popular markets in the state such as slaughter market, Mile 3 market and Ahoada goat market, where rams are sold, have remained under lock and key.
Our reporter also learnt that some ram traders, who have struggled to remain in business as a result of the lockdown of market, sell few at their disposal at very high prices.
A trader at the slaughter market, Abdul Umar, told our reporter that since they cannot open the market, cost of rams have gone high.
He said that a medium sized ram was sold at N70,000 while the biggest was sold for between N100,000 and N150,000.
"The continued shutdown of the market by Rivers State government has affected the cost of ram in the state.
"A medium sized ram is sold at N70,000 while a big one costs between N100,000 to N150,000", he added.
A trader at Iriebie market, who simply gave his name as Musa, said that they don't have rams at present.
Low patronage in Lagos
Just like Rivers, the prices of ram in parts of Lagos remain high even as sellers complain of low patronage in many markets visited by our correspondent.
As at the time of filing this report, the least price of a ram in most of the markets is N40,000 which many buyers say is on the high side.
At Meiran Market along the Lagos-Abeokuta expressway, findings by Daily Trust show that prices of ram range from N40.000 to N120,000.
Cow prices on the other hand are within the range of N100,000 to N150,000.
Ismaila Aregbo, a buyer at Ahmadiyya, who bought a ram at N60,000, said it was too high but thanked God Almighty for enabling him to pay for it.
"Alhough the price was too high if you look at the size of the ram, it was Allah who made it possible," he said.
Muhammad Sadiga, a ram seller at Ahmadiyya, also complained of low patronage even as he called on the state government to urgently pay workers' salary to enable the Muslim faithful among them buy the sacrificial animal.
"We are sitting down waiting for customers as the Sallah period draws nearer," he said.
Just as in Lagos, Muslims in Imo state, South East Nigeria, are lamenting that the prices of the livestock hit the rooftop.
In Owerri, a survey conducted by our correspondent in most of the ram markets revealed that a medium sized ram, which hitherto sold for N25,000, now goes for between N60,000 and 65,000, while the large ones are sold between N90,000 and N105,000.
Our correspondent observed that Muslims thronged both the Obinze and Ama Awusa ram markets for last minute purchase of ram.
One of the buyers at Obinze, who identified himself as Kabir, said he had spent far above what he budgeted, as the price of ram was far above what he thought.
According to him, "I came to the market thinking that, at least, if there was going to be an increase, it would be marginal.
"But here I am at a loss.
"But as Muslims, we were taught to spend according to our means.
"So, I will buy according to my strength.
"The essence of the celebration is to thank Allah for his mercies throughout the year."
He said that he went to Obinze thinking that there would be a slight difference from what is obtainable at Ama Awusa because it's in the town, but expressed disappointment that the situation was no less different.