Naira Free Fall: Balogun Market Traders Count Losses

THE dwindling value of the naira has left local traders agitated, as moves by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to shore up the local currency has left little or no impact on their businesses, checks by The Guardian revealed. 

   The situation has resulted in low sales for traders at the Balogun Market, Lagos, who had hoped that after Christmas celebrations, the inflation rate would drop. But the reverse has been the case, mostly due to the crash in oil price and its attendant implications.

    Likewise, the postponement of the elections mounted pressure on the naira as it slumped further to N213 to a dollar at the parallel market. Initially, the naira traded around N168 following interventions by the CBN late last year. However, the intervention did not produce the expected relief, and traders are yearning for better days for the naira and their businesses.

    Times are hard for traders at Balogun market, a melting pot for business transactions in the heart of Lagos, as the naira manages to stay above board in a neck-deep war against the dollar in recent weeks.

     Mrs. Chinwe Njoku, who imports and sells clothes around Broad Street, in Lagos Island, has seen a change of fortune since the crisis with the local currency. However, she has adjusted to the reality, but the effect on her business is apparent as sales are dropping. 

     She had sold ladies suit for N12,000, but the same item now goes for N15,000 while the prices of her gowns are heading towards N10,000 from N7,000. She said when she went to order new stocks recently and had to deduct fees for accommodation, she had to buy only what she could afford, as prices had soured.

    Madam Olufunke, who runs Olufunke stores, sells baby products at wholesale price in the market. She had a misunderstanding with a potential buyer because of the change in price of baby products. A box of a skincare essentials box for babies used to sell for N5,500 but now goes for a new rate of N6,000. She eventually sold it at the former price because an old client recommended her shop to the new buyer.

     She still has some old stock, but the tales of her colleagues who have travelled has kept her on the edge. So she sells at the new rate for fear of what will happen when she travels to bring in new goods. At a plaza further close-by, the same baby box sells for N6,000, despite customers asking for the former price. There is a N500 difference on almost all baby products.

     In the same vein, Alhaja Bisi Adesiyan, who sells provisions said the situation with the value of the naira has greatly affected sales, as her customers are buying below only as much as their budget can take. 

    Another trader, Bunmi Adams, lamented the increase in price at the popular Eko market. Initially, she buys a carton of sardine at the rate of N5,500, but the same item now goes for N5,700. Similarly, the price of Jack and Jill biscuit moved up from N5,200 to N5,800, signifying a 10.3 percent increase. Also, a pack of rose tissue rose from N200 to N320. A carton of ball point pen now sells for N14,000, a N800 difference from the former price.    

   Alhaja Afusat Ikolaba, who sells headgears, said the situation is frustrating coupled with the fact that could not clear her goods at the wharf. She also complained that the price of regular headgear has increased from N1,000 to N1,500, while the Segold headgear has risen from N1,200 to N2,000. 

   Mr. Paul Utoru lamented that he had not sold an item due to the increase in the price of fabrics. The price of velvet also rose by N800 to sell at N2000. 

   He said he was yet to clear his goods at the wharf because the foreign exchange rate determined how much he would spend to receive his goods. 

   According to Mr. Utoru, the naira slump is affecting all sectors of the economy and its impact is becoming almost unbearable. 

   A customer, Mr. Adepoju Abiola, noted that since Nigeria is a one-commodity country, the masses would bear the brunt for every decision government takes at this trying time.

     However, Mr. Ayodele Oyedeji, who runs a Bureau de change in the market, said the naira might slip further given the tension in the country.  According to him, “Nigeria’s dependence on oil is the reason the country is going through hard times. The fall of the naira makes it obvious that we depend so much on importation when we should be producing and exporting. Government should ensure that the financial situation in the country does not spiral out of control.”

    He said dollars are not flowing into the market as it should and there is pressure on the local currency. “It appears that despite the warnings last year for austerity, the reality is biting harder than expected,” he cautioned.

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