FEATURE… Nasarawa: Wamba residents battle for survival as curfew threatens daily income

Fearful and restless, a 27 year old Hassana Mamuda, a yam seller from Wamba community in Nasarawa State, began to pack her frying utensils in a hurry to avoid the harassment of patrolling soldiers in the street at night. After peeling, cutting and frying lot of yams with eggs, she couldn’t sell the half of it as 9:pm clocked: the exact time of leaving the street, after the imposition of night curfew by the local authority.

As time was not on her side, she tried vigorously to gather her tray and basin of yams in order to flee.

From a distance, she overheard some men shouting and running to various junctions to evade beating by the security men. In a muse of sadness, due to the low profit she generated on her business, she pondered stopping the business completely till the end of the curfew. This was a personal decision she intended to take as a result of the derailing effect of the lock down since its day one.

In fact, Hassana was not only loosing profit, even the yam she bought always remained unsold. The previous night was grief stricken as many fried yams became a leftover food for the prying children.

Meanwhile, as a senior child of her mother with over four girls that trail her without a father, frying and selling yam was the venture they heavenly relied on. They managed through it to enroll in school. The place where they conducted their yam business at night was a trooping area of people. Nevertheless, the night curfew had been daunting and overwhelmingly threatening to Hassana’s business.

Saminu Abdullahi
Photo credit Usman Yakubu Usman

“What can we do about this curfew? Since the beginning, our business is no longer moving again. 9pm is too short. And the recent cause of this happened in Akwanga not in Wamba”, she bemoaned.

The night curfew in Wamba was imposed to curb security challenges in the community. The horrific incident that occurred when the neighboring local government chairman of Akwanga was kidnapped had raised concern.

It was also a response on the previous security breach in the past few months. During that time, some people were kidnapped and ransoms were given before their release. The capture of the first Professor of the community, Mr Onje-Gye-Wado sent shockwaves acros the area. Also, a prominent leader of Kwara and Mama, a sub community in Wamba was also taken.

This resulted to drastic security measures, with soldiers deployed to tighten security.

In the community, some people were also selected by the local authority to garrison the town against the criminal invaders. Their activities in ensuring tight security mainly took place at night.

However, the efforts to tighten security had proved to be taking negative effect on people. Hassana was not the only one left reeling for her loses. Saminu Abdullahi, an orange seller, fell too far short of what he was earning since the start of the night closure. He endured his pain in silence, praying solemnly for the complete suspension of the night curfew, but nothing changed.

Narrating his ordeal, from the first day of the curfew, Saminu said he hardly sells half of his sack of oranges. He always came out early and went back early to save himself from the security men. The result of this was loses. Many of his oranges rotted every week. In a bid to adjust, Saminu only bought the half sack and stayed content with a small profit.

Hassana Mamuda
Photo credit Usman Yakubu Usman

“It’s not easy for us these days. The curfew has changed everything. We only come out to continue with the business, but it’s not like before; for I lost many oranges”, he lamented.

Aliyu Saddiq, a clothes seller from Akwanga, had arrived in Wamba earlier to do his business, unfortunately misfortune caught up with him. He was left in regret after hearing about the curfew. “I decide to change location to do my business. I never thought there is curfew here in Wamba. Its difficult. I will miss my customers”, he said.

According to National Population Commission (NPC) and National Bureau of Statistics (NBC), Wamba population is 72,894.

Due to the dwindling state of the economy in the country, as fuel subsidy removal takes toll on every area of human life, the good number of people in Wamba are likely to fall deeper into the pit of poverty, adding to the myriad of challenges facing the country. That is, if their business continue to be on hold.

Incidents and Facts About the Curfew

In Wamba, Malam Audu a ‘Mai Shayi’ (Tea Seller) endured a torrid time when the soldiers chased his customers away. After chasing them, they took away some bread and his cylinder. To retrieve his items, he was forced to pay N5,000.

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Since the incident, Mal Audu always vacates his business area as early as 9:pm. The fear of facing similar debacle of the previous time triggered a shift in his business time. In a few weeks, his profit reduced drastically because he now makes few sales and leaves early.

At the time of this report, Mallam Okasha, a resident of Akwanga who does business of charging phones, told this reporter that despite the kidnap of their LG chairman, curfew is softened. And people do their business till 12pm.

“If you go to the roundabout, you will see many food sellers and others. They stay till 12pm”, he said.

To corroborate on the fact, this reporter further inquired from another resident of the town, Abdulaziz Isa. He affirmed on the absence of the night closure. “Curfew? I don’t even remember there’s a curfew. I used to see people roaming at 11pm. Though I don’t stay beyond that time outside”, he said.

How Night Business Thrives in Wamba

During nightfall, those selling food, tea, pap, fried yams, as well as those charging phones and many others go about their businesses making for their livelihood. The central areas of business ranges from Police Station Street and the heart of the community, down to the road that links to the market place.

Most of the sellers prefer running their businesses at night. They make lots of profit from their customers. Other foods that attract many customers include fried chicken, rice, drinks etc.

Starting from 7pm everyday, the riders who own motorcycles generate lots of income when taking people to some remote places around the community. The existence of many villages under Wamba; like Wayo, Ungo, Gwagi, Ungwan Rimi and many others makes it feasible for riders to thrive at night. And traveling at night means more income for the riders as the price is huge.

Residents Suffer More Losses

Frustration covered the face of Asabe Umar after explaining to this reporter on the misfortune of her business. As a rice porridge seller (rice swallow), the previous Saturday was too appalling. She lost a lot of money. “When I buy five measure of rice, i used to get 5,000 a day. But now to make N2,000 is a problem.

“The problem is, now we only spend one and half hour not four to five hours like before. Whether I sell it all or not I prefer to go back home to avoid the harassment of soldiers. This makes me to return lots of food back home.

Asabe’s financial loss turned her to a business woman always in debt. She continued just to survive, as the authorities show no concern to their situation.

“These days we don’t like to sit idle that’s why we are doing business. And the local government chairman does not understand our plight. Some business owners who went to him said he couldn’t listen to our plea, she complained.

Also, Maryam Abubakar (Mummy), a fried chicken seller, told this reporter how she was trying to cope with her financial losses. Her business turned sterile and backward since the curfew. “This thing really touched us. Because the time of getting the buyers is the time of closing the business. How can we make sales?

“I used to kill ten chickens and sell them all in a day. But now it’s not possible. It used to reach two to three days before I sell ten. And others often got spoiled.

Mummy explained that since the beginning of the night lockdown, on many occasion, customers returned her chicken complaining of seeing worms in it.

Residents Seek Alternative Solutions

Thoughtfully, Adamu Abdullahi, a resident of the community, who owns a viewing center, informed the security agencies of his challenges; that most matches are played into the night. He was glad when the security personnel granted him the grace of showing the matches despite the curfew. “I directly complained to the security men to let me show football matches, because many people watch it at night”, he explained.

After exploring the option that brings lasting solution to his business, he sees the need for others to do the same, by directing their grievances to the right channel.

“If the authority will consider, the people should be equipped with some amount to invest more on farming and daily business”, said Umar, a night petrol seller. He added that this would help them adapt or change their businesses and close their doors at night.

To better curtail the impact of the night curfew, Yusuf Ahmad describes it as “waste of time” as it would not bring a lasting solution to the problem of insecurity. He sees it as a torture to people who are struggling to make ends meet.

“Curfew is not the solution to insecurity. It will not stop kidnapping. if the invaders come they maybe still around us. Who knows? What the soldiers always do is going up and down with their cars.

“The best thing is to deploy the security men among the people, acting and mingling with them in disguise. Both the informants and the criminals will be fetch out easily”, he said.

He added that if any person or outsider that is not trusted should be apprehended. Yusuf also said that people often see strange people around the town. That should be addressed without pushing people to economic hardship.

Local Authority Shuns People’s Plea

Hon. Bala Asiru. Chairman, Wamba LGA

In order to mitigate the impact of the curfew, according to Mal. Yahaya, a roasted chicken seller, he and other marketers, organized and met the chairman of Wamba local government, Hon. Bala Asiru to help bring sanity to their plight. But he refused to listen to them.

“When I stood up in front of the chairman, I explained to him the difficulties we are facing. However, he said that Wamba is his problem not our business. And if we dare him, he will review the time from 9pm to 8pm.

“Before I walked away, the chairman said that everybody must obey the rules” he said.

To add more pains, Maryam, also a member of the group said heavy silence was the only answer that accompanied their grievances from the deputy chairman. “The other day we went to the deputy chairman. The man collected our phone number, saying he will talk to the chairman and get back to us. But we never heard from him again.

Nasarawa Police Division Reacts

When this reporter contacted the Nasarawa State Police Division through the Public Relation Officer (PRO), DSP Ramhan Nansel, he said “Police will never impose any curfew without the mandate of the government”.

He added that the local government chairman is the chief security officer, therefore in the best position to be approached on the matter.

Local Government Authority Speaks

In a chat, the local government chairman, through his special adviser, Hon. Aliyu Rimeh Udeh confirmed the government’s stance for not shifting ground concerning the curfew.

“Has there been any smoke without fire? All the measures in place have been in consonance with the top notch security officers. There can never be business boom without security”, he said.

By Usman Yakubu Usman

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