By Yunusa Bunu | 6 December, 2016
'I used to order not less than 10 trucks of grains every day, and I mean it. My neighbor, Alai Bashir Maidugu who is no more in the market did even more', a trader, Mohammed Sanda Kurama reminisced.
Borno State shares borders with three independent countries and it was one of the gateways into the country. Goods and services are brought in and out of the country via these borders from all parts of West Africa, Central Africa and beyond.
A historian, Musa Ali told this reporter that trade and commerce is being carried out on this route since time immemorial in what was Trans Saharan Trade that brings West Africa, North Africa and the Arabian Peninsula in trade and commerce.
‘I agree with you, before the heat, you would see hundreds of trucks crisscrossing along this road alone, and non-stop’, he told this reporter in his shop at Bama road station, Maiduguri.
Consequently, big markets developed along these routes. In its own right, Baga, in Kukawa local government of Borno state, developed over time as one of the largest fish markets across the North, among other endowments.
Banki, Bama and Gomboru are among, albeit unknown to many, the largest commercial and trade centers in West Africa and are deeply engrained in agriculture and inter-border trades.
‘There was a trader who had close to one thousand trucks and thousands of livestock in Gomboru and there are many of them’, Yusuf Gulumba, media assistant to Ngala caretaker chairman said.
Bama, Baga, Banki and Gomboru, were however destroyed by Boko Haram in the course of its heinous activities in 2014. The result of this was a total shutdown of hitherto booming economic activities, closure of access roads and borders. Everything was ground to halt.
‘Up to Kusuri, the currency used in trade and commerce before now was Naira. This is one of the reason Naira had to weaken’, the caretaker chairman of Ngala, Abdulkarim Abdulrahman said.
Chadian President, Idris Derby in a national broadcast declared that his country is in recession and could not pay salaries because of the attacks and complete shutdown of border markets of Nigeria.
The daily scenery in the markets and roads in Maiduguri, is influx of cavalcade of trucks from all bearing. Efforts by this reporter to interface with Nigerian Custom Office, Borno state command prove abortive. However, Hon. Abdulkarim further added that Custom officers stationed in Gamboru have told him that they raised 2.5 million Naira in less than a week following the recapture and eventual resettlement of displaced persons.
‘As soon as roads are reopened, I will return because ordinarily there is no way I will be satisfied by how anyone, government inclusive, can take care of some us who are used to dealing in millions daily’, Babagana Abakar Banki, one of the major traders in Banki, Bama local government told this reporter.
‘I have never used currency to buy a car in the 11years of my import of cars from Cotonou. I used foodstuff in exchange, because it was cheaper for me’, a car dealer who spoke to this reporter in anonymity said.
As the situation continued, traders all across the state in different markets lament.
Alh. Abubakar Balimiri, a trader and the Chairman, Custom Market Traders Association of Grains said ‘it is known to the world that not just this but almost all markets, both in the city and border towns are attacked several times, our goods, farms, trucks and other assets are hijacked many times by Boko Haram’.
He further added that ‘before the insurgency, the average trader orders 5 – 6 trucks of grain each week. But it is regrettable that 15 – 20 people now depend on a single truck’.
‘We sell products worth 30million, each day right in this shop but not a single million now. We lost sight of our customers!’ said an orange dealer, Mallam Isa Kalabalge of Gomboru Market.
Alh Modu Maiduguri, vegetable dealer in Gomboru market, said traders from Sudan, Mali, Central Africa, Libya, Saudi Arabia and many more come to trade here. They buy goods like ginger, onions, pepper, etcetera, in millions. He regrets that in the past few years, not single of such large-scale sales are recorded.
A trader at Baga Road (now Indimi Road) Motor Pack, Alh Modu Bula said 'this is a market were hundreds of trucks flock in and out daily, a market where you hardly take a step without colliding shoulders.
‘In fact, as big as it is, the traders raised the need for expansion or much bigger place, because, so many trucks, from Baga, Monguno, Marte, Damasak, etcetera local governments, full of goods like pepper, sorghum, maize unload outside due to congestion.
‘And in no time, these goods are transported different parts of the country.
‘At the moment, we receive demands of these goods from our previous customers, sending in their monies, but the goods are not here anymore because of the situation.
'Farming activities and other productive activities were grounded or reduced greatly.
‘Where we used to sell goods in trucks, it is only seldom that we sell a bag today.
‘Even those whose businesses were not destroyed by the insurgents have been by now exhausted’, he lamented.
Muhammed Bayi said because of lack of access to Baga ‘from where we used to load trucks with fish daily and send to various places in the South and other countries, I have no doubt billions are lost.’
‘I deal in goods worth over 500 million Naira almost daily in this market with traders all the way from Sudan, Niger, Cameroon and etcetera. Today, 10 million is beyond us’ Sheriff Galtimari a trader in Monday market also lamented.
‘You can see here, many shops are either closed or shrank because of this menace. In fact, the truth is, even the government can’t refund our losses’, he further added.