BY PRINCE MACDONALD ENWERE
Since the outbreak of the dreaded novel zoonotic COVID-19 in the country, there have been increase in the prices of goods and services. There have been unusual consistent hike mostly in the prices of food commodities in the open market. The current situation in our open market is so harsh for the consumers as prices of food items and other goods have maintained an astronomical rise. Sellers of food products and other commodities have for no just cause continued to skyrocket the prices of these commodities hiding under the outbreak of the viral Coronavirus. Sellers of these commodities have continued to engage in such a wicked and unfair practices without any reason. There is no inflation, no scarcity of the essential commodities, no recent rise in exchange rate, no confiscation of any product. It is a sin against God and humanity for some individuals for no just cause to engage in unusual consistent hike in the prices of goods and services.
This practice is mostly seen among us, the Igbos. You can hardly see such practice in the North or in the West. The outbreak of this infection is not only in the South East rather it is a global pandemic. This wicked act has brought untold hardship, famine and hunger to the people since the recent outbreak of the Chinese Coronavirus. It is an inhumane act for some individuals to take undue advangate of the outbreak of COVID-19 to suffer other people in order to satisfy their selfish interest. For instance, a sacket of water which was sold at the rate of #10 is now #20, a bag of rice which was sold at the rate of # 20,000 is now 32,000, one paint of garri which was sold #700 is now 1200, five litres of cooking oil which was sold #3000 before is now #3500, one paint of fresh tomatoes which was sold #300 before is now #700. The poor masses are always at the receiving end.
Food as one of the essential needs of man should be made available and affordable at all times. The rate at which the prices of these commodities are being hiked arbitrarily is quite unbecoming and alarming. Sellers have created artificial scarcity of essentiall products for the sole motive of profit maximization.
Considering the excruciating pains and enormous challenges of this wicked practice in this difficult moment of our nation’s history, it has become very expedient and necessary for Government to intervene in this situation.
Government should as a matter of urgency initiate and reintroduce a Price Control mechanism by constituting a Price Control Board. This should be as part of a larger income policy package and also employing wage control and other regulatory elements. The Board will help in placing a restriction on the prices of goods and commodities in our open markets. And to also mitigate the impact of inflation on consumers of various products.
The 1977 Price Control Act should be amended and re-enforced to give the Government powers through the Price Control Board to fix price of array of commodities. It should be made as an offence for a seller to sell any controlled product at a price higher than the controlled price.
There should be an end to this arbitrary hike in the price of goods and services in our society. Such practice should not be condoned at all for whatsoever reason. Government should take charge.
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