-“’Business has been good since disease outbreak’ – Rat poison/trap sellers
-“Business is fine, but customers will not buy if you don’t cover it well” – garri sellers
+ Lagos health workers take fight to the streets, kill 7,243 rats in seven markets
In Nigerian parlance, it is said that one man’s food is another’s poison. This is certainly true about the recent outbreak of the Lassa Haemorrhagic Fever (LHF).
As fear, panic and anxiety grip the public over the epidemic, sellers of rat poison and traps are smiling to the bank as they are experiencing an unprecedented boom with patronage of their products peaking in recent weeks.
Cassava flakes (garri) sellers are not having such a good ride, however, as though business has not been seriously affected, customers now make sure that they cover the snack properly before parting with their money.
ENCOMIUM Weekly engaged some of the traders…
Middle-aged George said, “Yes, I will say I have been selling more than I used to since Lassa Fever sickness became popular. People are really afraid. You know some of these things are imported. Like this eku gum rat glue board) is made in China. Now, I can sell up to N1600 or even more in the evening when people are coming back from work. My customers that resell buy more than before now.”
He gave a breakdown of the current prices and the reason behind the increase. He said, “This trap (popularly called eku gum) we used to sell for N100, now it’s N150, but I can sell two for N250. This poison (branded power kill), I used to sell it for N70, now it’s N100. The price of the others is the same.”
Oladapo who hawks rat killer items, also shared his thoughts, corroborating what his colleague said. “The difference between before and now is not too much. Like rat trap I used to sell N100, now is N150. This one (Power kill) is now 100 instead of N70. It’s only those ones that increased. Others are the same, like so le (rat poison) is still N50. You know Lagos is not like Abuja. My friend in Abuja say they sell this same rat trap for N500, so the difference is not too much here.”
On whether patronage has jumped since the outbreak of the virus, “Yes, but sometimes I sell more than other times. Before, I make like N500, now if market moves, I can sell up N1,500 or N2,000. I only come out in the evening because I have another work I do. I have customers that I supply who also sell in shops. I’m rushing off to one now.”
Mrs. Imenwo, who sells rat traps and other house cleaning items, spoke briefly. “Yes, I sell more than last year. Before this Lassa Fever thing, I only call the guy that supplies me when it is finished. Now, I call him almost every week.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum are cassava flakes (that’s garri) sellers. Though, they are not having the worst of times, they have had to field more questions and more careful than before.
Arinze, who sells at the popular Sunday market in Ogba, told us that though patronage hasn’t dropped, he has had to constantly assure his customers that the flakes have not been exposed to rat contamination.
He added that customers, especially women, are critical of the hygienic condition the garri was exposed to before they part with their money.
His words, “I still sell like before, sometimes in a week I can even sell two bags. Customers have been asking repeatedly, ‘I hope you cover your garri well from rats’ because of that I don’t keep the garri on the floor again.”
Another garri seller, Mrs. Nneka agreed with the sentiment, adding that if some customers are not convinced about the hygienic condition of the shop, they leave. She said, “It has affected me, but not too much. At least I still sell. But I have to make sure that everywhere is clean and no rat gets to my garri.”
Meanwhile, in a brazen effort to rid the state of the rampaging virus, the Lagos State chapter of the Environmental Health Workers Association of Nigeria has embarked on a massive De-rat Market campaign.
This came on the heels of calls from the state government to the health workers to step up efforts in fight against the spread of the disease.
Speaking at a workshop organised by the Ministry of Local Government and Community Affairs on the virus, the health workers association’s President, Samuel Akingbehin, revealed that 7,243 rats were killed in seven major markets; namely, Onigongbo, Oshodi, Oke-Odo, Ikotun Igando, Ojuwoye, Mile 12 and Alaba Rago markets.
He added that the programme was part of the association’s efforts to curb the spread of Lassa Fever in the state.
Lassa virus is transmitted to humans from contact with food or household items contaminated with the excreta or urine of infected multimammate rats.