Onion : A tool used to disrupt, instead to create wealth, foster peace and change.

In recent times, there has been an increase in demand for onions mostly in the southern part of Nigeria. Late last year and earlier this year, onions became scarce and equally expensive in what many might have at the time considered to have become something as precious as Gold. Onion became extremely expensive.

3-4 medium sized onions that usually cost less than ₦250 were sold for nothing less than ₦400 – ₦500 depending on the location you live in Nigeria. For those in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Abuja it sold for at least ₦500 or even more compared to other cities and states in Nigeria. As at October 2020, at the peak of the scarcity and spike, a bag of onions sold for ₦60,000 while about 9 pieces of Onions were sold for ₦1,000 according to a report by Nairametrics.

Long before now, the northern part of Nigeria was popularly known for its arable land used to cultivate cash crops and perishable food items like: groundnut / peanut, tomatoes, peppers, onions and array of fruits and vegetables. Jos for example was a place where virtually anything grown could thrive. Benue state in the middle belt, known as the ‘food basket of the nation’ also flourished in the production of food items even till date. This is not to say other regions in Nigeria don’t grow food items they equally do: Abakaliki rice is grown in Ebonyi state. Cocoa, kola, maize, cassava, yam, rubber, palm tree and plantain plantation dominate the south east and south west states of Nigeria.

Every region in Nigeria has something unique to its locality which has before now fostered exchange and trade. As the northern part is popularly known for its annual or biannual farm produce while, other regions are known to produce perennial farm produce often if not every time. This is as a result of the soil type, topography and PH level.

Away from the already established points, onion doesn’t serve its primary purpose anymore which is cooking. Instead, it is used as a tool to cause disruption in the sense of confusion and disorderliness where a group can decide to shut down its supply because of ethno-religious crises.
When and how did things turn this way?
It all started in the Fourth Nigerian Republic in 1999, in a farmer-herder violence which led to ethnic clash amongst the northerners and southerners. Killing more than 19,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands more. The year 2016, saw further incidents in Agatu, Benue and Nimbo, Enugu State. Climate change and land crisis are few of the causes of this dispute among farmers and headers.

Recently, a state of unrest was experienced in Aba, Abia State, Shasa, Oyo State and Imo State. The Onion Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (OPMAN) issued a statement in this regard stating that, the crisis in Aba led to the loss of “three members, while about 30 trailers, 9 utility cars, 50 stores and 10,000 bags of onion, among other valuables belonging to their members, were destroyed.” In Oyo, 27 lives were lost, five trailers, 5,600 bags of Onions, 12 utility vehicles and other valuables were destroyed.
In Abia, it was disclosed that members were robbed of onions worth ₦13 million.

However, the aftermath of this state of unrest saw the national president of the association, Aliyu Isah Umar, disclosing during a press briefing on Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021. That the association will be “shutting down the supply of onions to the entire South by Monday, June 7, 2021”.
According to the President of OPMAN, the Federal Government had refused to compensate its members to the tune of ₦4.5bn for the series of losses, which Isah attributed to the activities of hoodlums and other forms of Insecurity in Nigeria. He also stated that not until law and order is restored in the areas affected, as well as a thorough investigation to uncover the remote causes of those attacks on their members the association will remain on strike.

The strike was implemented as result of the suffered losses and the ethno-religious crises but upon implementing the ban onion farmers in the north have complained bitterly about the deterioration of their produce as a result of the suppliers refusal to supply onions to the southern part of Nigeria. It was reported on Wednesday, June 9th 2021, that over 50 trucks of onions have rotted away in the farms and markets since they embarked on the strike.

There are two things that come to mind here, was the decision to shut supply to the entire southern part of Nigeria a policy carried out solely by OPMAN executives? with little to no knowledge or involvement of the onion farmers, or was the policy just an avenue to get the government’s attention and indirectly an attempt to punish and indict suffering on those in the southern part. The level of disruption of this sole action by OPMAN is unquantifiable, this has caused a lot of loss and destabilization of people’s businesses most especially the onion sellers. This action by OPMAN, in no way fosters peace, creation of wealth and change the economy is in dire need of.

I know I said two things but, was shutting down the supply the best decision? Was making those truck loads of onions rot away the best solution? Most especially at a time when food insecurity is on the rise and food scarcity and shortage is increasing by the day all as a result of food spoilage which threatens the effective supply of food to many areas of the federation. I leave you to answer.

Since various regions in Nigeria have formed an alliance long before now, to buy from one another and exchange goods and services. These individuals need to go back to the drawing board and find a more lasting solution to the chaos and fiasco already created. Insecurity was the sole purpose of embarking on the strike; this should also be looked into by the government and agencies in charge of protecting lives and properties and restoring law and order.


Published by Temitopedancer

My name is ÌyanuOlúwa Fágbiyè Tèmítọ́pẹ́ (Pen name: temitopedancer) I am the founder and team lead at My Cookery Zone. I'm an Anthropologist, multimedia Journalist / broadcaster, food blo gger, and food writer.

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