May 14, 2012

Jos: Business Momentum Grows

With the exception of night attacks in some villages in Barkin Ladi and Riyom Local Government Areas of Plateau State recently, it could be said that there has been a long a period of peace in Plateau State. People seem tired of fighting. It is the reason why they would not want violent incidences in remote villages to disrupt their activities in the cities. The result is that normal life is returning, paving the way for normal businesses to return as they had been before fighting got to the peak.
Businesses grow only where there are huge populations of people that interact freely. The conflict in Jos has worked to polarize the people along ethnic and religious boundaries. At the peak of fighting, the populations of the diverse religions have moved to live in separate suburbs. What that means is that Hausas who are predominantly Muslims will conduct businesses only among themselves while the other tribes that form the bulk of the Christian population will conduct businesses only among themselves.
The main occupation of Hausas is trading. They depend on the patronage of large Christian population in Jos for their businesses to thrive. As a result lack of interaction between the two religions in Jos makes Hausa businesses to suffer reverses. Since there are certain commodities such as cattle that are supplied mainly by Hausas, the implication is that if there is no interaction between the two sides, only a limited supply of meat will be available to the Christians leading to high prices of the product. This scenario hurts business badly in the city.
In the town of Bukuru in Jos South, the gravity of conflict was so grave that Christians opted out of the common market in the heart of Bukuru to establish a ‘Christian’ market in Gyel, one of the mainly Christians suburbs surrounding Bukuru town. The only option left for the Hausas is to find a way of reaching the Christian markets. The long period of peace has made it possible for some Hausa traders to begin to re-establish contact with their Christian customers by daring into the predominantly Christian markets.
It is at one such market that I met Mohammed Alhaji Ado Mai Doya. He was born in the town of Bukuru and started meat selling in 2004. As a result, the series of conflicts that followed affected his business and those of other Hausas so badly that the only option left for them is either to flee the state or to find a way of reviving their businesses by reaching the Christians. Mallam Mai Doya said that it is important for all traders to come back to a common market as it has been since experience has shown that the idea of separate markets is not good for the progress of business in the town. Furthermore, he said there is the need for the authorities to work hard to ensure that fighting does not recur as it is the single reason why the progress recorded will be lost again. Part of the reason why fighting keeps reoccurring is the fact that you don’t see offenders getting punished, he says. He is therefore calling on the government to work hard to ensure that people are punished when they start problems that lead to the escalation of fighting in the city.

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