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Hardship: Stealing from pots of soup rampant

By Maria Famakinwa

Mama Amuda, a mother of five, heaved a sigh of relief when she was able to gather money to prepare a pot of soup for her family after days of improper feeding. While the soup was on fire, she went to buy five cups of garri to make ‘eba’, as her children waited in anticipation for the food to be ready.

She was, however, surprised when she came back to check on her soup and discovered that the five pieces of fish in the pot had reduced to three.

Her words: “Immediately I discovered that someone had taken out of the soup I was cooking and also took two out of the five pieces of fish in the pot, I burst into tears which that attracted my landlord and other tenants. We then traced the dripping of the soup to another tenant who had locked herself in the room. The landlord then ordered her to come out, and as soon as she opened her door, we saw where she hid the soup and the fish she stole from my pot of soup. She started begging for forgiveness saying that she did it because her children were hungry. The landlord settled it and gave her money to cook.”

This is what is happening in most neighbourhoods, especially face-to-face apartments, in the recent time.

Another suspected soup thief was reported in the Shagari area of Akure, Ondo State capital, and made away with the pot of soup in the freezer and foodstuffs.

 Also, a 19-year-old tailor, Adua Fatogun, was dragged before an Ondo state Magistrate Court for stealing a pot of soup and other items worth N311,100 at Ifeleye Street, Ayeyemi, Ondo town.

The magistrate had remanded the suspected food thief, following his arraignment before the court.

The hunger in the land has assumed an unbearable state, such that many households now beg from neighbours and families to feed, while those with nobody to turn to sneak into their neighbour’s apartments and steal foodstuffs and soups to survive. Likewise, kidnappers demand fried and jollof rice as part of the conditions to release their captives. Some Nigerians living in face-to-face apartments shared their experiences with The Hope.

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A middle-aged woman, Mrs. Yewande Alani, who lives in Agbogbo, Akure explained that many tenants living in face-to-face buildings now stays in the kitchen while cooking to avoid any drama. She said: “One thing I don’t like about the face-to-face house is undue exposure. Other neighbours know when you cook, what you cook, and when you eat. It is even worse if you don’t have anything to eat. They will make jest of you and gossip about you.”

Asked if there was any case of stealing from other people’s pot of soups she said: “That is common among people living in face-to-face apartments, especially now that people can hardly feed. What I do is watch over whatever I am cooking, because we all use the same kitchen. We have been experiencing people stealing from others’ pots of soups before, but it is now becoming a daily occurrence. If you fail to stay in the kitchen while cooking, you will later discover that the quantity of your soup on the fire has reduced, and nobody claims responsibility. Last month, a woman accused another woman in my street of stealing from her pot of soup which led to a fiasco. They also steal foodstuffs and money if one is careless about them. That has been the experience with face-to-face houses, but the economic situation in the country has compounded the problem,” she said.

Sharing a similar view, a trader, Iya Imole, who lives in Ijoka disclosed that the current economic hardship is more felt in her compound with 12 rooms with at least four occupants to a room. She said: “What is common in my compound is that people call their families to beg for foodstuffs or borrow money. Some also beg others for soups. The idea of people stealing from others pot of soups only happens if you don’t monitor what you are cooking.

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“At times, if I am cooking and don’t stay to monitor, I do observe that someone is tampering with my pot of soup, but since I have not caught anyone red-handed I cannot fight. My experience last December was very painful. I was boiling meat in the kitchen and went to attend to another thing. When I went to check, I discovered that my pot had been turned and not properly covered. When I opened the pot, I discovered that the number of the pieces of meat and ponmo have reduced. Though I suspected a man but I could not confront him. Immediately I started shouting and cursing the perpetrator, the man locked his door and left. Since then, I don’t cook if I cannot stay with it. Likewise, other tenants stay to monitor what they are cooking, because they also had their share of the bitter experience.”

Also, a tailor, Oyinola, who resides in Ore, affirmed that a lot of people are hungry. The mother of two who shared her own experience lamented that many of families go to sleep with empty stomachs. She said: “Two weeks ago I bought three rubbers of rice and beans and I also bought a bottle of palm oil. I cooked two cups of rice and beans in the morning and left for the shop. My husband later called me when he went home to eat that he could not find anything in the pot. I rushed home to check things for myself, only to discover that someone had eaten the cooked food and also went with the raw rice and beans together with the remaining palm oil.

“What we are not sure of is how the person gained access to our room which was locked. Though the boys-quarter in which I live has six rooms, other tenants had left before me on that day. We later realized that another tenant’s bottle of kerosene kept outside had also disappeared. We didn’t know who did it but it must be someone familiar with the apartment. I wonder why I should be the target when I also struggled to feed my family. My husband is an artisan but turned to an okada rider because customers are not forthcoming. At times, if you are cooking, you suddenly become an enemy of those who have nothing to eat. They will be the ones to table your matter in the street and also lie against you. Yet, if they come to me for any help, I still assist in my little way, but it is not possible to love them more than my family. I have realized that living in such an apartment is not the best for me,” she said.

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A concerned citizen, Mr Tony Chima, in his contribution, hinted that stealing from pots of soups would continue unless the current economic hardship is addressed by our leaders. The man who added that more Nigerians are daily frustrated with the increase in poverty in the land pleaded for urgent solutions to avert problems.

His words: “I sell in the market and I can tell you by what we see almost every day that things are tough. Hardly will a day end without seeing at least four people coming to the market to beg for foodstuffs. Some of them will tell you that they don’t need money but food to feed their children. Nigerians are not expected to be going through this hardship because we are naturally endowed, but our leaders are greedy. Some of the people walking along the streets have nothing to eat. If you buy something this week and go back to buy the same next week, the price would have jumped up. How do you expect the masses to cope with this economic reality?

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