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How British government criminalised selling garri in Nigeria in 1944



The British colonial government made it illegal for anyone to sell Garri privately in 1944.

At the time, garri was considered as “Government treasure”.

This actually happened during the era of the second World War.

As we know, the British were suffering at the hands of the Germans and they were desperate to win the War, they needed money and resources, so they pulled as many as they could get from their colonies, including Nigeria.

They built harbours, roads, Airfields, hospitals, and anything to make their exploitation easier.

Thousands of Nigerian men were recruited into the Army to fight in the second World. Even at that, they still needed more.

They imposed some monetary policies, and they rationed food so they could have enough to export for their wars.

The government was in charge of food distribution, and people would have to queue for days to buy garri.

They wanted to tax market women. Then we had Halimatu Pelewura, a Nigerian woman who led a protest to curb this action.

British Government were like “British women pay tax, why should Nigerian women be any different” and Pelewura replied; “All of Nigeria’s wealth was being taken to Britain hence the British women could pay tax because they were Rich”.

She organized the market and told them to boycott sales of garri to the government.

This made the government and the security agents “declared war”.

The garri sellers of Ijebu Ode, who were cut out because government bought directly from producers stationed their members at Sagamu to forcibly stop and inspect every Lagos-bound lorry and to impound every bag or gari bound for government stores.

At one point, Pelewura and her irate supporters invaded a meeting of the Agege Town Council to protest the measures. They threatened to go full tilt in black market operations. They fired off a petition thumb printed by one thousand and three hundred of their fellows.

The Government started arresting those who sold garri privately but NIGERIANS are very resourceful so the fa-ya-wo got involved (fa-ya-wo is what the Yorubas call smugglers).

The fa-ya-wo would crawl on their bellies (hence their name) to steal Garri from government stores and sell in private.

Garri had its own black market. The government found it very hard to solve this problem, they tried to bribe Halimatu Pelewura to come to their side but she didn’t sell her conscience.

Things got quite desperate for gari eaters in Lagos in 1945 as government supply was squeezed to a hopeless trickle and black-market prices went through the roof.

Pelewura went as far afield as Okitipupa to bypass government supply lines and flood the Lagos markets with garri.

It could only end one way, and in the end it did.  Government capitulated, announcing the removal of garri from the price control scheme. A year later, the scheme was scrapped altogether.

The women had won.

Source: Twitter (@NigeriaStories) and Business Day.


The information in this article was curated from online sources. NewsWireNGR or its editorial team cannot independently verify all details.

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