Garri is one of the most common foods in Nigeria that has been a lifesaver since time immemorial.
Garri is one food that has been around for ages and doesn’t need ads to sell.
This particular meal can be enjoyed baked with hot water or soaked with water and enjoyed with some condiments. While garri seems like the best thing that has ever happened to Nigerians, there was a time when the private sale of this food item was actually criminalized in Nigeria.
This happened way back in 1944 during the Second World War.
At the time, reports say the British were suffering at the hands of the Germans and they were desperate to win the War. In their desperation, the British sought money and resources and turned to the countries they had power over including Nigeria.
Some of their strategies reportedly included recruiting Nigerians for war, imposing some monetary policies, and even rationing food. It got to a point where people had to queue for days just so they could buy garri.
One of the monetary policies adopted was for market women to start paying taxes and a Food Price Control Scheme that meant a “control” price list for common food items such as garri, to be used by all retailers, including market men and women.
However, this move was strongly resisted by traders of foodstuffs and they wrote lots of petitions to air their grievances. A prominent activist – Halimatu Pelewura alongside other market women would go on to lead a protest challenging this and the market women at some point, stopped selling garri to the government.
Of course, the government wasn’t happy with this and decided to boycott the market and buy directly from producers. They would also impound any bag of garri heading for Lagos at the time and even went ahead to arrest anyone who sold garri privately.
The government went ahead and seized garri sale permits from lots of traders who refused to comply with the fixed price, and at the time, it was against the law to sell garri without a permit.
Pelewura and her supporters were also not backing down and it didn’t take long before a black market for garri was formed. People would go to extreme measures to get this garri and sell it secretly.
Thankfully, the government later backed down after months and announced the removal of garri from the price control scheme, a scheme that was later scrapped. Garri might be easy to access today but whenever you step out to buy it, remember there was a time when that would have been a criminal offence.