Harmattan: The two sides of a coin

THE harmattan season especially in the Northern part of the country spans the months of December and March. It is a season that literally changes the characteristics of that part of the country. Lifestyles change just as some businesses suddenly begin to thrive while some residents curse under their breath the menace the weather brings in its trail. So it is a situation of different strokes for different folks.

In fact it could be so harsh in some places that businesses shut down altogether. Residents of Plateau State, especially Jos, who are somehow used to the cold weather are not smiling this year. This is because the cold harmattan wind is so severe that some elderly people are saying the last time it was comparatively cold was about twenty years ago.

Though the weather has subsided a little bit, it still fluctuates between 17 and 19 degrees centigrade. It is however taking its toll on both economic and social activities, particularly early morning and late night activities.

While some residents are complaining of low patronage of business, others are taking advantage of the weather to make brisk business and smiling to the banks. ArewaLive findings revealed that operators of night clubs and relaxation joints dotting various strategic part of Jos are counting their losses.

When Arewa Live visited West of Mines in Jos which is a rendezvous for night crawlers and workers who want to unwind after closing hours, it was deserted as only a handful of people were seen hanging out in the area. A lady who simply identified herself as Lydia complained of low patronage, attributing it to the cold weather.

“This year’s cold weather is exceptional; it has been a long time we experienced this kind of cold weather. Our customers now prefer to go home instead of coming here to relax after working hours. Nobody wants to drink cold beer; though we no longer put them in the refrigerator yet they are cold,” she said.

It was the same complaint at the other outdoor bars at Polo round about popularly referred to as Obalende, Izu joint at Old Airport junction, Crepes in Rayfield, Greek Garden near Plateau State House of Assembly and other outdoor bars in Bukuru town.

For residents the cold weather forces them to retreat into their houses as early as possible while traders open and close for business earlier and later than the usual time.

Commercial tricycles drivers are also not finding it rosy, as a cross section of them who spoke with Arewa Live said the weather is not only affecting their business but their health also.

Ibrahim Musa, a Keke NAPEP driver said no matter how thick the clothes they put on, they still feel the cold. “My prayer is that the harmattan should reduce to enable us ply our business the way it should,” he said.

The cold weather has also created a new way of dressing some bordering on the comic in an attempt by people to keep warm. People are often seen wearing layers of clothes, jackets and head warmers. Even women in native dresses put on trekkers.

However, there are people wish the harmattan would always here all year round. These are the people selling second hand winter clothing. Some who were not in that line of business have also joined because it is currently a booming business.

Abdullahi Musa one of the traders said he wished the harmattan period could stay longer.  For him business is good as he sells more than one bale of clothes per day.

Tea sellers are not left out, a tea seller they now open for business from early in the morning to late in the evening due to rising patronage.

The situation is not different in Sokoto where traders cash in on the weather and residents find their way home from their offices or shops to escape the biting cold weather.

A resident, Ibrahim Shamsudeen, who spoke with Arewa live described the harmattan period as his favourite. Shamsudeen, who repairs power generators, however, disclosed that his only regret was that business for him is always dull during the harmattan period.

“I prefer this weather to the rainy and hot season. I am sure you know how Sokoto rain used to be; very heavy accompanied by heavy wind. And the heat used to be terrible. This weather gives me the opportunity to do some things with ease.

“Take for instance; I can fast for more than a month during this period without any hesitation due to the friendly weather. If I have my way, I would prefer that this harmattan season should be extended to at least six months in a year. The only difficulty in the weather is dust which leads to catarrh and cough, especially among children, as well as eye problem,” he stated.

Also speaking, a roadside vendor selling tea and bread popularly called “maishayi”, AbdullahiYinusa, described the harmattan period as booming period for his business.

AbdullahiYinusa who hails from the Republic of Niger, a neighbouring country said more people patronise his business during this period than at any other time.

According to him, “you cannot compare what I sell during harmattan period with the other season.

“Let me give you an example. I used to open for business during another season at about 7 a.m, but now it is before 6 a.m.

“You know I do open twice a day; the evening session that used to be around 5 p.m has been adjusted to 4 p.m due to high demand.

“Now I close late in the night between 1a.m and 2a.m as people always throng my shop to either drink tea or keep their body warm due to the availability of fire.

“If I open shop for a month during harmattan, it is equivalent to about three months’ sales when there was no harmattan. I swear to God, this is the best weather for my business and I can’t ever joke with it.

“Even if they call me now that my wife has put to bed in my country, I will rather send them money than travel down to the place. I really wish everyday could be harmattan in Sokoto which would help me make a lot of money and plan for a better business in my country.

“As you know, it is not easy leaving one’s family behind to travel a far distance to look for daily bread, but thank God, it is working fine,” he added

Also speaking, SalihuAbdulkarim, who sells second hand clothes also known as Okrika revealed that the sale of second hand cardigans and socks is currently experiencing a boom.

According to him, “this is harmattan period  and the sales of second hand cardigans is very much on the high side now compared to even the rainy season.

“The patronage is not the same when compared to hot season. During the hot season, people could decide to wear just any clothes for the whole day, unlike now that one must have to wear something thick to keep warm.

“This harmattan season is our season when different kinds of people take to the business unlike other seasons when there are only few people. Presently, I have different sets of people who buy from me including some boys who come here to pack cardigan to resell at the road side.”

Abdulkarim further disclosed that children’s clothes are more expensive than those of adults and sell faster as parents tend to buy for their children because there is need for them to keep warmer than adults.

He, however, appealed to the federal government to urgently consider the reopening of the closed land borders to enable traders bring in more quality products into the country.

“We are appealing to the Government to please open our borders so that we can remain in business, and thereby reducing the consumer price of these clothes to the customers,” he added.

MalamIsiyaku, a second hand clothing trader in Sokoto while speaking Arewa Live also confirmed that the business always thrive at this period because most people could afford the clothing and because it was very important to keep warm.

Customers, he said include individuals and motorcyclists who buy winter jackets, head caps and nose/ mouth protectors.

However, according to a physician, Dr. KabirMagaji, the dry, cold and dusty wind associated with harmattan could trigger sickle cell crises in affected individuals whom he advised  should be vigilant and keep warm as much as possible to prevent crises.

“Because of the dusty atmosphere, there is need to imbibe healthy food preservation culture especially food hawkers such as fruits and soya sellers to prevent food-born diseases. Fruits and vegetables should be properly washed before eating. Our drinking water containers should also be properly covered,” he advised.