Food vendors in Otukpo, Benue, are smiling to the bank after a steady boom in their businesses following the return of Mark d’Ball basketball competition in the town.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the competition could not hold in December 2016 following an eviction notice served on the organisers to vacate the premises used for the event.
The competition eventually returned in 2017 following the donation of a new basketball arena by former Senate President David Mark who is the sole sponsor of Mark d’Ball.
Some of the food vendors who spoke to NAN expressed appreciation to the organisers saying that their businesses thrived in 2017 compared to 2016 when the event couldn’t hold.
A vendor, Mrs Gloria Samuel, said she sold a quarter bag of rice every day. This, she said excluded what she makes from selling other foodstuffs.
“Some days I go home with N50,000 and at times N45,000. I always rely on this competition (Mark d’Ball) to prepare for the New Year.
“Last year (2016) December was tough because the competition didn’t hold; planning for the New Year was difficult for my family but I thank God things are normal again,” she said.
She commended the organisers of the competition and pleaded for it to be sustained.
Another vendor who specialised in preparing indomie noodles with egg, but only gave his name as Simeon, told NAN that he enjoyed celebrating his Christmas in Otukpo because of the brisk business during Mark d’Ball.
“I am from Plateau State. In the last five years, I have been going home on Jan. 1 because I wait till the end of Mark d’Ball.
“I couldn’t travel last year (2016) Christmas because Mark d’Ball didn’t hold and I didn’t have enough money to spend when I travel.
“In fact, I have already called my people that I am coming on New Year day because I know I can take care of expenses at home this time around,” Simeon said.
Simeon who sold a plate of two indomie noodles packs and two eggs for N350 said he sold up to four cartons every day.
Mr Malik Adejoh, the manager of Leach Hotel situated in the Government Reserved Area of Otukpo, did not hide his joy for the competition, as his hotel rooms were fully booked.
“Mark d’Ball is one tournament we rely on every year to make up for the lost periods during the year.
“I have managed this hotel for about 15 years and I can tell you what we have benefitted from this competition. People come from different parts of the country to lodge here.
“I have some basketball teams and Nigerian artists that are lodging in this hotel and we also hosted the “Miss Idoma” beauty pageant in this arena.
“As I am talking to you now, we don’t have any room that is free; they have all been booked until Mark d’Ball comes to a close on Dec. 31 night, and this happens every year apart from 2016.
“I know what we lost when it didn’t hold in 2016 but I thank God we are here again,” Adejoh said.
NAN reports that Mark d’Ball is a sports and entertainment event that brings Nigeria’s most exciting basketball teams, comedians and musicians to perform live in Otukpo.
Famous musicians Majek Fashek, Tuface Idibia, Terry G, P-Square, Ambassador Wahala, Aboki for Christ, Fred Bright and Chuks the General are some of the entertainers that performed at Mark d‘Ball events.
Others are Ice Prince, Tekno, Okey Bakassi, Ibu, Pastor Nicodemus and Klint da drunk.