Since the beginning of the month of November, the 46-year-old Chudi Ebenezer, a Lagos-based Computer Engineer, has been worried and nervous over his financial situation especially as the yuletide season is just a matter of weeks away.
The father of four is particularly concerned about meeting his financial obligations with his wife and children as regards providing his family with both the basic needs and the spending that comes with the yuletide.
He told BusinessDay that his family was initially planning to travel to their country home in Imo State since it has been over three years since they last travelled as a family, but the economic situation in the country is not making it easy for them.
“To travel home for Christmas is not looking like something we will be able to achieve this year with the current economic situation in the country and the financial burden that this will impose on my family.
“The transportation cost of moving a family of six to Imo State and back to Lagos, will not be less than N400,000 and when we add the possible expenses to cater for the festivity, the activities, ceremonies and other things, we will be needing nothing less than N1million if we must make this holiday,” Ebenezer explained.
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According to him, his family is now considering cancelling the Yuletide holiday trip because aside from the huge financial burden of travelling during the Christmas season, the children’s tuition fees will be the first expense in January 2024 after the Yuletide.
“My four children are paying tuition fees that are not less than N750,000 per term and when we include other school supplies, the payment will be amounting to over N900,000 per term. The bills are piling up and the income is shrinking due to the present economic situation in the country.
“As the Naira continues to lose its value against the dollar, the surging inflation on its part is also helping to put many Nigerians, especially family men like us under intense pressure because it is becoming extremely difficult to meet our financial obligations,” Ebenezer added.
Similarly, Abosede Gbolahan, a nurse and mother of two, has expressed serious apprehension over the coming Yuletide season given the financial pressure she and her husband have been through in the last three months.
She said her family had just managed to pay off the school fees of her two children about two weeks ago for the school to allow them sit for the first term exams.
“We are a few weeks away from this year’s Christmas and I have not bought anything for my children. My children are asking for new wear including shoes and clothes but as it stands, there is no budget to fund that extra expenditure.
“January financial spending is usually very hectic for my husband and me because we have to also renew our house rent by the end of January. The school’s first term is gradually coming to an end and before you know it, January will come with another school fees and our salaries are no longer able to meet these obligations,” said the marketing expert.
Catherine Igboeze, a businesswoman and mother of three, does not have a different story to tell about the coming Yuletide as she said that her husband has put an embargo on a holiday trip and buying of Christmas wear for the children.
According to her, the family budget can only cover the basic needs of ensuring that there is food in the house, school bills and rent are paid with little or no stress.
Igboeze, who disclosed that her greatest fear was how to travel for her younger sister’s wedding that is billed to take place in the first week of January 2024, said there wouldn’t be any excuse not to make it to her younger sister’s wedding despite the fact that times are hard.
She said her parents are presently under pressure due to the surging prices of foodstuff in the market.
“As a family member, I am supposed to help my parents fund the traditional marriage of my sister but things are very expensive at the market. The foodstuffs needed for the ceremony are becoming very expensive to buy due to inflation. My parents are very worried because of the mounting bills that are attached to the upcoming wedding,” she said.
The economic headwind in Nigeria is now very worrisome due to high inflation. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, Nigeria’s headline inflation grew by 27.33 percent in October compared to a year ago, mainly due to the continued depreciation of the naira, and high food and fuel prices.
Today, a bag of rice sells for between N50,000 and N55,000 depending on the brand. Rice is almost becoming like a staple food in Nigeria and the most visible entertainment food in every occasion in Nigeria.
For several months now, BusinessDay gathered, this important food item has been missing in many homes.
Wedding, burial dates being adjusted
For those planning special programmes in December, special budgets are being made for rice. For many, the thought of raising the money to procure rice is already causing them migraine.
Many families that had fixed dates for one occasion or the other in December are counting the date with apprehension. A lot of marriage ceremonies and burials have been fixed for December, but in some cases, BusinessDay gathered that some dates are being adjusted as a result of the biting economy.
BusinessDay gathered that some wedding ceremonies and burials fixed for December have been moved to later dates in 2024 to avoid the rush and the high cost of transportation.
The cost of transportation to any state in the South East by road is now from N25,000 to N30,000 per passenger. It is higher for those going to Ebonyi, Akwa Ibom, a d Cross River in South-South. It is likely to go up during the yuletide season while flight ticket for the yuletide is now over N150,000 per trip depending on the route and the airline.
For instance, Monday Ubong, who lost his father about three months ago, said his family had to move the burial date of his father from December to February 2024 to avoid the rush and high cost of almost everything during the yuletide.
Ubong said his father died at a time when every member of Ubong’s family was struggling to make ends meet.
“My late father died in September 2023, and we have been raising money for the burial, which has become a huge task due to the biting economic situation in Nigeria. We planned to do the burial this Christmas but when we saw that the bill would be too much for us to bear, we had to move the date to February next year to allow the Yuletide rush to pass,” Ubong said.
He said it was now very difficult to do certain things in Nigeria of today. Using the upcoming burial of his dad as an example, Ubong said that the family needs nothing less than N4 million to bear the burden of the upcoming burial.
A similar story was told by 61-year-old Tom Odim from Ebonyi State, South East geopolitical zone.
Odim said: “Initially, we fixed the burial of our mother on December 29, 2023. He died in October. We chose the date because we did not want it to enter into the new year. But when we began to plan, we discovered that prices of everything have doubled or even tripled in the market. Transportation cost is huge especially this rush period, so we told ourselves the home truth by adjusting the burial date to January ending when we believe the rush would have reduced. That is the reality we are facing now.”
Despite the sad story of poverty that surrounds this year’s Christmas season, many Nigerians are grateful to God for allowing them to witness this year’s festive season with the hope that luck will smile on them in the coming year if the government and other economic managers make good decisions that will turn the fortunes of the country around.