• Friday, May 24, 2024
businessday logo


Basic life necessities are now a luxury for many Nigerians!

Basic life necessities are now a luxury for many Nigerians!

For Amanda Yusuf, a civil servant and mother of three, survival has become a daily struggle as the cost of living in Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, intensifies.

Yusuf is the breadwinner of her family and leaves the sub-hub of Abuja, the country’s capital, after her husband lost his job two years ago.

She can barely feed her family as the cost of everything from groceries to housing and clothing keeps making rapid climbs and showing no sign of receding.

“We lived from paycheck to paycheck, struggling to repay loans while taking care of our children,” she lamented.

“Because of the high cost of literally everything, we resorted to loans to pay school fees and other basic needs,” she explained.

“My salary, when well planned, could last us two weeks for feeding, transport to work, and other emergency needs,” she added.

Yusuf is like millions of fixed-income earners who are worst hit by the country’s accelerating inflation.

Read also: Why Nigeria’s inflation still on the rise despite naira’s rebound

Real wages, which reflect the power of employee pay after accounting for inflation, have fallen in Nigeria by 200 percent, thus making Nigerians face increasing pressures daily and forcing them to make hard choices as prices of all products continue to rise.

Nigeria’s inflation has accelerated to 33.2 percent in March, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, with it set to go even higher if the Nigerian government fails to act on soaring food prices, analysts say.

Chidi Nwankwo, an Abuja-based businessman, had a good laugh when asked how he has been coping with the present tough economic conditions.

Chidi, whose average daily sales have also shrunk considerably because many people can no longer buy the ‘basic luxuries’ he sells, lives with his wife, four children, two nieces, and two young men who serve as sales reps in his store.

His elderly parents and some other extended family members are also under his care, regularly asking for help.

“As for food, there is enough garri in the house, and whatever one finds to eat, we eat and give thanks to God. A bag of rice worth over N65, 000 doesn’t last two months; we need three to four loaves of bread daily,” he said.

“Milk, sugar, and indomie are all luxuries; we eat sparingly, and we now buy all of those in measures. For him, even washing and bathing soaps and detergents have all become luxuries. “However, we are alive and happy,” he quipped.

Read also: Rising cost of living dampens Nigerians’ weak productivity

Deteriorating health conditions:

Unfortunately, the tough living conditions that Nigerians are grappling with do not only reflect in the high cost of food and poorer choices; the reality speaks to much deeper issues as many have had their health compromised in search of cheaper alternatives.

Sixty-three-year-old Prince Anya, a father of three, has been battling with high blood pressure for nearly two decades, but his condition recently worsened after he resorted to some cheaper drugs due to the high cost of medicine needed to manage his condition.

Anya, a retiree and local farmer in Abia State, decried that the cost of his prescribed medication had more than tripled in the last few months and was increasingly out of his reach, forcing him to often alternate with some cheaper variants of his prescription, which in turn, unfortunately, caused his condition to deteriorate recently.

While decrying his worsening condition in a telephone chat with BusinessDay, he said that buying drugs is now so expensive. I used to buy amlodipine for N500; it is now more than N2, 000. Normoretic went up from N250 to N500.

“Every day, the price increased, so the chemist from the local store suggested alternative drugs with higher dosages, which is cheaper for me, but unfortunately, since March, I noticed my BP has been going higher; by the end of the month, it got to 160/99, so high!” He lamented.

High blood pressure is an underlying condition that, if not kept in check, results in worse and even fatal health conditions. Health experts like Adaobi Onyechi have highlighted the potential risk of uncontrolled blood pressure and hypertension, including the risk of a heart attack, heart failure, a stroke, and kidney disease, which often results in death.

Anya needs a combination of medication, regular check-ups, and lifestyle adjustments to keep his condition in check. But the government retiree laments that doing so is a struggle for him, as he is daily faced with the escalating cost of other basic necessities needed to provide for his family.

Read also: Global food prices surged second consecutive month in April

Anya’s story is emblematic of the broader challenges facing individuals and families who are forced to make difficult choices due to rising costs and potentially prioritising basic needs over critical medical care.

Since late 2023, there has been a dramatic increase in the price of essential drugs, including antibiotics, analgesics, antimalarials, and insulin, among several others.

For instance, insulin, a critical and life-saving drug for diabetes patients, rose from N4, 000 to N12, 000; the price of Actifed Action tablets skyrocketed from N4, 000 before the exit of GSK to N13, 000; and that of GSK Ampiclox jumped from N900 to N15, 000. In addition, the price of Voltaren pain relief cream rose from below N5,000 to N12,000; Ventolin inhaler, from N3,000 to N15,000; Seretide inhaler, jumped from N8,000 to N32,000; Augmentin 1g tablet, from N4,000 to N43,000; and Avamys nasal spray, from N4,000 to N21, 000.

The exit of some notable pharmaceutical giants, the depreciating naira, hoarding, high reliance on imports, and high tariffs on pharmaceutical imports are factors driving up the costs of drugs in Nigeria, in addition to adequate health insurance coverage for a large portion of the population.

Nigerians, especially the indigent and vulnerable battling one form of health condition or another, are the worst hit by these skyrocketing prices, which make crucial medications unaffordable for many Nigerians, jeopardising their access to proper healthcare and potentially worsening health outcomes.

In the worst cases, some Nigerians skip or forgo essential medications for other essentials, such as food, due to high costs.

Jane Odinaka, a hair stylist and mother of three in Abuja, narrated a harrowing experience of how she almost lost her five-year-old daughter to malaria in February 2024 due to her inability to afford her complete malaria treatment dose.

“My daughter Amarachi was showing some symptoms, so I took her to a nearby pharmacist, and they prescribed some drugs totaling about N10, 000, but I only managed to afford the anti-malaria, which cost about N4, 000.

“She started the dose, got better, but after some days her condition worsened, so I had to do a laboratory test, and it was confirmed malaria and typhoid, but the drugs prescribed were about N15,000, and I was shocked because the last time I treated the same condition I did not even spend more than N3,000,” she lamented.

“So, I bought the ones I could afford, but my daughter was still sick and became seriously emaciated. I had to borrow money to buy other drugs; otherwise, I could have lost her. It was a very difficult time for us,” she narrated.

Meanwhile, the Federal Government has pledged to bring down the soaring cost of medications and make them affordable to Nigerians, who are endlessly waiting for this promise as always.

Mojidola Adeyeye, the director-general of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), assured in a statement on Sunday, May 5, that the current high cost of medicines in the country will soon become a thing of the past as the agency is working in partnership with pharmaceutical industries to bring down the prices.

She identified rejuvenation of the local pharmaceutical industries as a panacea for the high cost of medicines in the country, noting that locally manufactured medicinal products would be more accessible and affordable compared to imported drugs.

Read also: High cost of feeding deters many Nigerians from accommodating relatives 

Learning is abandoned for survival:

The current high cost of living is also taking its toll on the educational sector, as many households struggle to barely survive with their meagre incomes.

The Nigeria Labour Congress NLC, while providing a detailed picture of how it arrived at the N615, 000 (six hundred and fifteen thousand Naira) minimum wage that it is demanding, placed food at the top of individuals’ monthly expenses.

For the NLC, individuals are expected to spend about N9, 000 per day, amounting to an average of N270, 000 in 30 days, for the lowest income earner. Each worker is also projected to spend as much as N110,000 every month on transportation.

BUSINESSDAY recalls that Joe Ajaero, President of the NLC, had last Wednesday proposed a “living wage” of N615,000 per month for Nigerian workers as the federal government prepares to announce the implementation of its new minimum wage.

The NLC explained that the N615, 000 was arrived at after independent research with respondents across the 36 states of the federation where the union has its affiliates.

In an attempt to make ends meet, some families have now sacrificed education and deployed their children and wards into petty trading and menial jobs to make additional income for survival.

Rejoice Ahamefula, a petty trader, narrated how current economic challenges worsened when the death of her husband forced her to pull her six children out of school.

Her husband, John Ahamefula, worked with the FCT Water Board before his sudden death, leaving behind his six children, four boys and two girls.

Aham Junior was just 14 years old when their father died, and he has now dropped out of school. Their mother, a petty trader, could not cope with the school fees at the private school where his father had enrolled him and his siblings. Sadly, soon after the death of her husband, Rejoice suffered from diabetes, which literally crippled her and made it difficult to carry on with her business. All six children are now working to support their mother.

Speaking to BusinessDay from a dilapidated make-shift house, Aham narrated that “even public schools, we cannot attend now, maybe when our mother is well, but now, I and my siblings do different things to support the family.

“I follow people to work at some building sites; my brothers and sister hawk things like pure water and groundnuts, while others stay with my mother at home.”

While UNESCO put Nigeria’s out-of-school children at 20 million in 2023, many say this may have risen on the back of current realities.

As the current high cost of living puts additional pressures on parents, the education sector has also taken a hit as many parents increasingly come under pressure to withdraw their children and wards from school.

BusinessDay checks show that some parents whose income can barely sustain daily needs but can still struggle with keeping the children in school now prefer cheaper public schools, no matter the despicable conditions.

Read also: Prices of rice, garri, beef rise 27.4% in March – NBS

In extreme cases like the one above, some children have been forced to drop out of school completely.

When BusinessDay visited the Local Authority School at Kayada, in Kuje Area Council, Abuja, it was observed that most of the classrooms were overpopulated, with as many as 80 children studying in a classroom originally built to accommodate about 40 pupils.

One of the parents, Angela Owolabi, narrated how she withdrew her three children, aged 6, 8, and 12, from their private schools and sent them to public schools close to their house.

“My husband is a carpenter, and I do petty trading. Before now, we were able to pay their fees, which were between N15,000 and N25,000 per term, but today, we cannot afford those fees. So, we decided to withdraw them and put them in public primary and secondary schools within this area.

BusinessDay gathered that although tuition is free, the parents take responsibility for PTA levies, uniforms, and books only.

Andrew Hussaini, a teacher in one of the schools in Abuja, while describing the impact of the current economic realities on many parents, said, “Over these periods, we have seen the resilience of some parents, but many who cannot afford to bear the burden of sending their children to good schools end up pushing them to public schools, where facilities for learning don’t exist.”

“How do you unlock the potential of such a huge number of children if they remain out of school?

“I teach in a private school, but when I have the need to visit my colleagues in public schools, I feel sorry for our state of education.

“You can imagine what happens to those who are daily forced to stay out of school because their parents cannot afford to pay for their transportation to and from school, settle their school fees, or purchase books for them.”