• Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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BusinessDay

High cost of feeding deters many Nigerians from accommodating relatives 

Food market

Many families in Nigeria have begun to cut down the number of relatives staying with them as the soaring cost of food items continue to take a chunk off their wallets and placing heavy burden on their survival.

The era where families take in younger relatives to raise alongside their children is gradually phasing out due to the limited resources available which is occasioned by rise in cost of essential commodities.

The surge in prices of staples and other household necessities has adjusted the lifestyles of Nigerians with many who usually help take in family members with low income now considering cutting the numbers or returning those under their care.

Due to the  economic strain, an average family of five can now hardly fend for themselves, let alone, adding a relative. Therefore, an additional member to them would be considered suicidal.

Adeola Adebayo, 38, a trader at the Ikotun market said she had to send her two nieces back to their parents following the sharp increase in the cost of rice and garri, adding that providing for her three children have stretched her savings and could not continue to deplete it further  on food alone.

Adebayo said: “My brother’s daughters who assist me in taking care of the house and the shop had to go since we could barely afford two meals per day. I am pained that I couldn’t provide for them as and when due,” she said.

“I used to save at least N10,000 per week before but the amount we now use in buying rice and garri has reduced my weekly “ajo” (savings) to N3,000. Sometimes I don’t even save at all,” the grocery seller lamented.

For Kareem Yusuf, a government school teacher based in Lagos, the situation puts him in a dilemma as he is responsible for not only feeding and clothing his 16-year-old cousin, but also saddled with the responsibility of settling his school bills which he described as “ever increasing”.

The English teacher who has a small family of two said he was considering bringing another member but had to jettison the idea as he spends over half of his salary getting varieties of food which, in most cases, do not sustain the family for the month.

“When I considered bringing my younger brother down to Lagos, I had to have a rethink because as it stands, our food budget for just three people is more than half of my salary,” Yusuf said.

The inability to get food items has reduced standard of living while pushing more people beyond the poverty line.

The World Bank’s latest Nigeria Development Update report revealed that rising inflation and sluggish growth in the country increased the number of poor people to 104 million in 2023 from 89.8 million at the start of the year.

Sarah Johnson, a local chef and widow, lamented how she will now be faced with catering for three children as two of them who stayed with her sisters have been returned on the back of a bad economy.

“After the demise of my husband, my sisters volunteered to take care of two of my kids. I agreed. They were taken good care of and attended good schools. If they were with me I won’t be able to afford the fees.

“But as we all know, the country is not smiling at anyone. Recently, they returned my children with the complaint of a bad economy with reasons like increased school fees, rent and low income were given for returning them,” Johnson stated.

She noted that though the situation made her sad, nonetheless, she had to thank her sisters because it was not easy to take care of children in this economy.

Onokoya Samson, a businessman with a family of six, said his son was returned to him after spending three years with his brother in Abuja, describing the situation as a dream.

“My brother was the one who requested I allow my son to live with him so that he can reduce my responsibility, just recently, my brother just brought him to the house without informing me,” he said. .

“I didn’t blame him but was grateful that he even helped me for three years. Now I am faced with an extra responsibility,” he added.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports that the country’s headline inflation peaked to a 27-year high accelerating to 31.7 percent in February from 29.9 percent which it stood at in January this year.

The statistics bureau also noted that prices of food items surged, reaching 37.92 percent from 35.41 percent in the same period.

Analysts at SBM Intelligence said in a recent report that despite cost-cutting and inflation management measures, Nigerian households spend 97 percent of everything they earn solely on food.

“The Tinubu administration has its work cut out – arresting spiralling insecurity, tackling grinding poverty, enhancing economic opportunity, and forging a sense of national consciousness. It is safe to say that it is not off to a great start,” they said.

A recent outlook report by the Food and Agricultural Organization, the World Food Program, and others projected that Nigeria and other countries across the West Africa region are expected to see increased prices of staple foods such as rice, maize, millet, and cereals, among others, in 2024.

“Staple prices currently remain above the five-year average across the region. This is attributable to a combination of factors, including production deficits, trade restrictions, insecurity in the Sahel, elevated global prices, high transaction costs, and currency depreciation in the coastal countries of the Gulf of Guinea,” it said.

President Bola Tinubu’s reforms are needed to put Nigeria on a higher growth path, but implementation has been hasty and inflation has been allowed to rise to decades-long highs, according to a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), a global leader in business intelligence and market insights.

“As the crisis is distinctly policy-induced, there is a serious risk of mass protests and strikes. Given the potential threat of industrial action on a scale not seen since 2012, the government has been forced to backtrack in some areas, notably on petrol subsidies,” the EIU said.