• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Bleak yuletide as low purchasing power hits Nigerian households

Measuring the regions by data

Complaints and cries of agony are heard from every part of Nigeria. Citizens are lamenting hard times. Everywhere one turns, the complaint, “no money” is the sing-song.

The Nigerian government, which has made borrowing its cardinal policy, has over-borrowed and now living with the consequences of not even being capable of putting smiles on the faces of workers under its employ.

It had announced that it would be unable to pay the salary of civil servants this December. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the umbrella body of workers in the country, has since screamed: “foul.”

Nigerians, once regarded as the happiest people on earth, are today the saddest. Every rating organisation has scored the country zero on many fronts.

While the unemployment rate is so high at 33.3percent and the inflation rate at 15.99 percent according to the released Consumer Price Index report, by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in October. Nigeria has been rated the poverty capital of the world with one of the worst human rights records.

A nation of over 100 million people has a large population of the poor with a negligible club of the super-rich, who incidentally find it difficult to sleep now because the poor is awake.

It is startling that Christmas is six days from today, yet no sign of festivity in the air.

Some years back, by now gift items and hampers would have flooded everywhere, but they appear to be scarce commodities this time around. A few that are in the market and shops are too exorbitant for the average Nigerian.

Ordinarily, for surviving Covid-19 since 2020 and still alive in the face of emerging variants, especially Delta and recently Omicron, an average Nigerian would have rolled out big drums to celebrate the survival.

But that celebration is on hold because there is no money to celebrate. The worst still is that many are not going to celebrate Christmas and New Year the way they used to; there is no purchasing power to do so.

Truly, the economic realities in the country are impacting very negatively on the masses, with many finding it difficult to even feed, and then, talk of celebration.

It is obvious that the successive recessions witnessed in the country in the last four years, and the impact of the pandemic-induced lockdown in 2020, which is still being felt today have combined to make the people poorer and drain deep pockets, leaving many with little or no purchasing power.

Of course, the high level of inflation, which has seen the prices of goods skyrocket this year more than any year in the history of the country, has resulted in many adjusting and cutting costs, even for Christmas this year.

With a bag of rice going for about N30,000, two litres of cooking oil going for N2,500, tomatoes and onions scarce due to the impact of herdsmen attack farmers, chicken and cow meat are very expensive, many families see no reason to celebrate this Christmas with empty pockets.

Market prices

BD SUNDAY market survey shows that 50kg bag of foreign and local rice, which formerly sold for N12,000 and N10,000, respectively, few years back now sell for N29,000 and N27,000 respectively.

Also, 25kg bag of foreign and local rice, which used to go for N6,000 and N5,000 now sell for N14, 500 andN13,500. A paint bucket and derica of foreign rice sell for N3,000 and N500 while local rice sells for N2,500 and N450 respectively.

A bag of beans which even until last year was sold for N9,000 now sells for between N35,000 and N70,000 depending on the type of beans; one paint bucket of beans, which was formerly sold for between N1,250 and N1,300 now sell for N3,500 while one derica that was sold for N250 now goes for N650.

A pack of spaghetti which was formerly sold for N3,000 now goes for N7,000 while one that was formerly sold for N150 now goes for N350.

Meanwhile, 20 litres of vegetable oil now goes for a minimum between N26,000 and N28, 000; 10 litres sell for between N13,000 and N16,000, while 5 litres sell for between N6,500 and N10,000.

For red oil, 20 litres sold for about N15, 000 now goes for N25, 500 while 10 litres that was formerly N7,500 now sells for N12,750.

A carton of frozen chicken popularly called ‘Orobo chicken’ which was formerly sold for about N9,500 from the cold room, now goes for N19,500 while a kilo goes for about N2,400.

A carton of ordinary frozen chicken goes for N15, 000 while a kilo is sold for about N2, 000. A carton of frozen turkey which was formerly sold for N11, 500 or N12, 500 now goes for N23, 500 depending on the location.

A carton of frozen fish such as Titus now goes for N23,500 while mackerel fish are popularly known as Kote now go for N19,600 at the cold room.

High transport fare

For those who usually travel to celebrate with their loved ones, the unimaginable high transport fare is a major obstacle as a single adult will spend close to N50,000 to and fro on transport to the desired destination this festive season, particularly those who live in Lagos, wishing to travel to any South-East state.

As of Saturday, December 18, 2021, all inter-state transport companies had increased their fares for routes across the country by 100 percent.

The ever-busy Lagos-South-East route, which was about N8,000 as at the last week in November was pegged from N15,000 on Saturday and will increase further to almost N25,000, some worried observers noted.

Emeka Nwaka, a medical doctor and father of three, decried the economic reality of the time, saying it does not allow for waste and unnecessary travel again, including Christmas, if the cost will impact the budget of the family hugely.

“I always travel home for Christmas in the last 11 years, but I am having a rethink this year because of the cost and risks,” Nwaka said.

For him, there is life after Christmas and New Year. “By January, there are many financial obligations to meet from house rent, exorbitant school fees, tax, utility bills, daily upkeeps, among others that make a mess of whatever anybody earns as income. So, my family is not travelling this year because of the huge cost,” he said.

In the same vein, Gbemi Okikioluwa, an economist and banker, decried that the purchasing power of many is very low now and that many will celebrate Christmas without the usual fanfare of traditional Christmas rice and killing of the fattest chicken, goat or cow.

“At present, inflation is at work despite the government’s claim that it is declining. Most commodities in the market have added almost 40 percent to the former prices. This is putting more pressure on the family budget, with more going to meeting the daily needs than planning for extravagant expenses this festive period,” Okikioluwa said.

Speaking further, the economist said that when the bills keep growing, an average Nigerian will naturally cut down on things he thinks are ostentatious. “Unfortunately, travel and expenditure for Christmas and relaxation is worst hit by such cost-cutting decisions, and that is why many are going to celebrate low-key,” she said.

Comparing the situation now with what was the case two to three years ago, Emmanuel Emordi, a chartered accountant and chief financial officer of a Lagos-based five-star hotel, noted that prices of goods have quadrupled, transport fare tripled and insecurity worsened now than it was three years ago.

According to him, the high cost and high risk of travel now, the inflation and the health challenges are reasons many who will always travel are staying back and even celebrating low-key.

“We cannot pretend again. The cost, the risk, the pandemic, January burden; including school fees and house rent are making it difficult for people to celebrate Christmas and New Year elaborately. We are still hiding, covering our faces with masks and keeping to health and safety protocols. So, celebration time can wait until good times come again,” he said.

But Luke Okoli, an indigene of Enugu Agidi, in Anambra State, who has several family engagements this festive period, is relying on relatives who are travelling with their cars to cut costs.

“We all cannot stay back in the town during the festive period no matter how bad the economy is. Even during lockdown people travelled. Many town unions and family meetings are hiring commercial buses to lessen the burden of transport for their members who want to travel but do not have the means this Christmas. So, people should look for such opportunities,” Okoli suggested.

Looking at Okoli’s suggestion critically, Segun Adekunle, a pharmacist who lost two shops to the #ENDSARS protests, argued that many have lost their jobs and a lot of families are passing through hardship, hence people at home should understand and bear with them this time.

I am from Kwara State and I always visit my in-laws at Auchi almost every Christmas, but they heard and felt the calamity that befell my business during the #EndSARS protests. So, everybody knows things are hard and should adjust their travel expenses even this Christmas,” Adekunle said.

Generally, low-key festivity is expected this year as the pandemic is still much around coupled with the fact that insecurity abounds in some of the places people usually travel for comfort in the past.

Speaking to our correspondent, Tunde Mogaji, a media consultant, said: “The low purchasing power among Nigerians and high cost of things are really big issues in the country now. Can you imagine Chicken being sold for N8,000, not because the sellers want to make a massive profit but because the cost of feed is very expensive in the market.

“Go and price rice or beans and hear the prices in the market. I don’t know where we are going in the country now; a lot of people would not be able to survive again.”

Mogaji urged President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently set up a presidential task force or committee to study the situation and provide solutions to the escalating food prices.

“The fear now is who can afford N8,000 or N10,000 to buy a live Chicken. Go and check the price of gas too. It is going up every day. I just believe there should be some level of government intervention or subsidy.

“I mean they should investigate what is causing this arbitrary increase in prices of food items. Food security is something President Buhari should take seriously by setting up a task force to tackle the situation.

“Part of it could be caused by the crisis in Northern Nigeria; people are not farming like before, even those farming are scared to take their food down South due to insecurity,” he said.

Kunle Okunade, a public affairs analyst, said he was not surprised about the current high cost of staple foods across Nigeria as it is usually the situation during the festive period, adding that the situation has been worsened by the bad economy in the country presently.

Read also: Airlines to cancel, delay, divert flights during Christmas over harmattan

Okunde stressed that Nigeria was experiencing hyper-inflation which needs urgent government intervention.

According to him, “It is never a new thing in Nigeria that whenever it is yuletide season, prices of goods would also go up. The truth is that the economy has collapsed and there is hyperinflation in the country. The hyper-inflation would definitely make the cost of living high and purchasing power will be low.

“This is the period the government needs to step in to ensure citizens are not overcharged and put in place regulations. Having said this, many Nigerians may not be able to celebrate the season as they are supposed to consider the socio-economic situation of the country, currently.”

“Before now, there should have been several economic stimuli that would create succour for the people ahead of Yuletide,” he further said.