Families face hard times as food prices soar in A/Ibom
Many families in Akwa Ibom are facing severe economic hardship following the soaring prices of basic food items like rice, bread, sugar, and milk.
The prices of food items started rising sharply during the Christmas festivities and have remained so ever since. It became more pronounced in January as schools resumed and family income nosedived as families struggled to meet up with the payment of tuition and other obligations to keep their children and wards in schools.
According to checks, staples like yam, beans, and garri have not been spared, as some have recorded over a 100 percent price increase in the last two months. For instance, a medium-sized loaf of bread which used to cost about N300 now goes for N600, going out of the reach of most average families in the state.
Akwa Ibom relies on food items brought in from other states mostly from the northern part of the country which supplies yam, beans, onions, and goat meat while garri which is widely consumed by many comes from neighbouring states of Edo, Delta, and Cross River.
The situation has been made worse by a large number of unemployed youths in the state. Last year, more than 45,000 youths applied for teaching vacancies that required only 1000 teachers in the state secondary education board.
Though the state government has in recent years, working in partnership with the private sector, set up some factories to create jobs and boost employment opportunities for the youths, only a handful of them have been engaged, according to checks.
According to observers, many families are left on their own without any support from the state, saying that with the electioneering campaigns about to start in earnest, there appears to be no end in sight over their plight.
Attention is now on campaigns and consultations, families have been ignored and it is not likely that anything could change any time soon,’’ said an analyst.
While presenting this year’s budget, Governor Udom Emmanuel promised that the state government would support economic diversification policy through adequate provision of incentives to attract private investment in agriculture.
According to him, different products would be commoditised to create sustainable linkage to other sectors, especially in the area of hydrocarbon and deepening of stakeholders’ engagement.
Lamenting the negative impact of the harsh economic situation, Tijah Bolton Akpan, executive director of Policy Alert, a non-governmental organisation said people are unable to work at full capacity due to hunger, adding that “this not only affects labour productivity but presents a further challenge to human development at the household and state level.”
According to him, hunger in children could mean more pressures on child health services and more absenteeism from school which in turn means that not only will the state have to spend more in the short run to correct those social distortions.
He expressed dismay that more and more people are being pushed into poverty.
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“At the state level, there are two short-term approaches, First is a social investment; the poorest citizens need conditional cash transfers and work-based guaranteed payments to ensure their basic social needs like food, shelter, healthcare, and basic education.
“If you go out there, you’ll be surprised at the number of families that are actually begging daily to survive.
“Social investments have had qualified results at the national level but we’re yet to see state governments matching the federal government’s investment in terms of social security interventions.”
Akpan, who spoke in an interview, said the second is the injection of capital into productive activities, adding that the majority of the state’s labour force is engaged in the informal sector.”
He said there should be massive investment in food production since the state is predominantly agrarian.
“Unfortunately, the absence of social investment provisions and the cut in the state’s capital allocations for agriculture in the 2022 budget do not potentially support such an agenda.
“We’re hoping the state government sees the wisdom in supplementing that in the months ahead.”