Times are hard. Nigerians are adopting cost-cutting measures to stay afloat. These measures differ from one individual to another, and from one family to another.
The measures aim to cushion the effect of the hardship occasioned by the removal of subsidy on petrol, which consequently has resulted in the increase of prices of virtually everything, including food and transportation.
From buying cheap fuel at N189 per litre, to N500 and above, amid rumours of further increase soon due to naira devaluation, to paying far more for less units of electricity, life is now unbearable for most Nigerians, with many fearing that the air they breathe might not be free soon.
But as much as Nigerians are regarded as very focutting cost bearing and resilient, the situation on ground has really broken them down, turning many to unfortunate beggars, while the majority resort to frugality to survive. Akeem Olabode, a laboratory assistant with a private hospital in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos, lamented that more people now trek a long distance to work or to their businesses just to save on transport and manage their meagre earnings.
“Normally, while going to work, I see people trek some distance, even if it is from one bus stop to another, just to save money. But since the hike in transport fare following subsidy removal, more people are trekking to work and the streets and highways are busier now in the morning and evening when people go and return from work, despite the risk,” Olabode said.
Sadly, the laboratory scientist, who thinks such trekking is no longer exercise, has been forced to join the slow-pace marathon race on days commuter busses are scarce or operators arbitrarily hike the fares, especially morning and closing hours and rainy days.
“To my surprise, in the first two days of the subsidy removal, I trekked from my house to my bus stop, about half a kilometre. I was more surprised to trek from Lekki Phase 1 roundabout to the Civic Centre. It was fun, stressful and risky doing that with other stranded passengers, but that was the only option we had then as commuter buses were calling N1000 from Lekki Phase 1 to CMS and the scramble to enter was war due to many stranded passengers on the route,” Olabode said.
Considering the long distance trekking, which many are forced to do in order to save on transport, Olabode warned that their health is at risk as he barely walked after his longest forced trek in life on May 30, 2023.
In the face of the hardship, many people now stay back in their working places and return home on weekends, while some companies that run shifts help staff to save money on the days they are off duty.
In his case, Sumonu Ola-James, a manager in a bank, confessed that he has adopted some cost-saving measures for survival.
“People believe that bankers are rich, it is not so. They are salary earners and no salary earner is safe with the inflation in the country today. I am relocating to our family house in Surulere, the flat I inherited has been used as warehouse by my brother. I will also look for school around there for my children who are in secondary school,” the banker said.
On whether his wife, who is presumed to be of high taste and reason they moved from Ilupeju to Abraham Adesanya Estate in Ajah, Lagos, will welcome the cost-saving measures, Ola-James said she has no option unless she wants to pay the increment in house rent, sanitation, security levies and especially the hike in the children’s school fees, which will see him coughing out over N3 million this August.
“How much is my salary? Everybody, even the children have to understand that Nigerians are now in survival mood,” he said.
For Ndubisi Uchegbu, a civil engineer and CEO of a medium-sized construction company in Aba, Abia State, the era of structural adjustment programme (SAP) is back and we have to weather the storm again.
“Sadly, we are back to our ugly past and have not learnt any lesson and have failed to build the country in her days of plenty. Everybody knows the situation now and for me, private school is out of it, sponsoring honeymoon in Dubai or for pilgrimage in Jerusalem have to wait. I am selling some of my many cars to curb the cost of maintaining them. I have also told my children, brothers and inlaws to adjust as the construction business is already impacted by huge cost,” Uchegbu said.
The engineer noted that the cost-saving measures also apply in his company.
“I have good hands that I cannot afford to lose now, but I have told them to adjust in the face of the economic reality and that means we have to earn according to our business inflow now and not from my usual generosity,” he disclosed.
Terfa Unongu, an education secretary in a local government area in Benue State, has stopped using the Toyota Hilux assigned to him as official car because of a memo that senior staff members have to fuel their official cars going forward.
“That hilux is 80 litres and you know how much fuel cost per litre in Benue. I live 50 kilometres away and I am now using my wife’s Toyota Corolla, which is 50 litres and consumes less fuel,” Unongu said.
The local government employee, who lives in the outskirt of Makurdi, the state capital, and drives his children to school in the capital city, said he is searching for school within his neighbourhood for his three children in order to save cost.
“Some of my colleagues are sadly hoping on the salary increment promised by the politicians. No matter how much government increases salary, it will not be enough because it will cause inflation, so the best is to adjust now. I have a groundnut farm and I run yearly storage for groundnut and maize. I will increase my side hustles going forward because my salary will never meet my needs,” he said.
Like the saying “the rich also cry”, Chijioke Umelahi, a former Abia lawmaker and an Abuja-based lawyer, disclosed that the rich are even adopting cost-saving measures now more than the poor.
“I have curtailed my travels and have resorted to video calls for some issues that require my presence outside Abuja. I have reduced my car fleet from five to just two because of the cost of fuel, maintenance and renewal of vehicle particulars now.
“Food is relatively cheap in Abuja, but every other thing is expensive now, so I stay more at home now and only move when it is business or church on Sundays,” the lawyer said.
According to him, the rich spend more and find it difficult adjusting to life realities than the poor, hence some of them will still maintain seven SUVs in their fleet, still travel abroad for summer this year and will still make donations in millions to impress their class and show they are still there. But the reasonable among them are parking their cars, selling some, living moderately because there is hunger in the land and people cannot be with you and are still hungry. They will steal from you or even harm you when you keep rubbing your wealth on their faces in this hard time. I have learnt to live moderately now,” Umelahi said.
BusinessDay’s checks revealed that some companies are rationing light in their offices. They have set time to switch on their generating sets or even switch on to the power from their electricity companies.
Some staff who used to drive SUVs to office have stepped down to smaller and fuel-efficient saloon cars.
Ogbonna Ndukwe, a media practitioner, based in Aba, Abia State, said that he has cut down on what he termed “luxury things,” which though were necessary.
According to him, “I have reduced the quantity and quality of food in my house, because if I want quality food, I’ll spend money meant for a week on one meal.
I have also cancelled holidays. I manage myself now.”
He appealed to the present administration in the country to have a human face, by dropping policies that would further impoverish the people, noting that the outgone administration brought much hardship on the people.
“It’s not an easy task surviving in today’s Nigeria. A lot of things are happening, people are dying, due to poverty.
Now we heard that petrol dealers have adjusted their pump price to ₦700 per litre. Tariff on electricity from July 1, will now be 40 percent higher. However, there is no increase in income of workers.
“Traders are no longer bringing in goods. The Naira is exchanging at ₦760 per $1, and since Nigeria is currently a consuming nation, there is no way we can survive this.
“If they don’t, they are looking for trouble, because sometimes people will resist certain actions of government when they are over-oppressed.”
For Charles Chinekezie, chairman, Aba chapter of the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), so many families in Nigeria today, can no longer feed themselves, foot the bills of the children’s education, take care of their rents, medicare and the general upkeep that make families strong.
He said that nobody is actually living to the required standard any longer, because
there is no middle class in Nigeria.
“It’s either you are extremely rich or you are extremely poor. There is no middle class. There is no landing level, where you can make effort on either side and the two ways are extreme. That is how tragic it has become for all of us and because of that a revolution is imminent in Nigeria,” he observed.
He described the economic situation in Nigeria at the moment as pathetic, considering the fact that families across board have had to go through hard times in the past years.
Chinekezie argued that events have finally come to a head in the country, where all citizens are faced with a totally battered and collapsed economy.
According to him, “The leadership of the country weren’t paying attention so much so that even the bogus government was declared into power by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), in a highly suspicious and conflicting election which is yet to be resolved, took the bold wrong step in its first day when supposedly the man, who is claiming to be the new president made a grave error of a statement of removing subsidy on petrol, which hasn’t been effected.
“It was just a mere proposition and a projection. And the man made that statement erroneously on that day and the entire structure in the country from Sokoto to Maiduguri, to Port Harcourt to Calabar and everything changed negatively, it was a torpedo and nothing can ever right it again.
“Fares skyrocketed to about 200 percent, food prices to about 300 percent, general living cost completely out of proportion and the new government at the centre, which determines what happens at the state and Local Government levels of the society doesn’t seem to have a direction.
So, we are really in for a ride that nobody knows where it ends,” he observed.
Stella Nnabuogor, chief executive officer (CEO) of Hotstylez, a fashion entrepreneur, said apart from making clothings (tailoring), she also deals on accessories to complement the fashion business.
“Fashion is very broad. These days, you don’t just sew and leave it like that. You need to make it look better by adding some accessories and some embellishments. So, we sell all of that to complement the business and to make more money. In order to survive the current economic situation in the country, we just need N1 or N2 here and there,” she said.
The entrepreneur who is married and have three children, said she was trained and established in Lagos between 2010 and 2011.
“I’ve been in the fashion industry for 10 years now (in Lagos and Asaba). The nation’s economy was far better 10 years ago than now. Presently, the prices of goods are outrageous compared to the price of service. By the time you charge customers for service, they tend not to accept it but when you look at it somehow, you just have to adjust a little.
I would say that the impact of high cost of living and high cost of service now is nothing to compare when we render those services. It’s saddening indeed!” she said.
“I’m surviving the negative effects of the economy by going beyond sewing, to training people, displaying fabrics that I sell. I sell linings and other accessories too. All these complement my tailoring business. As Nigerians, we’ve been used to surviving harsh economy and we will continue to survive by the grace of God,” she said.
Efosa Osagie, a civil servant, said the increase in fuel price, anticipated rise in electricity tariff, and their attendant impact on cost of living will further push Nigerians to the wall.
As a result of the different policies, he said, “I decided to adjust after the subsidy removal. Prior to May 29, I used to pay N6,300 for 30 litres of fuel for my generator. This usually take me for a week or more. But, this is no longer the case because to get that same quantity now costs almost N16,000.
“As a civil servant, once I remove that amount from my salary, what is left?” he asked, adding that most households no longer have the purchasing power to buy food items because the price of every commodity has skyrocketed.
“For my car, imagine spending almost N64,000 to fuel my car for four weeks. With what salary? How much do I earn? It is terrifying, and I heard the price of fuel will go higher up to N600 to N700 in the coming days. Can we cope? How do we survive?
“First, I have taken a bold step by telling my family that we will need to reduce the quantity of fuel we buy so that we can save some cash to do an inverter since we can’t get electricity and could no longer afford fuel that used to serve us for a week or more. Second, I have stopped unnecessary visitations, frequent driving to my workplace and opted for public buses as it is cheaper,” he said.
Speaking on the proposed palliative measures, he said: “We have heard these things before. It is the only grammar they use to pacify the common man but I think Nigerians no longer take the word, ‘palliative’ seriously. I will just urge everyone to be firm and resolute as we sojourn through these perilous times.”
Emmanuel Ogiefo, a mechanic, said business activity has significantly reduced because customers, who used to visit to repair their vehicles before the subsidy removal, have found a way out to access their destination through public transportation.
“These days, I have to call my customers to remind them I’m still open for business. All they tell me is ‘our cars are parked for now, and we need to choose between buying fuel for pleasurable drive or purchasing food so that we can stay healthy’. The situation has gotten to that extent.
“This is just barely 30 days into this present administration, and we have had to battle high cost of fuel which has affected every other things including cost of spare parts. We can only hope that things get better. But, as it is today, it is getting worse,” he said.
He, however, urged the government to lead by example, pointing out that the suffering is meted on the citizens and, “this is a semblance of robbing Peter to pay Paul. If we are to succeed in all these reforms, then the government should take the first step by cutting down on the cost of governance rather than taking from us to feed their pockets.”
Iranti Oluwa Yahya, a civil servant and mother of four, lamented how bad economy and hike in prices of goods and services are affecting her as home manager.
“It has not been easy with me as a mother. Price of everything in the market keeps skyrocketing making it difficult for me to play my roles as expected.
“To prepare meals now you know how much that costs. I can’t remember when last I bought a crate of eggs for my kids. Even to make stew, you know tomatoes are scarce now and expensive; so, for the past three weeks I don’t buy tomatoes but tomato past with pepper to prepare my soup.
“The situation is terrible. I have car but to maintain it is a problem now. The salary is not that reasonable. I used the car at most four days in a week as I can’t afford buying more than N10,000 fuel for a week. Where is the money?” she said.
In his submission, Garba Ibrahim, said, “It is very tough and becoming unbearable. We have been managing to survive. I usually celebrate Sallah in Lagos but this year; I could not bear the cost of fuelling two vehicles to travel with my family, it is costly. We pray God ease our pains. Government at all levels needs to do something urgently.
Nothing is moving well again in this country.”
Bilikisu Ahmed, a trader, said that since her husband lost his job three years ago, they have been feeding from hand to mouth. She said that it has been difficult to feed a family of seven now.
“Before now with the help of my bush market we were feeding very well. I used to make three pots of soup and keep. I will prepare egusi soup, ewedu and vegetable soup. Fruits were at my beck and call. But when I remember it now, it looks like I am dreaming. Now, after buying from the bush market, even though it was at cheaper rate by the time you get to the city, you find out that transport fare has swallowed up the gains you are going to make from that transaction.
“Can you believe that egusi soup has ceased to be part of our menu because a cup of hand-peeled is between N350 and N400, and to make a pot of soup for my family, you are looking at three to four cups of egusi and that’s about N1,600 only egusi. Then you talk of fish; unfortunately the rivers are no longer conducive for fishermen to fish because of rainy season. I have decided to replace it with bean soup or soya beans soup. The pumpkin leaves is something else and I used to replace it with our local leaves that look like water leaf. Then talking about fish; it’s any type of fish I could lay my hands on that I pick, not flat head any more,” she said.
Another Lokoja resident, Yusuf Ayomide, said: “From May 30 to now I have used my Air Conditioner only once because I cannot afford to pay for the electricity bill. Even using fan depends on the weather. Our refrigerator, we now time when to switch it on- in the morning or evening.”
Ayomide, who was laid off his duty as a civil servant also said: “What matters to me now is how to prepare for my children school fees, pay house rent and take care of other things that the family needs. We manage anything that our hands could reach. Before now, around this time a paint of garri was about N600 or N800 depending on the quality. But now a paint of good garri is sold for between N1,500 and N2,000. A bag of sachet water is now sold for N250 instead of N150, even pepper’s price has gone up.
“Something has to be done to save the poor masses from the untold hardship. We barely take tea as breakfast in the morning, because for a family of six to take breakfast costs a fortune. One egg now is N100 , a loaf of family size bread is now N1,200, a tin of milk now is N550. If you calculate it very well by the time you set breakfast it is almost five thousand naira.”