• Sunday, February 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Nigerians cut purchases, forego traditions as Christmas nears

The history of Christmas in Nigeria: a celebration of faith, family, and feasting

Adenike Odumosu, a 45-year-old consultant with an auditing firm in Lagos, has a tradition of buying several bags of rice, clothes for orphans, tickets to holiday events for her children and decorations for the house during Christmas.

But all that is not happening this year as the accelerating inflation in the country has continued to erode her purchasing power.

“During the festive season, it is a tradition for us to give out gifts to loved ones and the less privileged,” says Odumosu, adding that her family will not be doing that this year as their savings have dwindled.

“I am not even thinking about Christmas purchases right now. We don’t have enough money for it and prices keep surging daily,” she said. “We will not be giving gifts this year to loved ones or taking anything to the orphanage for the children there because we cannot afford it.”

Odumosu’s income has been squeezed by inflation. According to her, she usually spends N50,000 on weekly groceries in 2023, a 150 percent increase from an average of about N20,000 last year.

Millions of households in Nigeria are cutting down on purchases and forgoing traditions as food prices continue on a relentless rise. The situation is shrinking wallets and affecting people’s ability to meet their daily nutritional needs.

The sharp and continuous rise in food prices is owing to a combination of factors – the weakening naira, climate change, recent economic reforms and escalating insecurity that has led to food production shortfall.

Headline inflation quickened to 28.2 percent in November while food inflation rose to 32.8 percent, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The inflationary pressure has shrunk the value of consumers’ disposable income, stretched budgets, and forced many to cut down on their purchases for the festive season, BusinessDay’s findings show.

The World Bank, in its latest Nigeria Development Update report, said sluggish growth and accelerating inflation in Africa’s biggest economy have raised the poverty rate by 46 percent in 2023 from 40 percent in 2018, with the number of poor Nigerians put at 104 million.

The global bank also said the country’s inflation has eroded the N30,000 minimum wage by 55 percent, thus reducing household expenditure.

Eniola Onaopemipo, a sales representative at a firm in Ikeja, said her family has been cutting down on purchases to survive amid surging prices and would not be giving any gifts to their religious leaders and neighbours.

“You cannot go to the market with a budget anymore because food prices keep rising daily,” said Onaopemipo. “Things are hard in the country and there seems to be no respite insight.”

Adejoke Adewunmi, a mother of five who was at Mile 12 Market to make purchases, said she will be buying a single dress for each of her children as part of cost-cutting measures.

“It has been a very difficult year. Prices of everything have doubled and we can no longer afford the menu we usually have for Christmas this year and we won’t be travelling to Ondo to celebrate it,” she said. “Also, we are cutting down on clothing for Christmas. I usually buy two dresses each for my children but we won’t do that this year.”

Chioma Nwafor, a secondary school teacher at Ojodu, said she will not travel to Abia to celebrate Christmas with her parents owing to the high cost of transportation.

“I moved to Lagos five years ago and I usually travel for Christmas and New Year each year. But I will not be doing that this year for the first time,” she said. “This means I will be celebrating the festive season alone and outside my state. I am cancelling that tradition this year as I cannot afford to travel.”

Businesses have been hard hit as households cut down on purchases to survive the current economic hardship. It is adding to the gloom that has descended on businesses as they struggle to cope with high borrowing costs.

“Sales have been very slow unlike last year because there is no money in the economy,” Bimpe Alabi, a frozen food seller, said. “Most of my customers are complaining of no money.”

Inventory of unsold products in the manufacturing sector rose to N272 billion in the first half of 2023 from N187.1 billion in the same period of last year, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria’s half-year review shows.

Currently, the intensifying naira scarcity is inflicting more pain on many Nigerians, leaving them frustrated as they are struggling to get the cash they need for daily transactions.

“We thought this naira scarcity would be a thing of the past, but it is happening again. I don’t know if it is a crime to be a Nigerian. It seems our governments are bent on only increasing the suffering of the masses,” said Ronke Kolawole, a secondary school teacher in Ikeja. “We just keep cutting down on purchases to survive, especially for Christmas when prices are usually higher owing to a rise in demand.”