• Sunday, December 10, 2023
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Turbulent economy: How Nigerians are thinking out of the box

Nigeria’s growth projection unchanged despite rising global inflation, says IMF

After moving his family from Gbagada to Isolo, both in Lagos, due to the over 100 percent increment in house rent in his former pricey neighborhood, Osaro Isibor, a banker, is also in search of new schools for his three children.

“I returned to work on a Friday in June and my wife handed over to me a letter of house rent increment from N1.7 million to N3.5 million for a three-bedroom flat per year,” he lamented.

Though Isibor could struggle to pay the new rent at least for a year, the notice of fee increment from a notable private school in Anthony Village where his three children attend made him change his mind.

“There is no money anywhere. If I pay almost N1.3 to the school by August ending and pay over N3 million house rent by September, my savings will drain and that is why I have moved to an area where I can afford the rent and school fees,” he said.

In his case, Johnson Torkula, a middle-level immigration officer, travelled on a night bus from Lagos to Abuja in order to meet an emergency at his office headquarters and also return the next day to attend the burial of a very close colleague.

“For the first time in my 15 years career, I took the risk of travelling on a night bus because air return ticket from Lagos to Abuja was very expensive considering that my travel was an emergency.

“But I denied myself night sleep, risked being robbed, accident and other challenges because there is no free money to spend again. House rent, school fees, housekeeping allowances, car maintenance and even allowances to my parents have increased. “I was just being prudent and it worked despite the huge risk,” he said.

The above experiences reflect the ugly situations courtesy of the hard economic realities in the country today, especially since the removal of fuel subsidy in May.

However, as the economy bites, Nigerians have been exploring and adopting means to ride the storm.

But the ride has not been easy for many as prices are still increasing.

Considering the economic reality and unstable prices, Mathias Ebie, a civil engineer with Hitech Construction Company, noted that he has introduced cost-cutting measures at home.

“I told my children that this is not the time for ice creams and meat pies, and eating out often. They are not happy, but I told them we need to save to ensure they go to school and that impressed them. It is no longer the bread-and-butter breakfast, eat whatever the kitchen offers,” he told his children.

As part of his cost-saving measures, the father of four said, “My wife now goes to the Nigerian Army Shopping Complex in Oshodi or Trade Fair in Ojo to buy provisions in bulk. The prices are cheaper than the rates at the supermarkets,” he said.

For rice, a staple food that has more than tripled in price in the last three years, Ebie gets cheaper supply from a security officer working at the Seme Border.

“I am lucky to have one as a neighbour. He often brings half bags of foreign rice and I buy them at a give-away price. My wife used to worry that they might be seized goods, but nobody can prove that,” he said.

Read also: How to stay afloat in the Nigerian economy

While Ebie’s wife buys in bulk to beat the high prices, Cecilia Eluke, a widow and mother of two, goes for what her money can afford.

At a Petrocam Gas refilling plant at Canoe bus stop, Oke-Afa, Isolo, Lagos, Cecilia bought N4,000 worth of gas in her 12.5 kg cylinder, which goes for N7,500.

According to the widow, she needed the balance to buy other things and when another customer interjected that the N4000 gas would not last, she said, “I know. You don’t know my pocket better than me; I will manage it well.”

As well, many are also resorting to fairly-used products now as new or imported ones are very expensive due to the unimaginable exchange rate.

Auto dealers and importers are facing the heat more as many are no longer buying first-grade fairly-used cars because of their high prices.

Okechukwu Modilim, an auto dealer in Abuja, lamented poor sales this year.

He noted that the government, companies and politicians are the ones who can afford new cars now and that people are searching for car auction sales by government and companies because the fairly-used ones are very expensive now.

“There is hunger in the land. You need to eat first, get shelter over your head before talking about a car. So, I am not surprised that people are now going for Nigerian-used cars instead of imported fairly-used ones,” he said.

In Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State, dealers of fairly-used clothes are back in business despite the restrictions on such products in the country.

Dealers along the Port Harcourt Road in Aba are seeing soaring patronage, especially when they open new bales as people besiege them to select fairly-used clothes, bearing in mind that same quality in boutique shops are unaffordable now.

Augustine Mmecha, a dealer, noted that fairly-used clothes are alternatives for people to dress fine and look good because the prices at boutique shops are very high. But he revealed that many boutique owners also visit fairly-used clothes shops to pick first-grade qualities they will enhance and parade as imported.

“With the calibre of people that buy from us now, there is no shame again for wearing fairly-used clothes. There is no money and people will not go naked because fairly-used cloth is an option,” the dealer said.

Even as patronage soars for fairly-used clothes, it is also becoming expensive because of the crackdown on its importation.

“No matter how and where you want to bring in the clothes from, the customs know and we pay huge amounts to get the clothes into the country. The growing expenses are increasing the prices too, but not like the new ones,” he said.

Emeka Mordi, a university lecturer, has learnt some mechanic skills that enable him to fix his car and save cost. The University of Nigeria Nsukka lecturer, now services his car; changing engine oil, oil filter and plugs.

“My mechanic encouraged me to buy some tools and he taught me how to do the easing fixings. I am happy to learn and apply that knowledge,” he said.

Of course, half of the families that spent summer holiday in foreign destinations last year could not afford the same this year and the development has negatively impacted travel agencies and tour operators here.

In the last five years, I have not spent summer in the country. It has to be abroad because I hardly travel within the country because of insecurity. This year I did not consider summer because of the huge cost. I will need over N5 million to take my family of six on summer holiday in Los Angeles. Instead of summer, I am considering relocating abroad,” Demola Onitiri, a banker with StanbicIBTC said.

The issue for many who could not afford summer holidays in foreign destinations this year is that even African destinations such as Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa and even Ghana are all priced in dollars with little difference in price with destinations outside Africa.

“When you do your calculations, you will be shocked that African destinations, which are close by are even more expensive than those outside Africa. So, what is the point when it is still the scarce dollar you will use to pay? I did not regret not travelling for summer because there is no money,” Onitiri said.

Clement Ohaeto, another foreign summer holiday buff, lamented that such travels are now luxury and for the very rich because no matter the number of days spent, how close the destination is or how much you economise, you will feel the impact on you account balance because summer is now for those with deep pocket.

Ironically, some top destinations in Nigeria would have saved the situation if not for the security situation and hunger in the country.

“Ibom Hotel and Golf Resort in Uyo, Ikogosi Warm Spring Resort in Ekiti, La Campagne Tropicana Beach Resort in Ibeju-Lekki, and Fifth Chukker Polo and Country Club in Kaduna are some good places to spend summer in Nigeria without buying dollar, but my clients insist they are not safe despite assurances from the operators. But they struggle and even borrow to travel abroad, though not in good numbers like before,” Bade Ogunlesi, a tour operator lamented.

While the masses adopt some cost-saving measures, Joseph Olatunde Akinfenwa, a reverend and Bishop of Ibadan Diocese of Anglican Communion, urged the federal and state governments to introduce price control and marketing boards to ease the pains of Nigerians.

The clergyman, who spoke at a thanksgiving service in Ibadan recently, noted that sufferings are getting out of hand and measures such as increment in workers’ salaries and price control can help the masses to survive the hard times.

As some pundits put it, Nigerians have switched on their survival mood, as three-square meals, house rent, school fees, medical bills and transportation fares are not assured. It is strict measures and management until ‘God’ rescues them as they have lost hope in the politicians who only romance with them to get votes and run away afterwards; a scenario being played out today.