• Monday, March 04, 2024
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BusinessDay

We are just walking corpses, Nigerians cry out over increasing suffering

What most Nigerians wish for

In July, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu declared an immediate State of Emergency on food insecurity to tackle the increase in food prices.

He also directed that “all matters pertaining to food and water availability and affordability, as essential livelihood items be included within the purview of the National Security Council.”

Probably, Mr. President was responding to the sufferings of the masses, which increased with the removal of subsidy on premium motor spirit, popularly called petrol, by his government on May 29, 2023.

But the reality on ground is worrisome. Virtually, the price of everything in the country has more than doubled since the subsidy removal, making things, especially foodstuff, out of reach of the poor. Even the rich are also crying.

Food prices are also expected to increase further in the remaining part of the year. According to data from the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, on a month-on-month basis, food inflation rate in July 2023 was 3.45 percent, about 1.06 percent higher compared to the rate recorded in June 2023, which was 2.40 percent.

From sachet water, cheap noodles, and even ‘garri’, people now pay more for less of these items.

Musa Mungoro, a Malian who runs a small kiosk at the entrance of the estate he guards, explains it all.

“Oga, ‘walahi’ I am surprised that Oga Mercedes children come here to buy indomie hungry man. They said the man’s business is not moving again because the dollar has gone up,” Mungoro said.

Beyond that, the security guard, who is loved by most of the estate’s residents, and who has enough information on most of them because of his job, lamented that in the last six months, about three residents have moved out from the estate to cheaper areas.

“Oga, I have asked them to increase my salary, they said that there is no money and that I am even better than some of them because I sell essentials people need now,” he noted.

Again, the constantly reducing portion of food served at ‘mama-put’ and other roadside food vendors testify of the high level of food inflation in the country.

“At almost N50,000, per bag of rice, how much will I sell a plate of rice to make profit, meat, tomatoes, oil, even Maggi have all increased in price and I must pay ‘Agbero’ money before selling to customers, and security money later.

“There is no profit again, we are just managing because many customers are struggling to make ends meet,” Iyabo Oni, a food vendor at Cele Bus Stop, lamented.

For a clearer picture, Mercy Obele, a private school admin staff, who alternates as kindergarten teacher, decried that most of the food flasks of her pupils are no longer as rich as they used to be.

“Last week, a parent dropped off her two children without food flasks and pretended that the children forgot them at home. But her daughter said her mother told them there was no food that morning and that they should eat from other pupil’s food.

“I am surprised because she used to bring the children in big cars, but they have been using ‘okada’ since school resumed,” Obele said.

Truly, the average Nigerian family is going through a lot of suffering because of the economic reality of our time, with two, and no longer three square meals, difficult to come-by.

They used to say that it is money that makes a good meal, no matter small, big or good meal, you need more money because everything is expensive now,” Atinuke Mojeed, a mother of three, said.

If food is now scarce on the table, other essentials, including house rents and education are even more difficult to come-by, leaving many to suffer untold hardship.

While the breaking of every new month seems to bring hope of better days ahead to many people, the reverse seems to be the case for September, especially for most Nigerian parents.

With many bills to settle, particularly school fees, which most schools have increased between 100-150 percent for the new session, in response to the current inflationary trend, parents are more than worried on how to send their children back to school this September.

The most hit are those whose children are schooling abroad as the unstable and very high exchange rate drains their life-savings.

Of course, those in private schools in the country are also facing similar challenges as all the private universities are reviewing tuition fees every semester to meet their funding demand.

But the public schools, which seem to be cheaper are also increasing fees, while the incessant strike, poor learning facilities and perceived poor quality of education, force parents to struggle in remaining clientele of private schools.

“I have a bill of about N2.4 million to pay for my son who got admission at Nile University Abuja. I wanted him to go to school in London, but the over N1000 per British Pound is my fear because it is still rising and the government has not done anything to stop the rise. I have been given time to settle the bills and I may change my mind too because there are others behind him,” Mathew Osaleoka, a lawyer said.

The father of three, who is aggrieved by the economic reality of the country, lamented the number of out-of-school children and especially university drop-outs would increase considering the very exorbitant cost of education in the country today.

“We are busy building very expensive private secondary schools and universities, while the majority of the population cannot even afford cheap public schools. This is a very big problem for tomorrow,” the lawyer said.

Hannah Oni, an assistant director in a federal government parastatal, whose daughter schools in Atlanta, USA, lamented that she is almost spending her life-savings on her children’s education.

“The exchange rate is my nightmare because after paying tuition fees, there is upkeep and emergencies to attend to and they are all in Dollars. No matter how much you earn or save, the high exchange rate will make a mess of it. It is putting parents under pressure, which shouldn’t be if our school system is good or Naira is at par with the Dollar,” she decried.

As expected, many are being weighed down by the sufferings and their health is also impacted.

Cases of high blood pressure and stress induced sicknesses are expected to be on the rise, and even suicide as some Nigerians are beginning to take that path to escape from their sufferings.

But the reality for Ehimen Medeme, a medical consultant with the Lagos University Teaching Hospital Idiaraba, is that the cost of drugs, especially those imported and the cost of treatment have risen so high that many cannot afford certain treatments now if they do not have enough money.

Read also: Tinubu’s 100 Days: Nigerian families squeezed by surging school fees

“No hospital buys drugs on credit or tells staff to wait until patients pay money every month. So, people have to find a way to stress less, worry less and move on with what life has given us in Nigeria because getting sick is not an option now.

“Sick people are now rejected more than before if there is no money, patients are neglected in the wards if the money for treatment is not coming because times are also hard for the hospitals with many bills to settle too,” the medical consultant said.

Speaking further, he noted that a colleague of his who runs a private clinic was ejected by the landlord despite the fact that patients were still receiving treatment at the clinic.

As well, many tenants who are unable to pay the skyrocketing house rents are passing through serious hard-times as most landlords, especially in Lagos, use thugs to eject them.

From all spheres of life, business, profession or location in the country, the majority of Nigerians are passing through untold hardship.

But the irony is that the very few that have been enjoying are still the ones that are safe from the drought in the land, while the masses see no respite soon.