BY OUR EDITORS
Nigerians are presently buffeted on all sides by forces beyond their control. From security concerns to excessive electricity bills on blackouts and skyrocketing prices of goods, cost of living is at an all-time high owing to a spiraling inflationary trend sweeping through the economy.
With food inflation leaning at a tipping point of 23 per cent amid the recent 18.17per cent inflation figure released by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS), tougher times, no doubt, await Nigerians. Though no one is exempt, the hardest-hit, as usual, are the poor and vulnerable trying to eke out a living under trying circumstances. Sadly, rising costs are coming at them like guided missiles, all at the same time. Prices of most consumer and non-consumer items have continued to soar out of the reach of the average Nigerian family, and there are few signs that things will get better anytime soon.
A recent market survey carried out by LEADERSHIP revealed that prices of most staple food items and other consumer goods have risen significantly. For instance, a bag of rice which sold for N24, 000 in December 2020 now sells for N26, 000. Also, a big basin of the popular staple, garri, which previously sold for N8, 500 now sells for N10, 000, while a mudu which sold for N400 now sells for N550.
Prices of other food items like beans, bread, wheat flour, groundnut oil, palm oil, vegetables, yam, noodles, fish, meat, tomatoes and pepper, and others, have risen sharply. Even sachet water which for years sold for N10 now wears a new price tag of N15. Wheat, corn and soybeans, the backbone of much of the states’ diet, are all surging to highs not seen since 2019. The naira now exchanges officially at N382 to the dollar, up from about N360, but sells at N490 at the informal market.
The inflationary trend has since been acknowledged by the NBS and politicians who have independently declared that the current Consumer Price Index (CPI), indicates a double digit inflation rate, the worst in three years. The combination of soaring prices of goods and the prevailing poor electricity supply has left Nigerians reeling in pain.
The relentless rise in prices acts as a misery multiplier, driving millions deeper into hunger and desperation. Even when food is available, families simply cannot afford it – and soaring prices are pushing a basic meal beyond the reach of millions of poor families who are already struggling to get by.
All these price hikes mean only one thing: a general ballooning in the cost of living. People are also going to pay through their noses for transportation, rent, school and hospital fees, among others. Yet, the coronavirus pandemic has led to loss of millions of jobs, while many of those who are still employed have been forced to take pay cuts.
This situation of diminished earnings confronted by exploding costs of essential goods and services means that a lot more people will fall into the poverty hole where already over 82 million Nigerians are languishing, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.
The Bureau had, in a report about poverty and inequality from September 2018 to October 2019, said 40 percent of people in Nigeria lived below its poverty line of 137,430 naira ($381.75) a year. It said that represents 82.9 million people.
While this lingers, Nigerians are hoping that the federal government will, as a matter of urgency, put in place measures to alleviate the situation that is already pushing towards the crisis threshold. This newspaper is of the opinion that the government owes the citizens the obligation to take matters that relate to their welfare and wellbeing seriously. It is trite to state that government exists to serve the interest of the people who elected them into office and power.
This commitment becomes even more relevant in a country plagued by insecurity following a wave of kidnappings of schoolchildren, attacks and killings among other crimes. There are emerging concerns that the combination of rising unemployment and hunger could trigger social unrest. It is our informed belief that the authorities will not allow matters to get to that point.
In our considered opinion, this moment calls for innovative thinking and sacrificial leadership. We are persuaded to argue that the situation in the country, as at now, leaves no room for partisan politicking. It is a time that tests men’s souls. It is a time that brings out the best in a people determined to survive against all odds. It is a time that requires the ingenuity of statesmen and patriots of a special hue. And they do not have to be politicians.