With barely six days to Christmas celebrations, it has been tales of woes and despair following the unending economic hardship and the high level insecurity Nigerians are faced with. From the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) to Kaduna State, down to Lagos, Oyo, Imo to Port-Harcourt, Cross River to Kano, Kogi to Taraba States , to mention just a few, the story is not different.
LEADERSHIP Weekend investigation revealed that Nigerians are passing through hard times, and this is evident in their abysmal preparations for the Eyelid. Our correspondents reports that unlike in the past, where excitement and early preparations took the centre stage, the year 2021 has witnessed little or no formal preparations for the Christmas celebration.
When LEADERSHIP Weekend toured some city centres, it observed that both politicians, civil servants and private sector workers have been faced with low purchasing power , The excitement and joy that usually greets the Christmas celebration is no more, as many people are busy lamenting the prevailing high cost of living and worsening poverty level. The situation has further been complicated by the return of long queues of vehicles at the petrol stations across the country in addition to the deteriorating state of the nation’s security.
Some parents who spoke extensively to our correspondents across the nation said,‘Even the kids that usually demand for Christmas gifts and other things hardly ask these days because they tend to understand our plights. As we speak, some parents are depressed. We can boldly tell you that the panic buying of petrol due to the announcement that the price would be increased is affecting sales of other goods . This is because petrol scarcity often leads to increase in cost of transportation and other products.
Some traders who spoke to our correspondents in Delta, Cross River, Anambra, Lagos, Akwa Ibom, FCT to mention but a few States, described the preparations for this year’s Christmas as the worst they have ever experienced. They buttressed that , ‘ The only thing that can make one to know that Christmas is near is the hammartan season.
A trader who deals on English wears (Unisex), Franklin Nwabueze whose warehouse is stocked with various designs suggestive of the Christmas season, disclosed that the products, which were purposely stocked for the Yuletide have been there for the past one month. ‘Nobody has come to buy one out of them, since I stocked my warehouse in November. Although customers and people around admire them, but none has bought a single item; they keep complaining that there is no money.
Besides the classic designs he hung for display, Nwabueze showed some complimentary bags|shoes that carry unique designs in common, also revealing that they had been abandoned for months on the rack. He said, “This season is very dry compared to other Christmas celebrations in the past. This year is very dry.”
Mrs Mimidoo Tserva, whose outfit deals in decorations, confectionery, events and planning, disclosed that December and the last quarter of the year has always been the climax of social events and activities anywhere in the nation. She lamented that “But since September, I can count the number of invitations I have received due to the hardship. It I actually not that people don’t want my services, but they complain that there is no money. She blamed the economic challenges on the failure of government to implement good policies that would make positive impact on the people.
A resident of Kano and a graduate\photographer, Ahmed Danladi said:’I am worried that if our government fails to come up with result oriented policies Nigerians would be doomed.
“I am yet to see the change, because things are even worse. Things are very expensive in the market and purchasing power is very low. There is no money. Prices of commodities are still high and standard of living is still very poor and people are suffering. It is not easy. Imagine few days to Christmas, fuel scarcity has resurfaced, hence, the unfavourable hike in transportation fare. What does that tells you? The exchange rate is high. Everything is almost getting out of the common man’s reach.
My question is what is the essence of having money when you cannot use it to purchase anything meaningful in the market?
Venting her frustration over low patronage during the harmattan period and ahead of the yuletide celebrations, a pharmacists, Mrs Itoro Etimbuk, who sells pharmaceutical products, foodstuff and toys for children, said, “I stocked my shop with all kinds of goods to prepare for Christmas sales; but as I speak, only very few people call to check for the products. Everybody is complaining of lack of money even the sick ones.
A civil servant, Mr Adewale Olagoke who decried the increasing prices of foodstuff and commodities, said only those who steal public funds could afford luxurious Christmas celebration this year. Olagoke lamented those of them who may not travel due to insecurity on Nigerian roads can also barely afford a bag of rice which now sells for “A bag of rice still sells for between N33,000 ‘It has now become a luxury food item for the rich.’
Also commenting on the situation, Mrs Mashe Lantang a civil servant in Jos, told our correspondent that she bought a 10 litre of vegetable oil for N13,200. She complained of the untold hardship that has made Christmas preparations dull and almost non-existent
A pensioner in Cross River State who pleaded not to be named said, “It is becoming extremely difficult to purchase food, clothes and other necessities for Christmas celebration. The present economic situation and hardship is taking a hard toll on pensioners in Cross River State who are yet to be paid their gratuity, as well as on civil servants whose salaries are often delayed.
“I am still praying to God, hoping to get a way out of this Christmas. Even if I skip some other things, I have to provide food and clothes for my wife and children.” He further lamented that even the Christmas Carnival which usually made them happy was dropped by Governor Ben Ayade. ‘We are just doomed and need to pray for national healing’.
While, a trader in Balogun market in Lagos Island, Iyabo Adetutu , who sells materials for native attires, told LEADERSHIP Weekend that materials were very expensive last year, but they made huge sales, although not as huge as they used to.“But sometime this year, the prices dropped significantly and people are not buying, because “there is no money anywhere and people are complaining that the economy is very tough.”
Mr John Nwabueze, a trader at Iyana Ipaja Market, said “At present, prices of food items are better than what we experienced last yuletide.“Beans, garri and rice have reasonable prices now; it is probably only groundnut oil that is on the high side now.The basic items that are usually in high demand during the Christmas season – rice, beans, and garri have considerable fair prices now.
He said, “A bag of long-grain rice is now N27,500 as against N30,000 two weeks ago. The short-grain rice now sells for N24,000 as against N25,000.
“A bag of beans right now is N25,000; two weeks or a month ago, we sold a bag for between N50,000 and N52,000, while a tin of beans that used to sell for between N700 and N800, is now N400,” he said.
According to him, the food items might cost more during Christmas celebration.
“The prices are still unstable.’
Mrs Dupe Yusuf, a rice seller at Daleko Market, told said the price of foreign rice had dropped due to smuggling buy unpatriotic citizens ahead of Christmas celebration and New Year celebrations.“The price of rice has come down a bit compared to two weeks ago, but the difference is not much.We now sell short-grain rice for N24,000; it was N25 000 before.Long-grain rice on the other hand is sold for N26, 000 or N26, 500 per bag, it sold for N30,000 per bag two weeks ago.
Mrs Tolupe Ajibade, a general foodstuff trader at Oyingbo Market, said that the prices could still increase or reduce. “Five litre-refillable groundnut oil pack currently sells for between N4,500 and N5, 000, the price is still high.Five litres of palm oil sells for N4,000, it used to sell for N3,000 or N3, 500, months ago; the price is still high.The price of Semolina has gradually come down compared to weeks back, as a 10kg bag can now be bought for between N5,000 and N5, 300, it sold for N5,800 before.
“Garri is on the rise now, a paint bucket now goes for N1,000 or even N1,200; it used to sell for N800, A bag of Ijebu Garri now sells for N16,000 as opposed to the N13,000.”
According to her, the price of long-grain rice has reduced.
“It sold for N30,000 some weeks back but now sells for N27, 500 or N28, 000 per bag. The short grain now sells for N25 000 or N26, 000 per 50kg bag.
“The price of beans is also coming down, it now sells between N2,200 and N2,500 per paint bucket, which used to sell for between N3,000 and N3, 500. Cheaper species sell for N1,800.
“We are not sure how these prices will be at Christmas, they are likely to skyrocket when it is closer to yuletide because of the close of most companies and increased demand.
“Noodles are still expensive and the price goes up every two weeks.”
Ajibade said a carton of noodles sold for N3,000.“A carton of Spaghetti now sells for N6,200; before we sold it for N6,400 or N6, 500,” Ajibade said
In Bayelsa , Mr Juliet Ekenwa said things she used to buy for the family to celebrate the yuletide season have been suspended because she has to prioritise so as to be able to pay her children’s school fees when school resumes in January 2022. She said, ‘ Prices of food items and drinks have sky-rocketed beyond the middle class standard, how much more the poor masses. Instead of buying soft drinks, we are going to be drinking Zobo, Kunu and water. There will be no new clothes, shoes and excessive spending this season.’
Also, in Edo State, our investigation revealed that prices of goods have sky-rocketed, just as the people are not making equate preparations for the celebrations. According to Ms. Bimbo Adams, a tailor Ondo State, “Customers are not patronising me like they did last year. So, there is no money to celebrate this year’s Christmas. This is one of the worst festive seasons I have ever witnessed,”she bemoaned.
In Imo Statae, a resident of Mbieri, Mr. Ikechukwu Chima lamented that elders and stakeholders in the state seem to be bewitched. as the only dissenting voice they hear has remained from the church. Many others seem complacent as the evils multiple geometrically by day. Chima said, ‘’There is hardship everywhere in Imo State. While awaiting the coming of the Saviour, must our people do so in penury? Presently, most workers and pensioners are being owed several months salaries and allowances, while the basic amenities for the common man are nowhere to be found. Surely, this is a sad environment to prepare materially for the celebration of the birth of Christ. Let the state government understand that the masses need not wait for the necessities of life indefinitely, if their celebration of Christmas is to be meaningful.”
Also speaking, Dennis Onoja, an indigene of Kogi State, who is also a civil servant said, “the truth is that most civil servants know that we cannot afford to be extravagant because the money is not even there. Most of us are yet to settle our landlords because of the inability of the government to settle our salaries. So if you are not careful your landlord may come for his rent if he notices that you are making any elaborate preparation. So for me there will be nothing unusual about the festivities.”
A shoe seller at Nyanya market, Mommy Chidera said there was no money in the country, adding: “Although prices of items are stable, there is low patronage of shoes. By the second week of December sales ought to have picked up, but it has not due to low purchasing power in the country. “I have not sold more than five pairs of shoes since morning, which is unusual. By now I ought have ask my maids to come over to assist me if there is high patronage.”
A jewelry seller in Kano, Hajiya Mariam, expressed disappointment over the low patronage during this year’s yuletide season. She said, “It has impacted negatively on me because I took loans to stock my shop due to my belief that there will be high patronage and the fear of increase in prices of goods.” She also attributed the low patronage to the country’s economy, which has taken a negative toll on the people.
In Onitsha , Obinna Onora, Who deals of Childrens wears said the level of patronage is very low.“Even those that come to buy negotiate below the cost price and most of them end up walking away. Yesterday, a customer came in and after haggling price, she said: “Christmas is just one day and before you know it, it is gone, so my kids would have to use what they wore last Christmas. I am still hopeful that sales will improve before the market closes for Christmas,” he said.
For Blessing Oche, a dealer on women’s hair products, sales have not been entirely bad, as women, and young ladies will not have a Christmas without a new hairdo.
She said, “Sales were better last Christmas season, because products were not as expensive as they are now. Prices have increased, even the synthetic hair extensions too, but women still buy, but with plenty complaints of irrational price increase. Yuletide sales are not bad for me, as there is a clear difference between now and regular season,” she said
Mallam Idris , a trades in tomatoes and pepper asked joking enquired from LEADERSHIP Weekend if this year’s Christmas had been cancelled. He said, “I don’t even understand again as a matter of fact. It is either they have cancelled Christmas without telling us or people have been deported from Nigeria. Even last year that we were saying things were bad, this year is worse. Sales are vey bad.
“Everywhere is so dull and people are complaining that there is no money and it is affecting us badly, as we have to crash the prices of our goods because they are perishable items.” He urged the government to improve the economy as a matter of urgency so that next year would be better.
A transporter, Mr Umeh Dave who expressed bitterness at the state of the nation said, “There really is no money anywhere and the situation of the country is really terrible. For the first time ever, I will not be able to buy Christmas clothes for my children this year because of finances but I am hoping next year will be better. Live chicken is so expensive now and frozen chicken that used to be our saviour is now equivalent to buying silver. Government really has to do something,” lamented the high cost of frozen foods just as traders pleaded for understanding.
A trader who acknowledged low patronage however told LEADERSHIP Weekend that, “Prices will go up and people will still buy. People must eat and they must celebrate Christmas and New Year. It is not our wish for the cost of foodstuff to increase but it is what and how we buy that we will sell. The situation is affecting us too because in the past, by now, people will throng the markets buying but it is like that this time around. Government should improve the economy so that people’s purchasing power can increase,” she said.
Another respondent, Mrs Ekaette Akpan said: “What we are doing presently in Nigeria is ‘cover up’, no need for new clothes or shoes this time, if you are able to get something to ensure that the pot is on the fire, not minding the quality of the food in it; we should thank God
Meanwhile, a pastor with the Assemblies of God Church, Reverend Kelechi Augustin, has advised Nigerians to be prudent, noting that life was not all about showing off, but how good one lives.
At the tomato section of one of the markets in Nasarawa State, many baskets loaded with tomatoes were seen but few buyers were sighted. A tomato buyer, Ifeyinwa Kelechi told LEADERSHIP Weekend that she was buying the commodity for use during the Christmas, stressing that she needed to buy in larger quantity because, her family has a wine-carrying ceremony on December 26, followed by a Church wedding the next day”.
“So these are two big occasions for which buying tomatoes in the village may be too costly. I have people that I can always buy from, so what I am doing is that I will preserve them for the occasions’
LEADERSHIP Weekend recalls that aside being ravaged by insecurity, World Bank data, revealed that Nigeria is the poverty capital of the world, with 93.9 million people living below poverty line. Worst is that all these are happening at a time when the average Nigerian is already stretched tight by the state of insecurity in the country.