This is a very difficult time for most Nigerians. Both the employed and the unemployed are having a hard time as they struggle to survive the nation’s excruciating economic predicament.
The prices of essential commodities have hit the roof and are rising higher still! On the streets, the cost of goods is climbing daily, in the markets, daily price increase is the order of the day.
The capacity of many households to purchase daily and essential needs is dwindling as more and more Nigerians are ripped to the poverty category. As the naira value drops daily against the dollar, so does the cost of goods go up in tandem with the dollar.
With about 50 per cent rise in the inflation rate from 9.01 per cent in 2015 to 17.93 per cent recorded in May 2021, compared with a 40 per cent rise in the minimum wage from N18,000 in 2015 to N30,000, which
many states are finding difficult to pay, many Nigerians today are struggling with hunger. This development is forcing many to depend on loans, families and friends for sustenance. To survive many Nigerians have become very desperate. Recently the media reported how a suspected thief disguised as a customer to steal two bags of rice from a retailer shop in the Olowora area of Lagos State. It was gathered that the suspect, went to the shop of one Olabisi Opeyemi, in company of two boys said to be about 15-year-old to buy two 50-kilogramme bags of rice. The suspect was said to have made Opeyemi’s younger sister, Alima, who was in the shop at the time, believe that the boys were his brothers and that their mother also had a shop nearby. He reportedly left the boys behind and went away with the staple on a commercial motorcycle, promising that he would return soon to pay. When he didn’t return several minutes later, one of the boys was said to have gone to search for him. Alima raised the alarm as the other boy, who is a resident of the area, wanted to leave. She realised she had been defrauded when the teenager told her that he didn’t know the man and that he was only asked to assist him in carrying a load at the shop.
According to the report, Opeyemi was devastated by the loss of the goods, because the theft had taken a toll on her capital. What happened to Opeyemi in Lagos was a reminder of how one Mallam Yusuf Bala, in his quest to get a bag of rice for himself, ended up leaving behind his five-year-old son as a collateral in a store in Kano. According to the report, Bala made it to the rice dealer’s store and purchased a bag of rice. After that, he immediately headed home to get more money for the rice, as what he had with him wasn’t enough, but asked his 5-year-old son to wait for him. Six hours later, Bala hadn’t shown up to pick up his son and pay his debt. After waiting in vain, the dealer asked the little boy where he lived and both of them headed to the house. On sighting the dealer and his son, Bala openly confessed that he had no money to settle his debt and thought leaving his son was his only resolve. Instead of turning Bala in for his inhumane behaviour, the rice dealer gave the bag of rice to him and handed over the boy to his father. These true stories are symptomatic of the excruciating poverty in the land.
Virtually every essential commodity is beyond the reach of the average Nigerian, including bread!
On September 10, 2021, the Association of Master Bakers and Caterers of Nigeria threatened to withdraw their services nationwide to protest the incessant increase in the price of flour and other baking
materials. The bakers issued a two-week ultimatum, starting from September 23. They are asking the federal government to address the situation, which they said was killing the industry. The national president of the association, Alhaji Mansur Umar, issued the warning while briefing newsmen in Abuja. He said the increasing cost of bakery ingredients, if not checked urgently, may soon drive bakers into extinction. He said if the federal government failed to address the situation after the expiration of the two-week ultimatum, “We will direct our members to withdraw their services across the country for one week.” Umar lamented that amid the hike in the price of baking materials and multiple taxes, the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) jerked up its tariff regime, further worsening their plight. He said the situation had compelled them to increase the prices of their products by 30 per cent across the board. Umar said the situation had forced some of their members out of business while others are living in debt.
Bread that is for the poor has gone beyond their reach and in other climes there would have been consequences. The price of sachet water, popularly known as ‘pure water’ has also increased across Abuja metropolis and environs, with a bag now sold at over N300 and a sachet for between N20 and N30 depending on the area and who is selling.
While the salary of low and middle-income earners has remained constant, the prices of essential commodities like rice, beans, millet, maize, garri, cooking oil, among others are increasing geometrically. In the midst of this economic hardship and at a time when businesses and households are barely surviving government is also adding to the burden of families and businesses by increasing electricity tariff.
Unknown to most Nigerians, they are now paying higher for electricity after the authorities quietly raised the tariff without notifying consumers of the product. According to LEADERSHIP that exposed this development the slight electricity tariff adjustment in September points to the confirmation of plans by the federal government to withdraw subsidy in the power sector. Government should lighten the burden of Nigerians by putting in place policies that would make goods and services affordable. All hidden charges including the electricity tariff should be stopped by the government. Concerted efforts should also be made to stabilize the price of essential commodities at rates affordable to the people. People in power should not forget that the welfare of the people remains the sole reason for the existence of government.