The Burden of Celebrating Christmas

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A Christmas display
A Christmas display

Nigerians groan as prices of food and other items go beyond the reach of many

|  By Ishaya Ibrahim   |  Dec. 31, 2012 @ 01:00 GMT

AMONG the millions of Nigerians besieging big supermarkets and corner shops for Christmas shopping was Comfort Seyi-Funmi, a housewife and resident of Lagos State. She was at the Balogun market December 18, to buy Christmas clothes for her children. But it turned out to be a long day for her. Apart from paying almost double for most of the things she bought because of the Christmas rush, she also got stuck in Lagos traffic for several hours.

Pre-Christmas shopping comes with excitement and stress for many families. Generally, Christmas period is the time when people spend what they had saved from the beginning of the year on merriment or special events. For instance, Seyi-Funmi who went to the market for shopping mainly for her three children, said she expended close to N100, 000 just for clothes and shoes for them. But that is not even her worry. The children, according to her, would resume school on January 14, and their school fees may not be available by that time because her husband would not have received his salary for the month.

For some families, this year’s Christmas would be a low key celebration because of lack of money. Oluchi Obinna, a mother of three, said this is the first time her children would be celebrating Christmas without new clothes.  The reason is that her husband’s okada business doesn’t bring as much money as it used to owing to the ban placed on it on some routes in Lagos State. This has taken a huge toll on their family income. She said with school fees of her children and other bills to deal with in January, she and her husband decided not to indulge in expenses that would make life difficult for them in the New Year. But she said the children are complaining. “My children are not happy.  They thought we didn’t just want to buy them new clothes and shoes and it makes me feel bad”, she said.

children enjoying themselves
children enjoying themselves

Even traders are complaining of low patronage during this yuletide. Ignatius Ogbonna, a shoe seller in Ikeja, Lagos State, said he managed to sell only two pairs of children’s shoes on December 20, and had to sell the shoes at give-away prices because of low patronage on that day. “I sold the shoes for N1, 200 each instead of N1, 500 which would have given me a profit of N500 on each”, he said.

This year’s Christmas is coming at a time when the cost of living of many Nigerians is becoming unbearable. This year alone, the government had increased the pump price of fuel from its official price of N65 to N97 per litre. The impact of the price hike is still being felt on many household items. Still this year, many farmlands were ravaged by flood, destroying farm produce and this has resulted in the shortage of food items and attendant increase in their prices.

For instance, the price of garri, which is a staple food in most Nigerian homes, has gone up from N200 for a paint tin measure to N400.  The price of a bag of rice which, hitherto, ranged from N6, 000 to N8,000 is now sold between  N9,500 to N11,000. Similarly, prices of condiment such as onion, tomato, pepper and vegetable oil have also jumped up. Five pieces of tomatoes are now being sold for N200 in Ajuwon and a small size of onion sells for N30.  A gallon of palm oil has jumped from N1, 000 to N1, 500 while groundnut oil which used to go for N1, 200 is now sold for N1, 500.

However, despite the harsh economic conditions, residents of Lagos, are already in a festive mood. Many radio and television stations including the Lagos State Television, LTV, have been playing host to children who throng there for Christmas carnivals. The carnivals, which span to the New Year, have been recording large turnout of parents and children who go there to unwind and also get some of the gifts promised by the stations. It is a beehive of activity in most amusements parks, cinemas and other relaxation centres.  Fun seekers have also been visiting the different beaches in Lagos, including Takwa Bay, Kuramo, Alfa, Lekki and several other beaches in the state.

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