Nigerians Groan under Bad Economy

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Nigerians from all walks of life complain bitterly about the increasing economic hardship in the country

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Feb 27, 2017 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THESE are not the best of times for many Nigerians. The economic recession coupled with the hyperinflationary trend in the country is making life miserable for Nigerians from all walks of life especially the masses. The situation is so bad that many people are not able to feed trice a day; the sick do not have the money to go to the hospital and even the bereaved could also not afford to secure a grave for the dead in a burial ground.

This is the sad predicament Adekunle Adewusi, 49, and his family found themselves when he lost his four-year-old daughter to the cold hands of death recently. When Adewusi’s daughter became sick he did not have the money to rush her to the hospital. He managed to buy her blood tonic before she died. After her death he could still not afford a grave. So he decided with his wife to stuff the girl in a sack and dump her in a canal. But the Adewusis, who live at Folorunsho Kuku Street, Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos, ran out of luck as neigbhours discovered their heinous act and raised alarm prompting the police to arrest them.

They were arraigned at the Ebute Meta chief magistrate court February 21. “We carried her to a nurse who advised us to take her to a General Hospital but because there was no money I bought her blood tonic syrup. She is my sixth child and we don’t have any picture of her. When she died there was no money to take her to the mortuary and there was no money to buy land to bury her.

“So that’s why my wife and I decided to put her corpse into a sack bag and kept her body beside the canal where we lived. We later threw her inside the canal at Monkey Village Opebi, Ikeja, Lagos,” he told the court.

Although the police prosecutor said the offence contravened sections 411 and 165 (a) (b) of the Criminal Law of Lagos State, 2015, there is no doubt that abject poverty. which is ravaging Nigeria at present pushed Adewusi to commit the offense.

They are not alone in taken extreme measures to cope with the hardship in the land.  Timilehin Adeshina, 18-year old girl, on Wednesday, February 22, abandoned her four-month-old baby boy inside a bag at the Oshodi under bridge as a result of poverty. The lady, who was arrested by operatives of the Lagos State Task Force after rescuing the baby, confessed that she took the step because she could no longer take care of the baby as none of her family members was ready to accommodate her and the baby.  “My mother threw me out because I gave birth and could not identify the man who impregnated me, as different men slept with me. I dropped out of school due to poverty, while in Junior Secondary School at Ejigbo. My mother, Zabela Adeshina is from Delta State, and my father, Adeshina, who hailed from Abeokuta in Ogun State, died nine years ago. We live at 26, Coker Street, Ejigbo, Lagos,” she said, adding that for the period she was sleeping outside with her baby, several men paid to have sex with her.

Another Nigerian, a Lagos-based newly married Blessing Amah, a Psychology graduate, thought she had escaped poverty when she got married. She is now distraught because her husband’s salary is not enough for them to cope with the harrowing economic situation in Nigeria.

According to her, the price of every foodstuff in the market has virtually increased, making it hard for salary earners to survive in the country. “We never had it this bad in this country. My family can no longer afford some of our needs. Everybody is really lamenting these hard times and the high prices of food items in the country. It’s just my husband and I, and we are struggling like this. Imagine what families with four, five children are going through.”

Adewusi, Adeshina and Amah represent many Nigerian families who are grappling with the increasing cost of living as living standards continue to worsen.

Buhari
Buhari

Realnews investigations show that Low income earners like civil servants are mostly at the receiving end as prices of goods and services skyrocket without a corresponding increase in their income.  About 26 states of the federation are owing workers salary as at April 2016. The findings show that price increase varies from one product to another and from one state to another. The spike in commodity prices got worse as the exchange rate of naira to the dollar hit N520 at the parallel market as at last week.

Traders at various markets visited by Realnews reporter tell different stories about what they are also going through. From pepper to furniture sellers the disenchanting stories are the same. According to them, when they have finished selling some of the goods on their shelf and go back to markets to replenish their stock, the money they have can hardly purchase anything and they return to face their shelves empty.

A trader at Ajuwon market, Lagos, who simply identified herself as Mummy Faith recounts her experience: “I went to market last two weeks to buy commodities. They sold to me at a very higher price I decided not to buy with the hope that the price will come down a bit if I should go back another time. When I went back to the same place a week after, to my greatest surprise, I found that N1,500 had been added to price of the same commodity sold to me the previous time. I had no choice than to buy it at that the price,” she said.

Another trader, Osinachi Nweze, who sells frozen food at Ajuwon, said, “Things are very difficult now. A kilo of chicken which we used to sell for N700 is now N1,200. While a kilo of (Titus) fish goes for N1,100, whereas it was N600 before. The increases have affected our businesses negatively,” he said.

Realnews market survey shows that prices of staple foods such as rice, beans, cassava flakes are increasing daily and becoming unaffordable by average Nigerians as they are now three times higher than they were in 2015.  The survey showed that presently, a 50k bag of rice is sold at between N18,000 and N25,000 depending on the brand  while the same bag of rice sold for N9,000 in 2015. A bag of (Iron) beans now sells for N30,000, while it was N17,000 in 2015. A bag of (Brown) beans is N32,000 as against N21,000 in 2015.

Currently, a paint-can of garri (White) is N600 while the yellow coloured one is sold for N900. Previously, the same sold for N200 and N300, respectively. Realnews also found out that a basket of tomatoes cost N8,000 whereas in 2015 it was N2,500 while a basket of pepper sells for N4,000 compared to N1,500 in 2015.

Corroborating, the National Bureau of Statistics consumer price index, CPI, which measures inflation in the country released on Wednesday, February 15, shows that the inflation increased to 18.72 percent (year-on-year) in January from 18.55 percent recorded in December 2016. The NBS noted that increases recorded in all classification of individual consumption by purpose divisions that yielded the headline index.

“Communication, Restaurants and Hotels again recorded the slowest pace of growth in January, growing at 5.1 percent and 8.4 percent (year-on-year), respectively. However, the faster pace of growth in headline inflation, year -on- year, were bread and cereals, meat, fish, oils and fats, potatoes, yams and other tubers as well as and wine and spirits. Also, clothing materials and accessories, electricity, cooking gas, liquid and solid fuels, motor cars and maintenance, vehicle spare parts and fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment, passenger transport by road.’’

On a month on month basis, the report stated that headline inflation was driven by passenger transport by air, fuels and lubricants for personal transport equipment and liquid fuels. The report stated that the headline inflation was driven by cooking gas, oils and fats, fruits, mike cheese and eggs, fish, meat and bread as well as cereals.

“The Food Index increased by 17.82 percent (year-on-year) in January, up by 0.43 percent points from rate recorded in December 2016 (17.39) percent. During the month, all major food sub-indexes increased with soft drinks recording the slowest pace of increase at 7.8 per cent (year on year).

“Price movements recorded by all items less farm produce or core sub-index rose by 17.90 percent (year-on-year) in January, down by 0.20 percent points from rates recorded in December 2016 (18.10) percent. During the month, the highest increases were seen in Housing, Water, Electricity, Gas and Other Fuels, Education and Transport growing at 27.2, 21.0 and 17.2 percent respectively.”

On a month-on-month basis, the report further stated that the Headline index increased albeit, at a slower pace in January 2017. It stated that the index increased by 1.01 percent points in January, 0.05 percent points from 1.06 percent rate recorded in December 2016.

The report stated that average price paid by consumers for Premium Motor Spirit known as petrol increased by 35.7 percent year-on-year in January. It noted that petrol increased by 35.7 percent year-on-year and 1.35 percent month-on-month to N148.7 in January 2017, from N146.7 in December 2016. According to the report, states with the highest average price of petrol were Borno, which sold the product for N164.09, Oyo; N161.00 and Ebonyi N156.47. “States with the lowest average price of petrol were Kogi, which sold at N144.67), Ekiti and Imo, N144.64 and Abuja which sold at N144.20.”

Emefiele
Emefiele

While the states with lowest average price sold the product below the recommended price of N145. Fuel prices are collected across all the 774 local governments across all states and the FCT from more than 10,000 respondents and locations.

Irked by the economic hardship, Nigerians from all walks of life on February 6 and 9, thronged the streets of Lagos, Abuja, Port Harcourt, Ibadan, and other major cities across the country to protest against government policies that have impoverished the country and make life so difficult.

Reacting, Acting President Yemi Osinbajo, said that the message of the protesters was loud and clear. On February 9, Osinbajo said Nigerians should endure the pains of current economic hardship in order to have a better tomorrow. Addressing a 19-man delegation led by Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and Trade Union Congress, TUC, who were at the State House, Abuja, to deliver their grievances to the government, Osinbajo called for a collective effort from organised labour to deal a blow to the evil of corruption in Nigeria.

He said: “There is no gain without some pains. There is no way you will eat an omelet without breaking an egg. There is so much we can do with the Nigerian economy. We are going to be consulting with the labour unions and civil societies on our economic recovery and growth plan which we intend to launch this month.

“Things might be difficult today, but I am completely sure if we stay the course this country will not only get out of recession but always go to the path of sustainable development. If we don’t fight corruption all we are doing is a waste. If a few can pillage the resources of the nation and get away with it then we will just continue to go around with it,” he said.

On his part, Bukola Saraki, Senate President, had on December 15, 2016, during the presentation of the 2017 budget told President Buhari that there is hardship in the country. He said the purpose of a budget is to ease economic pressure on the people, most especially, the poor. “Mr. President, the feedback we get from visits to our various constituencies is that there is hardship in the land. We can see it and we can feel it. This situation, therefore, commands all of us as government to a greater sense of urgency. We cannot work magic, but we must continue to work the clock.

“Our people must see that the singular pre-occupation of government is the search for solution to the current economic hardship; and the commitment to ease their burden. They don’t want to know what political parties we belong, what language we speak or how we worship God. They have trusted their fates into our hands, and they need us now more than ever to justify the trust that they have reposed on us. The people of Nigeria will pardon us if we do some things wrong. But, they will not forgive us if we do nothing.”

Despite the economic doom in the country, the federal government still said that the recession was receding. According to a report in Issue 23 of Aso Villa’s Newsletter, Government at Work, released on Monday, February 13, the federal government said that oversubscription of the government’s Eurobond has confirmed the confidence level of the international investment community in Nigeria’s economic reform agenda.

The federal government believed that oversubscription of the Eurobond means that international investors are willing and have confidence that the economy will rebound this year. They equally believed that this singular act will attract more foreign exchange and boost the foreign reserve.

Other reasons why the government said that the economy was on its way out of recession, include the Anchor Borrowers Programme, ABP, of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, which it said substantially raised local rice production in 2016 and produced a model agricultural collaboration between Lagos and Kebbi states.

CharlyBoy joins protest against the government
CharlyBoy joins protest against the government

The federal government also believed that it had identified 59 ways under a comprehensive plan to achieve economic recovery and growth within the next three years. These are included in the proposed Nigeria Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, NERGP, 2017 – 2020 development process currently undergoing final touches.

Udoma Udo Udoma, a former senator and minister of budget and national planning, said the focus of the plan would be to address current economic challenges, restore growth and reposition the economy for sustained inclusive growth. “The NERGP is a follow-up to the Strategic Implementation Plan, SIP, which was a short term economic plan to drive the implementation of the 2016 Budget.

In the SIP, government promised it would deliver a more comprehensive economic recovery and growth plan subsequently. It is principally targeted at getting the economy out of recession, get people back to work, move the country from a consuming nation to a producing nation, provide an environment for ease of doing business and create jobs, among others.

The 59 ways include 12 considered as priority based on their strategic importance to the overall success of the plan. They include restoration of oil production to 2.2 million barrels per day and a target of 2.5 million barrels per day by 2020; privatisation of selected asset; acceleration of non-oil revenue generation; drastic cut in costs; alignment of monetary, trade and fiscal policies, and expansion of infrastructure, especially power, roads and rail.

The other identified ways include revamping the four existing refineries; improving the ease of doing business; expanding social investment programmes; delivering on agriculture; accelerating implementation of National Industrial Revolution Plan using special economic zones as well as focusing on priority sectors to generate jobs, promote exports, boost growth and upgrade skills.

On his part, Audu Ogbeh, minister of Agriculture and Rural Development,  said the federal government was worried about the rising food prices and the possibility of famine in the country due to food shortages and would likely open up the grain reserve within the next two weeks if food prices continued to soar.

But that decision has reportedly angered local farmers who appeared to be profiting from the rise in food prices. According to Ogbeh, the farmers have expressed their resentment with government over plans to cut food prices, accusing it (government) of sabotaging their business as this would be the first time they would be making high profit from farming. The minister, however, stressed the need for synergy and reasonable balance between the farmers profit and city dwellers survival.

While the federal government moves to stabilise the economy, the Dollar remains the king of the foreign exchange market; the value of the Naira has continued to fall against it. The current state of the widening gap between the parallel market and the inter-bank rate is a cause for worry despite the frantic efforts of the CBN.

On a brighter note, all hope is not lost in this prevalent hardship. The International Monetary Fund, IMF, on January 16, affirmed that Nigeria would this year recover from economic recession, projecting that the nation’s economy would grow by 0.8 percent in 2017. Citing increased crude oil production due to security improvement, the IMF in its latest World Economic Outlook, WEO, said Nigeria Gross Domestic Product, GDP, will grow by 0.8 percent in 2017 and 2.3 percent in 2018.

That notwithstanding, what the masses want without any more delay is a quick measure to ameliorate the suffering they are going through at the moment.

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