When Shakirudeen Bankole and his wife relocated to Abuja shortly after they got married in Lagos earlier in the year, the young couple prepared soup every week with about N7,000 or N10,000. Although the economic situation was challenging, the couple still had the financial strength to prepare and enjoy their favourite delicacies and soups every Friday.
“In terms of feeding, we have long adopted austerity measures since the time of Buhari. We used to cook soup every Friday for N7k or N10k,” Mr Bankole said.
“From it, I’d take food to the office to cover for my breakfast and lunch, until inflation started hitting the rooftop. This affected the prices of groceries and my wife started complaining.
“Our case is unique because we just moved to Lagos from Abuja. Food was relatively cheaper in Abuja.”
But in June, the removal of fuel subsidy changed the culinary taste of the Bankoles and, like many Nigerians, the family began to face unprecedented hardship amid skyrocketed prices of food items.
Mr Bankole, a communication specialist, said the inflation rate forced the family to cut expenses even on essential commodities.
“Since then, we have reduced soup-making to once a month now. And you know how far-reaching that decision is in a typical Yoruba household,” Mr Bankole lamented.
Like the Bankoles, many Nigerians have had to face hard times in recent months as they continue to battle multidimensional poverty, misery, high cost of living and inflationary pressures exacerbated by the ripple effects of government policy reforms.
President Tinubu on 29 May, during his inauguration, announced the removal of subsidy on petrol, a development that has caused hardship for many Nigerians because of the attendant increase in the prices of goods and services.
Apart from the removal of subsidy, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) also announced the unification of all segments of the forex exchange (FX) market as part of efforts to engender transparency in the markets and boost investors’ confidence. Although the policy has been widely applauded as well-intentioned and necessary, it has put additional pressure on the local currency and manufacturers, with ripple effects on prices.
Both policies are being put in place at a time Nigerians are just recovering from the shocks of a controversial naira redesign policy that crippled businesses and made life difficult for many Nigerians who could not access their funds for several months.
Although the federal government has announced a series of palliatives to mitigate the impact of petroleum subsidy removal and similar shocks on the people, many Nigerians are still reeling from the devastating impact as prices of petrol, foodstuff and other essential commodities continue to rise.
Speaking with PREMIUM TIMES on Saturday in Lugbe, Abuja, some Nigerians said the current economic challenges have changed their perception of frugal spending and financial discipline.
Taiwo Wale, who offers dry-cleaning services, said: “The new realities of things in the country have brought changes to my lifestyle. It has not been easy for everyone, not only me. In this country now, everybody is trying to cope. I have a family of four and I must tell you that before, we ate three square meals; but now, we have reduced the three square meals to two due to the situation that made prices of foodstuff skyrocket. We now skip lunch.
“Things have gone up and the most painful aspect is that the Tinubu administration unleashed hardship on the people from the first day the administration was inaugurated.”
Mr Wale added that the economic situation has affected patronage and his business now dwindles, leaving him with little income compared to what he earned in the past.
“Some of my customers prefer to do their laundry at home now because laundry charges have increased,” he said.
For Namso Udoka, a poultry farmer, the economic shock has impacted his business negatively as the price of hybrid feed – 25kg (bag) of Layers Mash – has increased from N7,250 to N8,000. He however said the price of eggs has not increased due to low patronage, suggesting that many families may not be consuming as many eggs as they used to due to the effect of subsidy removal.
Emeka Anayo, a foodstuff seller, said the economic situation has made his family members prioritise their needs.
“I have adopted new strategies to survive in this economy. Since the increase in fuel price, my household has stopped using generators to sleep if there is no light because it is no longer affordable.
“We now prefer sleeping in darkness. I have to think of how I will fuel my vehicle and also fuel the generator. So, we have to pick the one that is most essential to us which is fueling the vehicle,” he said.
Another civil servant, Monday Ewaoche, said: “Since this fuel increment, I made drastic adjustments in order to cut down costs by parking my car for now and using a motorcycle.
“I have also reduced my movement. Before I go anywhere now, it has to be very important. No more unnecessary parties, I now concentrate on the basic needs like food, shelter and my children’s needs too,” he said.
Ikenna Kelechukwu sat idly in front of his mechanic workshop in Umuola, Amaifeke, a community in Orlu Local Government Area of Imo State, south-east Nigeria, when PREMIUM TIMES approached him. Mr Kelechukwu, a father of four, noted that the economic hardship impacted his earning power while expenses shot up.
“This is (my) workshop. But you can see there’s no vehicle here. How do I feed?” he said.
“I used to work on at least 10 vehicles per day, but today I haven’t seen one vehicle to fix.”
Mr Kelechukwu said the situation can only get better if the federal government brings down the pump price of fuel.
Ogechi Ajie, a resident of the community, said the economic hardship worsened since President Bola Tinubu came into power. Mrs Ajie, a tailor, said the situation had become too difficult for her and her family.
“Things are harder than we can bear. Things were fair before now. Feeding thrice a day is now difficult. Let me tell you the truth, we won’t eat three square meals again,” she said.
Muhammed Sani, an online brocade trader in Kano, said the current economic situation drastically impacted his business and daily expenditures.
“The high cost of living is appalling. Life is increasingly becoming difficult because while your earning reduces, the daily routine expenditure increases and the gap is wide to fill,” Mr Sani said. He explained that the cost of transportation from his home at Tudun Yola quarters in the metropolis to the Kantin Kwari market was N300 before the policy reset, but it is now N600.
“Before this situation, as a father of three, I was managing N500 for our breakfast but now the breakfast pattern has changed from bread and black tea to spaghetti pasta because of its quantity.
“For the school fees, initially, I was paying N8,500 for my two children per term, now it has increased to N10,000. Before, whenever I uploaded materials on social media platforms, the patronage level was high with many customers calling; now it has changed. I am the one calling customers because of the decline in sales,” Mr Sani lamented.
Ibrahim Khalid, a labourer at the Cargo Wing of the Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, narrated how the current economic situation forced him to change schools for his children.
“I was paying N6,000 per term for my six children at a private school. I have now removed and enrolled them in a government-owned school; this enables me to focus more on their feeding instead of quality education
“The feeding is no longer as it usually was; the feeding is costing a lot. After breakfast, the children have to wait for dinner because the three square meals per day were no longer feasible. I believe that in Kano if wealthy individuals can emulate Hajiya Mariya (mother of Aliko Dangote) the suffering will reduce. Unfortunately, both the rich are not helpful enough.
Civil Servants Lament
Grace Usen, a civil servant in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, lamented the impact of subsidy removal on her family.
“It (Fuel subsidy removal) is not funny coupled with high food prices. It takes nothing less than N4,500 fuel for me to get to the office and back home unlike before when I spent N1,000,” she said.
Mrs Usen said her family has cut down on expenses by only buying things that are very necessary, just as she now treks to church. “My children have also adjusted, they are not eating as before,” she said.
Another civil servant, Adelani Adetunji, said since the economic situation became worse; he has been making purchases strictly based on monthly estimates.
“As a civil servant, I budget for anything I do. It has not been easy at all. The salary remains on the same spot and the cost of feeding, shelter and the necessities of life are going higher. I must tell you that coping right now in the country is by God’s grace.
“Gone are the days when I would drive my car to all places whether necessary or not. With the hike in fuel prices now, I just park my car and most of the time I trek or take a taxi to my destination. Although my car doesn’t consume fuel like that, its fuel economy is superb. Still, I don’t go out to work every day. It is more cost-efficient to go on the public transportation system than to drive it Now, I mostly work from the comfort of my house to curtail unnecessary expenses,” Mr Adetunji said.
Abdurrazak Ibrahim, a salary earner in Katsina, said life has been tough. Three days ago, he said, he bought N30,000 fuel but he has since exhausted it.
“Things are hard. We have our immediate family and other family members to take care of and you know what that means,” he said.
Mr Ibrahim noted that apart from food, he also had to increase the shuttle fares he gives his three sisters studying at the Ummaru Yar’adua University because tricyclists increased fares due to the increase in fuel price. From N1000 that he used to give each of them, he has now increased it to N1,600, he said.
Malam Abdulkareem, another low-income earner in Katsina, said he has cut costs twice but the situation only got worse. “My wife was the one that even removed some of the things we used to buy from our list but nothing has improved.
The market can’t be predicted. For example, things we were buying at N2,000 quickly jumped to N3,000 now they’ve jumped to N3,500, only God knows when this will end,” he said.
Sheriffdeen Kosoko, who does laundry business, lamented the disruption brought about by the economic policies, adding that he is considering opting out of the business.
“This issue affects my business in all ramifications, as I have seen all production materials increasing uncontrollably. It has made me go through uneasy moments in meeting customers’ demands as we rely on fuel for our services.
“Also in my daily activities as a human, I have found it complex to survive due to an increase in all consumable goods and even the transportation fare to pursue my daily life activities. I cannot deny the fact that it has affected me so deeply and it keeps hindering my survival day by day. At the moment, I don’t know what to do.”
A realtor, Boluwatife Ismail, also complained that her clients have stopped paying for their property as they battle for basic survival.
“It has become extremely difficult to even get people to buy property nowadays; even the rich are becoming very careful to spend their money because they are not sure of what tomorrow holds. The price of transportation has skyrocketed and the transporters are also using the same opportunity to be unreasonable in their pricing,” he said.
In Katsina, Bashir Danwaire said he has been trying to explain to his wife why the family needs to cut costs. Mr Danwaire, who pays N80,000 for the two children every term as school fees, said he has been struggling to complete his children’s school fees.
“You see me here, I’m just managing to smile but things are too much on my head,” Mr Danwaire, the manager of a popular car washing outlet in Katsina, said. “So now, I don’t know what to do. Everywhere you turn to, people are complaining.”
Chikodi Okoli, the creative head of House of Chi wear, a ready-to-wear establishment in Gwarimpa, Abuja, expressed how the hike in fuel prices has had a significant impact on her business as a fashion designer.
“The hike in fuel price has affected almost every business owner in the country, especially fashion designers like myself,” she said.
“Before the subsidy removal, I spent N16,000 on 50 litres of fuel weekly but since the increase, I have spent nothing less than N34,000 on fuel every 5 days. To make matters worse, the power supply is poor hence we rely majorly on running generator
“I have also been forced to increase the prices of clothes because production cost has increased drastically. Dresses I’d sell for N20,000 on a normal day now go for N28,000 to N30,000.”
Nureni Ajamu, an auto mechanic, also explained how he has had to go the extra mile in staying relevant in his field. According to him, he barely works on three cars in a week since the hike.
“Before now, even my boys can work on up to 10 cars, talk more of me, and not like cars don’t need servicing at least but people are just not bothered,” he said.
Mr Ajamu said he now calls his known customers from time to time to check on them and sometimes offers home service, something he never had time to do before now because of the tight schedule at his workshop.
“Most people have parked their cars at home and prefer to use public transport. One of my customers said he only goes out with cars when going out with their family but uses public transport. It is just him as it is cheaper that way,” he said.
Fatima Akinsola, a mother of four children and a businesswoman based in Abeokuta, lamented the impact of the economic situation in the country on her household, particularly feeding and transportation.
As a nylon distributor and wholesaler, she said, the profit she earns from the business has drastically reduced, and her husband’s salary as a civil servant has been insufficient to run the family.
“I am happy that my children just vacated school yesterday because, since the removal of the fuel subsidy, transportation fare has been unbearable. I spent N1500 on transportation to and from school,” she said
“On feeding, it is worse. We used to buy a bag of rice for N30,000, now after the increase in fuel, it is now N34,000.
“This has not been easy on the household because income has not been increasing. My husband’s salary is still the same. So we still have to adjust to it.”
Mrs Akinsola expressed fear that the current economic situation may lead to an increase in school fees.
“The schools have started giving hints about a possible hike in school fees. We beg Tinubu’s administration to address these issues and make the country enabling for us,” she said.
A Lagos Island-based fashion designer, Khennie Kukoyi, said the economy has affected her income as customers still want to pay the old price for expensive styles.
“We are in a serious crisis. My business is being affected seriously. The cost of most materials has increased, and patronage has reduced. Customers still want to pay the old price, which is affecting my own income,” she said.
“I am still enduring because I can’t say ‘no’ to everything. I also trek in the name of saving cost to and fro the market.”
Additional reporting by Chinagorom Ugwu, Saviour Imukudo, Mohammed Babangida, Maishanu Ahmad, Kemi Adelagun, Ayodeji Adegboyega, Ileyemi Maryam, and Olasunkanmi Akinlotan
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