Mixed feelings over Yuletide preparations amidst bleak economy
‘I Will Not Celebrate Xmas Because I Don’t Have Anything’
Speaking to The Guardian on his preparations for the Christmas celebrations, Mr George Igoh, a worker at the Police Staff College, Jos said: “It will take the mercy of God for me celebrate this year’s Christmas with money. My salary has not been increased whereas the price of food items is soaring high on a daily basis.
“The money we are spending is far more than what we collect as salaries from government. That is the reason I say that it is only by the grace of God that we are surviving. There is nothing like preparation for Christmas because there is no money to eat, talk less of spending on other things.
On his expectations, he said that as the economy is bad now, there is no great expectation.
“Before, people buy rice, prepare meat, fowl, goat and other things, but now you don’t see the money at hand because as you buy something today, before tomorrow, the price will increase. Where is the money to buy it when the salary is still stagnant?”
This Christmas, according to him, will be very gloomy because there is no hope, except by the grace of God. “You know, God can change this bad situation to good. I am not preparing to celebrate Christmas because I don’t have anything.”
On the positive aspect of the recession, Igoh said that people are no longer wasteful as they know how to manage what they have very well now.
A public affairs commentator, Comrade Suleiman Yusuf said there is nothing like preparation because people are only concerned about their survival in this our recessed economy.
According to him, “the economy is biting harder. Most states are civil service states and they cannot pay salaries of their workers. Businesses are not booming. There is no money to spend. It is only those who have money and the business is moving that can prepare for Christmas. What is basic now is that people are thinking of what to eat. People are looking for ways to feed, pay children’s school fees and meet some other social needs that are necessary.”
Yusuf said that he is not prepared at all for the Christmas.
“I am only praying that there should be peace during the festival. I don’t have money. Money is not easy to come by nowadays. Preparation has to do with buying and selling. Buying what you need, travelling and visiting. But when you don’t have the money, you have to confine yourself to your house.”
On his expectations for the Christmas, Yusuf said even though there is no money, let there be peace. “Let Christmas come and go peacefully. Kidnapping, robbery, Boko Haram insurgency and other forms of insecurity should be curtailed by the security agents. There should be peace and once there is peace, I think everything is okay.”
He said: “The recession has made Nigerians to minimise their spending. People don’t spend anyhow because they don’t know what the next moment would bring. You can spend what you have today and tomorrow, you know that something will come your way again. But this recession has taught Nigerians how to minimise spendings. It has also instilled financial discipline in every Nigerian.”
‘We No Longer Eat What We Like But What Is Available’
From Abiodun Fagbemi, Ilorin.
In Kwara State many Christian faithful, rather than looking forward to the Christmas celebration, are praying to God for the survival of the economic recession.
Probably the words of Thomas Adefila, a civil servant with the State Ministry of Health would be apt for effective descriptions of what many people are experiencing presently.
According to Adefila: “I had been a diabetic patient since 10 years ago. I did not feel any economic implications of the ailment until this year due to the high cost of drugs and lack of wage increment to cushion the effects. So what I am doing now is to take the drugs once daily against doctor’s prescriptions of twice daily.”
But the Chairman of Kwara State Chapter of the Association of Community Pharmacists of Nigeria (ACPN) Babatunde Samuel, said what Adefila does “is wrong as it will eventually lead to treatment failure.”
For Idowu Adelusi, a Christian of Nigerian Baptist denomination, the concept of ‘celebration’ should be relative, noting that rather than using Christmas for celebration by wining and dining, it should be a sober moment when we ruminate on what Christ did for us by coming into the world as a baby.”
Toyin Abogun said if Nigeria’s economic situation should persist till Yuletide, then the Christmas of this year will be the worst ever in her 50 years of age.
He said: “We are managing to cope at home. We no longer eat what we like but what is available. Today, we buy five litres of palm oil for N3,200 as against the sum of N1,200 we bought it last year. I am pretty sure that the price will go up again at Christmas. Even the cost of a chicken will make it difficult for people to buy one for celebration.”
For Alani Ajakore, a civil servant with the State Revenue Services, “my salary is not paid as at when due and besides, how much is the money when paid?
She added: “For now I am more concerned about how to pay my children’s school fees because immediately after the Christmas, we will be talking of schools resumption.”
A member of the University of Ilorin Christian Union (UCU), Michael Olorundare, said he would not leave the university campus during the forthcoming Yuletide in order for him to concentrate on spiritual reflections himself and his parents from reckless spending under the guise of Yuletide celebrations.”
Quoting from the Bible, Pastor Felix Ogidan of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Ilorin, Kwara State Capital said the economic recession has led to the eradication of the middle class population, thereby making it difficult for many people to see themselves as being poor.
“Yet the Bible teaches us to give to the poor. So who is rich enough to give to the poor now in Nigeria? May God bless the nation and her people for a positive turn-around.”
In his remarks, Mr Kayode Sunday, a retiree said: “If the economic conditions don’t improve before Christmas, I may be forced to relocate to my village at Ejuku in Kogi State. Once that is done I will be in the midst of my people and I will be able to combine farming with the little things I am doing at present. So that is what is most important to me now rather than the Christmas celebrations.”
For the Proprietress of Sharon Bridal at Maraba Area of Ilorin, sales have dropped sharply, noting that potential couples now prefer cut and sew wedding gowns to the imported ones due to the high costs. This preference is taking a toll on the sale of imported wedding gowns.”
Herbal medicine sellers seem to be the greatest beneficiaries of the recession. Due to the high cost of orthodox drugs, many patients now opt for herbal medicine as an alternative.
According to the owner of popular ‘Iya Dada’ Herbal Spot in the state capital, Mrs Yemi Adekunle, “we now have more people patronising us. As you are aware, we have been trained by the Health Ministry on the need to have recommended dosage of all our products and make hygiene our watchword. ”
‘People Don’t Buy Things Like Before Due To Hardship’
From Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze, Abuja
Barely one month to Christmas, there are little or no signs in the Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja that Christmas is around the corner.
From the looks of the city, to the groaning of the residents, one needs not be told that the economy is biting harder.
By this time in previous years, the urge for an exciting celebration of the season could be felt in the air as strategic areas and major streets within the Abuja city centre were already gleaming with beautiful decorations by the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC) and the FCT with Christmas
Some FCT residents bared their minds on how the economic crisis being experienced in the country had affected their preparations for Christmas.
Mrs Franca Ofoju who sells roasted plantain and yam in Jabi District told The Guardian that the economic crisis is seriously affecting her business and that it is quite difficult to keep up with the rising cost of living
She said: “By this time last year, I had already bought Christmas clothes for my children, but this year, I have not bought even ordinary slippers for any of them because of hard times. People are no longer buying things like before due to hardship. I came out with two bunches of plantain and you can see the remaining ones. I also came out with five tubers of yam, but roasted only few. Things are too hard.
“I can’t even travel, because there is no money. I no go travel with empty hand, we dey find it difficult to eat now not to talk of travel. Make the government help us because things are too hard. If government t pay civil servants at least they will come and buy small, small things from us, but they don’t pay them”.
According to Mrs Ofoju: “The high exchange rate is affecting us so much. Go to the market, a bottle of oil is now N600.00, because of the dollar. You know like now, the price of dollar is high, nobody will sell his own low and buy things high. When dollar rises, price of things also rises, they should help us bring the dollar down, we are begging them”.
Another resident, Samson Idowu who sells building materials in Sabondele Plaza in Jabi told The Guardian that things are hard this year.
“The way I see things out there, people cannot meet up. I usually buy clothes for my children around August and September but this year, I am finding it difficult. I don’t even know if I will buy anything for the children due to the financial crisis that is affecting us.
He said: “Our customers have reduced their spending. Before dollar exchanges for N160.00, but now it is more than N400,00 and prices of things are going up and there is no money to buy things. People are not building this year, they are struggling to provide food for their families so there are not much building projects.
“That is why we are not selling much. Last year was good, but this year is something else. If it were before, between September and November people rush to complete their projects but it is not like that this year. It is only little renovations that some are doing It is not encouraging. I can’t even travel.
“Government should do something quickly so that Nigerians can be happy. With what is going on in the society, I don’t think people are happy with the government.’
However, for nine-year old, Chioma Akudolue, a student of Lifegate Academy, Utako, Abuja, it does not really matter whether the country is experiencing economic crisis or not as she is anxiously waiting for Christmas.
She said: “They have already bought my Christmas clothes. I want Christmas to come because I want to enjoy my life and everything”.
Mrs Umezurike, a civil servant told The Guardian that the civil servants are worst hit by the economic crisis, stressing that there has been increase in the prices of goods and services without a corresponding increase in salary of workers.
” I am a mother of four, we are struggling to even feed well because the economy is in a very bad shape. So there is no preparation of any Christmas celebration. Things are very difficult now, our salaries cannot take us home again because of inflation. We are still receiving the same salaries we received four years ago and prices of goods and accommodation have gone up by more than 60 per cent.
“The school fees, electricity bills and other expenses are going up when there is no increase in salary. If they are serious about the fight against corruption, they have to address those issues that encourages corruption of which poor remuneration is one of them”.
‘There Is No Preparation For Christmas Celebration’
From Uzoma Nzeagwu Awka
Mr. Excel Victor, an engineer called for prayers from everybody, saying” “I don’t think there is any preparation for this year’s Christmas”.
“Within my neighborhood, I have communicated with people, and nobody has told me he/she is preparing for it. Personally, I am not preparing for Christmas. For almost two months now, as an engineer, I have not gotten any project to work on. Somebody who has no job, how can he prepare for Christmas celebration, take care of his family, and even provide for their needs?
“There is no money in circulation. Most of the states owe workers’ salaries. No contracts are awarded and businessmen are complaining of low sales. So how can money be flowing among the people? Things are very costly in the market, yet prices are not coming down. How can the poor survive in this situation? This is an assault to Nigerians, and government should do something.
“However, as a Christian my family will celebrate in a low-key, no visiting of places or people. Also, taking care of extended family members has been put on hold for now. Government has not made provision for importation of some food items. It did not even make plans for rice production before banning the importation and this has created problems in the purchasing power. Money is not in circulation. Money flows from government to the people and as far as public servants are not receiving enough, people will not see money to spend. We are looking on government to help the masses.
“They should pay workers salaries, lift ban on some items like rice for people to be able to celebrate this Christmas. Once this is done, there will be some relief and the masses will buy the items they will need for the celebration including foodstuff.
“There is no positive aspect of recession. But what I can say is that it has made people to adjust their life- style and look for their immediate needs.”
Mr Vincent Nwafor, an Activist, expressed fears that many families may not be able to afford food items during the Christmas celebration.
He said: “What are they preparing for? Everything is hard. Cost of living is high and after paying school fees there is nothing left for the family. If we can see garri to eat, they will manage, even the garri is costly. How can one afford clothes for the children? Politicians are not helping matters. As far as I am concerned there is no recession.
“If federal government can release money to circulate, people will be happy. But this is not happening. Government and employers are not paying allowances to workers. People need money to celebrate at Christmas.”
‘We Will Celebrate In A Big Way’
By Tope Makinde
Speaking about preparations for Christmas, Mr. Yinka Bidemi said the only thing that may hinder it is the difficult economic situation.
“It will affect the festival, but what I am mostly concerned about is celebrating it with joy. The bad economy is affecting me, but I have to endure it.’
To Miss Abosede Emmanuel, Christmas will be celebrated no matter the situation. “I can’t say what I will do now because there is still time. So when we get to the bridge we will know how to cross it. Things can change for better tomorrow,” she said.
Mr. Femi Jacobs said that celebration will surely come and go and if there is life there is hope.
“ If we have the money to celebrate why won’t I celebrate? It is once in a year and not everyday. For my household, we will celebrate it in a big way. Celebrating it in a big way doesn’t mean we must have much money for party.”
‘It Is Not Only In Nigeria That Things Are Hard’
From Alemma-Ozioruva Aliu, Benin City
Speaking to The Guardian on the forthcoming Christmas holiday, Mrs Clara Okoro, a garri seller, said that it is not only in Nigeria that things are bad or tough.
“What I can say for sure is that our government did not prepare for the time we are in and it is quite unfortunate. A friend of mine living in the US told me things are quite expensive there, too. Our government’s inability to plan ahead of time is what has brought us to where we are now.
“The government policy on fuel price has also contributed to the cost of items in the market. Government should provide loans for farmers who truly want to farm. It will go a long way in supporting the government policy on agriculture. Government should provide facilities and other necessary support that can help poor people on the streets. This hardship is biting hard. Government should assist our youths. I have suffered training two of my children up to University level. They are at home without any job. Government should create employment for them so that they too can support the family.
“Imagine now that foodstuffs are expensive and you have jobless youths around you. Where would one get the money to purchase these costly items? It is not funny. Government should establish industries so as to enable these youths find something meaningful doing, “she said.