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Nigerians face bleak Christmas amidst economic hardship

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Despite the cheering news that Nigeria was out of recession, economic power of most Nigerians is still low. As such, politicians, civil servants and private sector workers have been faced with low purchasing power.Speaking to The Guardian, Oloye Oina Joseph, a graduate and photographer said: “Recent economic statistics showed that Nigeria is getting out of recession, but Nigerians are not feeling the impact.

“I am yet to see the change, because things are even worse. Things are very expensive in the market and purchasing power is very low. There is no money. Prices of commodities are still high and standard of living is still very poor and people are suffering. It is not easy.“Imagine few days to Christmas, the price of fuel has increased again due to scarcity. What does that tells you? The exchange rate is high. Everything is almost getting out the common man’s reach.

But I advice that government should in reducing the prices of foodstuff. What is the essence of having money when you cannot use it to purchase anything meaningful in the market? Also clapping her hands in despair, Faith Odidiomo, a mother of two, said: Iru ki l’eyi, meaning: What sort of thing is this?This exclamation explains her frustration over low patronage ahead of the yuletide celebrations. Odidiomo, who sells pharmaceutical products, foodstuff and toys for children, said she has never experienced this kind of hardship.“I stocked my shop with all kinds of goods to prepare for Christmas sales; but as I speak, only very few people call to check for the products. Everybody is complaining of lack of money. 

“Even the kids that usually demand for Christmas gifts and other things hardly ask for any of the things they used to buy in the past,” she said. She noted that the panic buying of petrol due to the rumour that the price would be increased is affecting sales because petrol scarcity leads to increase in cost of transportation and other products.An art designer and decorator, James Aladejana, described the preparations for this year’s Christmas as the worst he had experienced. The only thing that can make one to know that Christmas is near is hammartan season.

Aladejana, whose warehouse is filled with various designs suggestive of the Christmas season, disclosed that the products, which were purposely produced for the Yuletide have been there for the past one month. Nobody has come to buy one out of them, since I produced them in October. Although customers and people around admire them, but none has bought a single item; they keep complaining that there is no money.

Besides the terracotta and wooden designs hung for display, he showed some complimentary cards that carry unique designs and “Merry Xmas” in common, also revealing that they had been abandoned for months on the rack.Chief Executive Officer of Apex Creativity Duties, Oluwapamilerin Aribigbola, said: “The season is very dry compared to other Christmas celebrations in the past. This year is very dry.”

Aribigbola, whose outfit deals in decorations, confectionery, events and planning, disclosed that December and the last quarter of the year has always been the climax of social events and activities anywhere in the state.“But since September, I can count the number of invitations I have received due to the hardship. It was not as if people don’t want my services, but everybody keeps on complaining that there is no money.”She blamed the economic challenges on the failure of government to implement good policies that would make positive impact on the people.

A social critic, Mary Tumininu Inusokan, decried the increasing prices of foodstuff and commodities, saying only those who steal public funds could afford luxurious Christmas celebration this year.Inusokan noted that in spite of the promises made by the Federal Government that the price of rice would reduce, “A bag of rice still sells for between N16000 and N18000. It has now become a luxury food item for the rich.

Also commenting on the situation, Jacob Akintunde complained of the untold hardship that has made Christmas preparations dull and almost non-existent.“It is becoming extremely difficult to purchase food, clothes and other necessities for Christmas celebration. The present economic situation and hardship is taking a hard toll on employers who could not pay their workers’ salaries regularly.

“I am still praying to God, hoping to get a way out of this Christmas. Even if I skip some other things, I have to provide food and clothes for my wife and baby.”A secondary school teacher in Akure, who pleaded anonymity, complained that the Ondo State government owed workers two months salaries. He said issues pertaining to Christmas should have been settled by now because workers did not only get their salaries in the past, but also received thirteenth month salary as Christmas bonus. 

“Although we understand that the economic recession is having huge effect on every sector of the economy if the same situation does not affect politicians and their listless allowances, we too should be considered,” he said.Ajao Popoola, an okada rider in Akure, attributed the hardship to the arbitrariness and excesses of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria (IPMAN).Popoola decried the inhumane attitude of the association, saying they intentionally caused scarcity of fuel in Akure so that they could extort the people. 

“This is too bad. Petrol that we are still complaining the price is too high at N145 per litre now sells at N200 or N250, pushing the burden on the already impoverished poor masses.”He faulted government at all levels for their insentivity towards the welfare of the people.While a young man hawking motor accessories along Oba Adesida Road, who identified himself simply as Chidi, said the reality now does not allow any form of excesses or lousy celebrations. He said he was just hustling to feed himself and meet other basic needs but was not ready for any excesses this time around.

Meanwhile, a trader in Balogun market in Lagos Island, Sekinat Adeyemo, who sells materials for native attires, told The Guardian that materials were very expensive last year, but they made huge sales, although not as huge as they used to.“But sometime this year, the prices dropped significantly and people are not buying, because “there is no money anywhere and people are complaining that the economy is very tough.”

Speaking to Shofolahan Grace, a trader in Oke Arin who deals in beverages, she said that the cost of beverages is very high this year compared to last year. “In fact, people are not even buying as everyone is complaining. A carton of milk that used to sell for between N4000 and N5000 now sells for N6000 and N7000. A carton of milo that used to sell for between N6000 to N7000 now sells for between N9000 and N10000. It is pathetic. This is not usual at all and something has to be done about it,” she said.

A customer, Frank Udeh, told The Guardian that the only reason he came to shop was because his younger sister was getting married, otherwise, he would not be seen anywhere close to the market. “The economy is very bad and the common man is suffering. Things used to be good until 2015 when this government came on board. I hear that they are canvassing for a second tenure, but that will only be possible if they can use the one year and few months they have to fix the economy and every other sector that needs fixing.

“That is the only time the youths and every other well-meaning Nigerian will consider them for a second term. Anything other than that is a waste of time and resources. This is my worse Christmas ever,” he said.A visit to the Oshodi Market showed that prices of shoes, jewelries and clothes have remained fairly stable, but traders complained of downturn and low patronage at the market.

Aweni Abass, a trader at Oshodi Market said prices have remained largely unchanged because there has been a remarkable drop in patronage and traders have to be cautious in fixing prices.“Ankara that we sold for N2000 last year remains at the same rate. Guinea brocade that we sold for N5000 last year is still selling for the same price. Consumers are complaining about not having enough money, even manufacturers have seen downward trend this season compared to previous years.

A shoe seller, Emeka Ameh said there was no money in the country, adding: “Although prices of items are stable, there is low patronage of shoes. By the second week of December sales ought to have picked up, but it has not due to low purchasing power in the country. “I have not sold more than five pairs of shoes since morning, which is not suppose to be so. By now I ought have ask my wife to come over to assist me if there is high patronage.”

A jewelry seller, Mrs. Victoria Ajose, expressed disappointment over the low patronage during this year’s yuletide season.“It has impacted negatively on me because I took loans to stock my shop due to my belief that there will be high patronage and the fear of increase in prices of goods.” Bola Ololade attributed the low patronage to the country’s economy, which has taken a negative toll on the people. She said despite the stability of Foreign Exchange (Forex) price, people are not buying goods for the Christmas and New Year celebrations.

Also, a seller of children’s wears at Trade Fair Market, Lagos, Oby Ebunobi, said the level of patronage is very low.“Even those that come to buy negotiate below the cost price and most of them end up walking away. Yesterday, a customer came in and after haggling price, she said: “Christmas is just one day and before you know it, it is gone, so my kids would have to use what they wore last Christmas. I am still hopeful that sales will improve before the market closes for Christmas,” she said.

But to Paul Nnamadi, a dealer on women’s hair products, sales have not been entirely bad, as women, and young ladies will not have a Christmas without a new hairdo.
“Sales were better last Christmas season, because products were not as expensive as they are now. Prices have increased, even the synthetic hair extensions too, but women still buy, but with plenty complaints of irrational price increase. Yuletide sales are not bad for me, as there is a clear difference between now and regular season,” he said.

Alex Obumneku, said, sales are great and better than last year’s because, the economy seems to be better than it was last year.“During last year’s Christmas, sales were very poor because of the recession and you know men do not bother so much about themselves as they do for their wives, daughters and sisters. However, this year, men have been shopping in numbers and I am happy,” he said.Chiedu Ebelechukwu, a retail dealer in Hollandaise, George and Nigerian Real Wax materials said: “The only visible difference from last year’s poor sales is the fact that customers try to go for the cheapest materials available.

“Women used to go for quality materials for Christmas celebration but now, they request for this soft and nylon like materials because they are cheaper and affordable than real wax,” she said.Adenekan Adedoyin, a wholesale and retail lace material dealer at Oshodi Market said sales are worse than last year, as Nigeria was still in recession, but Nigerians only stopped singing the recession song.

“You know how we are in Nigeria, we suffer, keep quiet in the name of perseverance and long suffering, then wear smiling faces, as if everything is fine but nothing is really fine.“Since you came in, have you seen anyone in here, as big as this shop is and with the kind of low price lace we sell here, my shop supposed be filled to capacity on a regular Christmas season as this, but the reverse is the case.

“Even my neighbours with whom I sell the same lace materials have the same zero sales and I had to send my sales girls out to the bus stop to practically beg people to come and buy at lower prices than they can get anywhere.“I remember vividly, this time last year, I probably don’t have the time to attend to any other thing except customers that were trooping in to buy materials,” she said.At the popular Mile 12 Market in Lagos, traders are not having the best of times, as they lament poor sales despite the fact that the cost of foodstuff has remained somewhat stable compared to last year.

Adamu Garuba, a trader in tomatoes and pepper asked The Guardian if Christmas this year has been cancelled. “I don’t even understand again as a matter of fact. It is either they have cancelled Christmas without telling us or people have been deported from Lagos. Even last year that we were saying things were bad, this year is worse. I haven’t sold up to N5000 since morning.

“Everywhere is so dull and people are complaining that there is no money and it is affecting us badly, as we have to crash the prices of our goods because they are perishable items.” He urged the government to improve the economy as a matter of urgency so that next year would be better.Checks by The Guardian show that the prices of foodstuff have indeed reduced, but according to Garuba, this could change as from next week. A basket of fresh tomatoes goes for between N4500- N7000 depending on their size, freshness and bargaining power.

A bag of bell peppers sells for between N7000 and N 8000 while hot pepper sells at N4000 for a small bag and N7000 for a big bag. Onions are still slightly expensive with a bag going for between N20000 and N30 000.Five litres of groundnut oil cost N3000, 10 litres, N6500 while 25 litres cost between N11000 and N 12000 depending on the quality. Ten litres of palm oil go for N5 000 while 25 litres go for about N12000.

An oil dealer however, said the prices of oil would go up by next week and wouldn’t come down till the new year because most of their products are gotten from neighbouring countries and the people that bring oil in would close for the year.A shopper, who identified herself as Blessing Owolabi, said she was buying a few things this week, knowing that the prices of foodstuff would increase next week.

“There really is no money anywhere and the situation of the country is really terrible. For the first time ever, I will not be able to buy Christmas clothes for my children this year because of finances but I am hoping next year will be better. Live chicken is so expensive now and frozen chicken that used to be our savior is now equivalent to buying silver. Government really has to do something,” she lamented.Shoppers gathered at the frozen foods section across the Mile 12 Market lamented the high cost of frozen foods just as traders pleaded for understanding.

A carton of frozen turkey that used to go for N7000 of N8000 now sells for N10,200. One of the traders, Iya Sola told The Guardian that she was not worried because by next week, “Prices will go up and people will still buy. People must eat and they must celebrate Christmas and New Year. “It is not our wish for the cost of foodstuff to increase but it is what and how we buy that we will sell. The situation is affecting us too because in the past, by now, people will throng the markets buying but it is like that this time around. Government should improve the economy so that people’s purchasing power can increase,” she said.

In Port Harcourt, the once massive preparation that usually characterise Christmas celebration has been very low due to issues ranging from loss of jobs, poor business patronage, delayed or no salaries, closure of some companies and high cost of living, among others. Some residents who spoke with The Guardian, lamented the harsh economy, which is characterised by a lot of challenges. However, for some people, life must go on with or without money and Christmas must be celebrated according to one’s ability. 

A resident who works at the Oil and Gas Free Zone, Onne Port in Rivers State, Stanley Amadi said: “What we are doing presently in Nigeria is ‘cover up’, no need for new clothes or shoes this time, if you are able to get something to ensure that the pot is on the fire, not minding the quality of the food in it; we should thank God. Another resident who sells clothes at Mile One Market, Franka Uduak, said: “Business is very slow, no patronage, when you call people to come and buy clothes, they tell you they have not eaten and you are telling them to buy clothes.

“So, we are being very careful with what and how we spend the little money we have. We cannot because of one week celebration lavish all we have knowing quite well that by January, schools will resume and school fees drive will follow.”A civil servant with the State Ministry of Finance expressed displeasure over government’s inability to improve the economy till this time despite steady promises by it.

“Government keeps assuring us that things will be better but they are getting worse. In Rivers State, we buy fuel for between N160 and N180 per litre yet everyday government tells us there is no scarcity of fuel. How long would they continue to deceive us? We have lost confidence in this government,” he added.

Meanwhile, a pastor with the Christian Pentecostal Mission (CPM) in Port Harcourt, Reverend Chukuwuemeka Obi, has advised residents to be prudent, noting that life was not all about showing off, but how good one lives.In Enugu, residents are already in the mood for this year’s Christmas celebration. Apart from carnivals, being organized by some residents, Christmas trees and lights are hung at strategic places to herald the celebration.

Major markets and shopping centres are witnessing unprecedented influx of buyers of various household items. Although the price of fuel has continued to increase and now sells at N175 per liter, vehicle owners still visit petrol stations to buy according to their purchasing power.The fuel situation has, however, taken its toll on movement of people, as many now trek to their destinations. However, the various markets visited in the state including the Ogbete Main Market and New Market, indicated that residents are making purchases, especially for food items and clothes for their families and loved ones.

At the tomato section of the market, many baskets loaded with tomatoes were seen but few buyers were sighted.A tomato buyer, Ijeoma Oko told The Guardian that she was buying the commodity for use during the Christmas, stressing that she needed to buy in larger quantity because, her family has a wine-carrying ceremony on December 26, followed by a Church wedding the next day”.

“So these are two big occasions for which buying tomatoes in the village may be too costly. I have people that I can always buy from, so what I am doing is that I will preserve them for the occasions,” she said.Asked how she was preparing for Christmas she said: “Honestly, things are very difficult. We did not travel last year, because we could not raise money to do so. We agreed to travel this year, but few days to the celebration, fuel price has increased. So, I am preparing that my family will travel but this will depend on what the commercial vehicle operators will charge in view of the increasing fuel price.”

In the same vein, the Enugu State government has announced that it was providing free transport services to her citizens resident in other parts of the country to return to their home state and join their loved ones during the celebration.Announcing the welfare package, Managing Director of the Enugu State Transport Company (ENTRACO), Bob Itanyi, stated that the gesture was borne out of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi’s resolve to ameliorate the sufferings of the people, as well as give them a sense of belonging, as the true heroes of democracy.

Itanyi explained that the free transportation exercise, which commences on Tuesday, December 19 and ends on Saturday, December 23, will be carried out in states of the federation that are far from the state, such as, Abuja, Lagos, Jos, Ibadan, Kaduna, Kano, Minna, Gombe, Ilorin, Sokoto, Jalingo, Bauchi, Nasarawa and Port Harcourt, among others.



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