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Amid recession austere Christmas beckons


Fresh tomatoes waiting for buyers

Fresh tomatoes waiting for buyers

On Friday, December 9th, only 17 days to the 2016 Christmas celebration, Mrs. Dolapo Iluyomade, an assorted fabric dealer, sat still at the entrance of her shop, in the Balogun Area of Lagos State, with forlorn looks.

Hitherto, it is the time of the year that she and her colleagues in the business are usually so busy that they have their meals in between attending to a battery of customers, who are in search of apparels to adorn during the Yuletide.

From the earlier part of the year, Iluyomade suspected that the year could end on a tough note, but never anticipated that it would be this bad.

“A few weeks to this year’s Easter celebration, I suspected that we would have a dull Christmas in terms of sale of clothing, but I never knew it would get this bad. Usually, ahead of the Christmas, I would restock with over N10m in order to give my customers a lot to pick from. This year, since there was no money in the first instance, I could only bring in new fabrics worth less than N3m. I am yet to sell goods worth N300, 000 from that consignment,” she lamented.

“I have taken time to call some of my longstanding customers asking them when they would come around to shop, most of them say they won’t do that this year, while the few that say they may still come around are quick to add that they were focusing on food and drinks for the time being.”

Iluyomade’s neighbour got ingenious and decided to create a little space in her shop to stock Christmas decorations, as she anticipated to make brisk sales.

“They are practically the way I stacked them three months ago. Apart from a few children coming around to buy fireworks, Christmas trees and other floral decorations are scarcely being bought,” she said.

Not long ago, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the Nigerian economy has recorded two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

According to it, in Q1 2016, the GDP growth was negative (-0.36 per cent). The Q2 2016 data reflects even a larger contraction, which was -2.06 per cent. The worst was yet to come as the GDP in the third quarter shrank badly to 2.24, thereby worsening the chances of the country getting out of the economic recession this year.

Further bad news from the agency have it that the rate of price inflation for the months of September and October 2016 were 17.9 per cent and 18.3 per cent, respectively, while official statistics also indicated that the country’s unemployment rate increased to 12.1 per cent and 13.3 per cent during the first and second quarters of 2016.

With the above scenario in place, except for those literate in economic matters, not many families understood the import of the figures beyond the fact that the times ahead promise to be very tough. But as the year wore on, and things as basic as feeding became major issues in many households, the gravity of the hard times became glaring.

For many, Christmas is a time they pull all stops to give their families, and loved ones a great treat. Since doing so comes with commensurate financial commitment, it is definitely not the best of times to operate on a shoe-string budget.Sadly, that is the situation that most families have found themselves, as they prepare to mark Christmas, with nearly empty pockets.

Across different markets and sundry shopping locations in Lagos State, the cost of must-buy items for the period have sky-rocketed, leaving the average family desolate in this austere times.

According to Mrs. Amarachi Onyeka, Nigerians are experiencing serious financial difficulties this year, and there exists a huge gap between last year’s celebration and this year’s, with the distinguishing factor being the glaring paucity of funds.

Onyeka, a housewife, revealed that she is yet to carry out Christmas shopping for her family as her business has gone down, while prices of goods and services have gone up in the market.

“By this time last year, I had already bought everything for my children. Now I am just hoping I will still be able to do that because of the hard times we have found ourselves,” Onyeka said.A trader, Mrs. Rosemary Odukwe, remarked that she and her family are only surviving by the grace of God.

She added that it is now becoming harder for her family to buy food due to the soaring cost of food commodities. “So, since we haven’t bought food, we can’t be thinking of clothes for Christmas,” she said.

For Pastor (Mrs) Carol Dumabi, the usual preparations for the annual Christmas Carol in her church failed to take place owing to lack of funds, even as attendance in service has dropped as people find it hard to transport themselves to church. This situation, she said, has adversely affected the church purse.

“People that find the transport fare to come to church service, we have to look for money to give them to pay their way back. So we counseled them to attend church in their areas until things improve,” she said.

IT would have been expected that Alaba Suru Market, in Orile/Iganmu Local Council would be fully packed with buyers as countdown to Christmas continues, but the reverse is the case.Prices of foodstuffs in this market have practically doubled compared to what was the case this time last year. For instance, a 25-litre jar of groundnut oil that went for N7, 000 is now N14, 000, while three litres of the same product, which went for N1, 300 is now N2, 700.

A bag of rice that was sold for N10, 000 last year now goes for between N18 and N20, 000. The sizes of live chicken that went for N1, 500, N2, 500 and N4, 500 last year in the market are now selling for N2, 000, N4, 500 and N6, 000 respectively, even as there is the possibility of these prices still going up as the celebration draws nigh.

According to Mrs. Rita Ajayi, a poultry dealer in the market, “Sales have been really low and the atmosphere does not suggest that Christmas is by the corner, it looks just normal. People would definitely celebrate Christmas, but the scale will definitely be very low. It was the same atmosphere last year, but from December 17th that some people started travelling for the season and the market picked up. I believe that is what is happening now so we are just waiting patiently to see how it all goes.”

For Chibuzor, a rice seller in the market, “Foodstuffs are there in the market, but their prices are doubled, and keep increasing due to the recession. People that hitherto bought more bags to travel home with, or keep at home, now settle for one. Buyers are really cutting down on their expenses this period, but they will still celebrate on a lower scale.”

Mrs. Ogadinma Ozorji, shares Chibuzor’s view about scaling down the celebration since most people are adjusting to the current economy reality.

“The season is fast approaching; salaries are still being owed to workers because companies are complaining of paucity of funds because of the economic recession. Last year, my family travelled to celebrate Christmas in Ghana, but this year, we would try the village. We just have to adjust our belts even though I have not even started shopping yet. One thing I know is, Nigerians would definitely celebrate in their small way,” she said.

“People find it difficult to patronise us because times are hard, and we are not finding it easy at all. I am managing to take care of my wife and kids,” said Ignatius, a wine dealer in the Yaba area of the state.

He continued: “Before now, we used to make a lot of sales, and we were able to manage our homes, but now, there is so much hunger in the land. How do you expect someone who does not have enough money to buy food to be thinking of buying drinks? I wonder what this government is doing. This is getting out of hand.

“In my shop, I sell assorted alcoholic and non- alcoholic drinks. If you don’t sell, how do you restock your shop? One thing I have noticed in this business is that people buy according to their preference. For instance, students go for the cheap alcoholic drinks, while those that have enough cash to spend go for the expensive ones. But the recession has affected our sales to a large extent because the market is very dull,” he lamented.

Madam Gozie, is one of those that have no need for drinks, but food for the family at this point in time.“How can I be talking about drinks at this time that people are suffering and foodstuffs have become very expensive for people to purchase. This Yuletide has worsened things for many because prices of food items have gone up very high. The government has to do something fast because this hardship is too much.”

AT Ketu Market where articulated vehicles from the North offload a wide ranch of foodstuffs daily, a basket of tomatoes went for between N4, 500 and N7, 000, while a basket of pepper sells for N7, 000, and onions between N16, 000 to N18, 000.

At the grains section of the market, a bag of rice depending on the quality went for between N16, 000 and N25, 000, while a bag of beans is sold at the rate of N26, 000. Twenty-five litres of groundnut oil is sold for N14, 500, while five litres of the same product goes for N3, 000.

HIKE in fare for inter-state travels, is another source of concern for those, who intend to spend the season with their relatives in the village.

At Ifesinachi Motor Park in Jibowu, some passengers told The Guardian that the situation was worrisome and unfortunate.One of the passengers, Mr. Sylvester Okafor, who paid N5, 000 to Port Harcourt, Rivers State, as against the previous N3, 500, 000 said: “The government is not being fair to Nigerians because it is not right for things like this to be happening in an oil producing nation. I resorted to travel now with my family members because if I wait till next week, the fare would definitely jump.

At the Young Shall Grow Motors Park in Oshodi, another passenger, Mrs. Theresa Dike regretted that: “During Christmas, the poor masses suffer untold hardship because of our leaders’ lack of quality leadership. Before now, I used to pay N3, 000 from Lagos to Kogi State, but today I am paying N4, 500”

Mrs. Lucy Olajumoke, who urged the Federal Government to find solution to the biting economic recession plaguing the nation, lamented the fact that she paid N5, 500 from Lagos to Abuja, as against the N4, 500, which she used to pay.

A coordinator at Ifesinachi Transport, who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “because of recession commercial transporters have restrained themselves from hiking fare arbitrarily because even the turnout of passengers is low. I would encourage passengers to travel now because after this week, the fare would increase because of rush.

“When there is high number of passengers traveling out of Lagos, the development would trigger fare increase because when we drop them at their destinations, we return to Lagos with empty vehicles, hence we also raise the fare.” At the Peace Mass Transit Park, in Ojuelegba, The Guardian gathered that the fare from Lagos to Enugu State had jumped from N4, 500 to N5, 500 while Lagos to Port Harcourt now costs N5, 000 as against N4, 500 previously.

Ahmed Duru, a passenger on that route said the hike in fare was expected, considering the usual rush during Christmas. MEANWHILE, Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC), Lagos State Sector Command, Mr. Hyginus Omeje, in a telephone interview said the sector remains committed to ensuring zero road crashes, and zero tolerance for violation of traffic rules and regulations among motorists, especially commercial bus operators.

Omeje said: “As it is our tradition, we have started our end of year special patrol -Operation Zero Tolerance For Crashes. Already we have mapped out strategies, which would see us adopt a camping system, and closing down on our operations within the city centres, and mobilising all our resources within the critical corridors. Lagos/Ibadan Expressway is the major corridor that would carry the greater percentage of the exercise, and it is going to get a greater percentage of our attention too. Nevertheless, we are not going to neglect Lekki/Epe axis, including Lagos/Badagry Expressway. We are going to position our men within the critical corridors for 24 hours to ensure that our presence is well felt.

“Our strategy this year remains, instead of motorists sleeping on the road, let us be the ones to sleep on the road. In this operation we are collaborating with the Nigerian Police to enable them give us maximum security. Our men would be deployed to our offices in Ojodu Berger, Lagos and Mowe Ibafo, in Ogun State to ensure quick response. Key to effective traffic management is to be at duty post early before things get complicated. Over the years, we have learnt that our men should be deployed as early as 5:am, and they would have to close late in the night if we must ensure effective services.

“However, we are focusing on speed violations, which we have identified as one of the major risk factors responsible for high mortality rate each time there is a crash on the highway. Our men would be watching out for violators. If motorists fail to slow down after warnings from our men, there wont be any other option than to impound the vehicle.

“Our emphasis would also be on driving under the influence of alcohol just as overloading would get our attention. People should not overload this time because there are a lot people that are going to travel with a lot of goods and household property. We have been advising commercial motorists to carry as much as their vehicles can carry to avoid overloading.”

In this article:
Dolapo IluyomadeNBS
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