Wednesday, 24 April, 2024

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Sinking hopes: Nigerians’ struggle with soaring prices


Olalekan Adetayo

It is getting tough in Nigeria and many are feeling the heat.

On Sunday, a woman was sharing her experience with her friend. I was speechless throughout the conversation. She told her friend how she got to the shop where she usually buys garri and discovered that the price had increased.

While she was there trying to see how to adjust by reducing the quantity she planned to buy, another woman arrived at the store. The woman needed just a small quantity that would be barely enough to settle her three kids who were already crying at home because of hunger. Immediately she was told the new price, tears started dropping freely from her eyes down to her cheeks.

It wasn’t as if the weeping woman had lost any relative. The tears came because of the reality that with the new price and the money with her, she might have to return home empty-handed to face her hungry and equally weeping children. The woman telling her friend this story said she did not know when she forgot her predicament briefly and joined the woman in crying.

This is a true picture of what is going on in most homes in Nigeria today as a result of the high cost of living. No commodity is spared of the skyrocketing prices: from noodles to eggs, from bread to butter. The high cost of living is killing.

It is not the best time to be sick. Prices of drugs too are not smiling. Prices are increased daily. I met a middle-aged woman at a pharmacy last week. She was there to get some drugs for her children. I got there at the point when they were calculating her bill. Immediately the attendant mentioned that her bill was N17,000, this woman went mute for close to a minute. I initially thought she did not hear what the attendant said. By the time she suddenly found her voice, you would think she was reading from the book of lamentation. “N17,000 for these three drugs? How do we cope in this country? These children better don’t get sick again,” she kept talking to no one in particular. When she finally brought out her debit card to pay, she held on to it for another minute and was looking into space. I guessed she was calculating to be sure she had up to that amount in the account.

This woman is not alone in this. A senior colleague could not stomach his experience; he took to his Facebook page on Monday to express his frustration. “I was at a popular pharmacy in Mushin for my boy’s routine drugs. Early last month, I bought two at N16,000. Today, I bought them for N30,000. I initially walked out but returned a few minutes after sampling three other sellers. Till now, I dey provoke,” he lamented. Although he did not disclose his findings at the three other sellers he sampled, your guess is as good as mine. I am sure that if he had delayed a bit in returning to the first pharmacy, by the time he would return, the price would have increased. The high cost of living is indeed killing.

There was a time last year when the price of cooking gas crashed. Since kerosene is not even available, many households quickly embraced cooking gas. The situation made many people convert their generating sets from petrol to gas. Engineers who were doing the conversion, expectedly, hiked their fees. Today, what is the price of gas in your neighbourhood? My neighbour bought 12.5kg on Sunday at N17,500. He said while he was at the gas shop, an old woman came with a small gas cylinder. When she was told the price, the helpless woman asked that 2kg be sold for her. Touched, my neighbour who wondered how long the 2kg would last, intervened and asked that the small cylinder be filled while he picked up the bill. Those who converted their generating sets to gas may begin to think of other options. Is this high cost of living not killing?

Angry youths, children and women have at different times protested the high cost of living in many parts of the country. The Nigeria Labour Congress declared a two-day national protest but decided to suspend the action after the first day, citing intimidation.

Protests are not limited to those who are enjoying their freedom of movement. Inmates in the Correctional Centre in Jos, Plateau State capital, joined the fray last Friday when they protested the plan to reduce their food ration.  Protesting the development, the inmates reportedly refused to take orders from the custodial officials while shunning their breakfast.  The custodial officials, however, used tear gas to force them back to their rooms. Gathered in the centre of the prison yard, the prisoners were shouting at the top of their voices.

Confirming the development, the Comptroller of the Jos Correctional Centre, Raphael Ibinuhi, said the decision to reduce the food ration was prompted by the high cost of living in the country. Ibinuhi said, “The problem has to do with the high cost of goods in the market. The contractor in charge of the food said they are being forced by the price of food items to reduce the size of the plate of food.

“So, it is the food size that provoked the protest. I don’t think the protest is necessary because the food challenge and the cost of items are national issues that the Federal Government is already addressing. I want to believe that since it is a national issue, whatever step is taken by the Federal Government to address it will be felt everywhere in the country including the correctional centres.”

The way things are, beggars may still protest if they have not started doing so. The reason is simple. The rough translation of my late uncle’s favourite saying is “It is when tears are in the eyes that they can drop on the chest.” It is only people who can fend for themselves under this killing high cost of living that will remember to give beggars alms.

I pity those local dogs who wander around houses for food remnants to eat. Let their owners warn them that they run the risk of becoming food for the hungry people they think they can get remnants from.

I know that the government and its spokesmen (official and unofficial) will say that a lot is being done to address the situation. They will say that the government has approved the release of grains from the national reserve; they will add that a committee has been set up to crash the price of drugs among other steps. My position is that whatever will be done to bring immediate relief to Nigerians should be done, or what is the purpose of a delicious meal that landed on the dining table at a time when the person it is meant for has already died of hunger? I know that the religious ones will scream “God forbid” but the time to act and act fast is now.

Credit: Punch

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