Traditionally, the prices of goods and services in Nigeria rise during the Yuletide. But this year’s has hit Nigerian households particularly hard as a culmination of rising inflation over the past several months, causing many to adjust to rather low key Christmas preparation.
This is exacerbated by the effects of the lingering coronavirus disease, which has compelled many employers to reduce salaries and wages along with supply chain disruptions and exchange rates gap, engendering inflation.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s inflation rate for the month of October 2021, trickled down to 15.99 per cent from 16.63 per cent recorded in the previous month, driven by the decline in the two components of the index. The core inflation dropped to 13.24 per cent compared to 13.74 per cent recorded in September, while food inflation moved downwards to 18.34 per cent as opposed to 19.57 per cent in the previous month.
As the global economy recovers from the coronavirus, but now faced with a new spectre of possible disruptions caused by the Omicron variant of Covid -19 pandemic, Nigeria appears to be one of the hardest hit countries in terms of soaring prices of foodstuffs.
Consequently, Nigerian households have turned to second-hand clothes and cheaper foods for Christmas.
Ejike Godwin, who runs a boutique that deals in trendy male and female wears and accessories in the Wuse 2 area of Abuja, told our correspondent that the increase in the volume of sales that is usually associated with the festive season has not been recorded this year, even though it is just a few days to Christmas.
Godwin told our correspondent on telephone that rather than sales, what he had been recording was an increase in the number of ‘window-shoppers’.
Although he admitted that the increase in the cost of goods, occasioned by fall in the value of the naira against the dollar, contributed to the relatively lower volume of sales. He observed that smaller boutiques selling ‘cheaper’ products were not doing better.
Visits to clothing shops at Ikeja City Mall and some other parts of Lagos also revealed that while a considerable number of people visit such shops each day, only a few make purchases. Many people are put off by the price tags and resort to second hand clothing.
But cloth sellers in open markets are not doing better. Nnamdi, who deals in male and female wears in an open market in Lagos, told our correspondent that the volume of sales he had recorded during the Yuletide this year was ‘far less’ than what he recorded in the past.
In a space of two weeks, the prices of rice, onions, yam, cooking gas, and pasta increased in November when compared to the previous month as traders across markets in Lagos State visited by NATIONAL ECONOMY showed anger and frustration over low patronage despite the fact that the yuletide season is just around the corner.
When NATIONAL ECONOMY visited some markets across the Lagos metropolis, there was a slight increase in prices of foodstuffs when compared to the month of October.
According to our findings, the price of a 10kg bag of Mama Gold rice increased by 3.28 per cent to sell for N6,300 compared to N6,100 recorded in the previous month, while the price of a big bag of dry onions increased by 2.31 per cent to sell for N59,000.
But the explanation for this surge in price is not in short supply. According to Dr. Olufemi Omoyele, the recent increase in the price of food items has been linked to seasonal ups and downs, in addition to limited supply in the market, which is overwhelmed by customer demand.
However, traders have also complained about the decline in sales turnover, attributing it to the dwindling purchasing power of average Nigerians.
Just as the price of major food items like onions, yam, and pasta soared marginally, some other food items such as garri, beans recorded a price decline compared to the previous month.
At places like Mushin, Mile 12, Ile Epo, Mile 2 and Pelewura market, the price of a big bag of Ijebu garri declined by 10 per cent to sell for N13,500 compared to N15,000 recorded in the previous month.
It could be recalled that it was sold for N25,000 earlier in the year. Also, a bag of yellow garri that was initially sold for N14,800 now sells for N13,600, representing an 8.15 per cent decrease in price.
This has been made worse by the soaring price of cooking gas, now at N10,000 for 12.5 kg. Many households that are on shoestrings are already learning the wisdom dictated by necessity, shifting to dirty fuels such as sawdust and charcoal.
Since August, the price of cooking gas has continued to soar. The price of LPG in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) increased from an average of N4,800 for a 12.5kg cylinder in June to about N7500-N8000 in October and has hit N10,000 as of date, NATIONAL ECONOMY investigation shows.
In Lagos, as of mid-October the price ranged between N6,400 and N7,200. As of the end of last week, the price of a 12.5 kg of cooking gas had hit N10,000.
Juliet Adesanya, a house wife in Agege told NATIONAL ECONOMY that owing to the rising price of gas she had bought a charcoal stove with which she prepares food that consumes more gas such as beans.
“Look, I don’t bother to cook time- consuming food like beans with gas anymore. I bought a charcoal stove and I use it to cook food that takes time to cook”, she told this medium.
She said three of her friends have followed in her footsteps by acquiring a charcoal stove.
A caterer Debbie Anthony said she had resorted to the use of charcoal for her cooking, admitting that most of her customers would not be able to pay beyond N300 per plate of food if she decided to raise the price.
“As far as I’m concerned, charcoal is cheaper and going by the way things are in this country I have no choice. The only thing is that it is tasking. I have to wake up very early to cook because charcoal takes time to get the food done.
In a related development, findings by our correspondent at the terminals of some mass transit companies revealed that the number of travellers being recorded in the build-up to this year’s festive season was not commensurate with what is usually recorded at the same period in previous years.
The mass transit operators said fewer numbers of passengers were turning up.
An employee of a popular mass transit company, who identified himself as Mike, noted that the ‘rush’ which is usually experienced before Christmas, was taking an unusually longer time to commence this year.
“Compared to what we usually experience at this time of the year, people are not travelling much. Normally by this time of the year, motor parks would have been busy but it has not happened yet. I think fewer people have been travelling for Christmas this year compared with previous years,” Mike told our correspondent at the company’s terminal in the Okota area of Lagos.
An employee of another mass transit company, who refused to identify himself, said it was already apparent that not many people would travel for Christmas this year.
A porter with another mass transit company, Chima, also observed that fewer people were travelling, compared to previous festive seasons.
“It is just a few days until Christmas but the number of passengers has not increased. Usually, by this time of the year, if you get to the park as early as 4.00am a crowd would have gathered. People would be struggling to get tickets to travel home or to any other destination. But now only few people are travelling because there is no money.
“In the past, if you help people with their luggage when they are travelling, they give big tips, but that is no longer the case. Things are very hard these days; everybody is complaining. It is like nobody has anything left to give out, he said.”
Other businesses that are expected to experience a ‘boom’ as Nigerians enter the festive season include boutiques and party organisers.
However, interactions with some operators of these businesses show that the economic downturn had also affected them; they share in the lamentations expressed by their counterparts in the other sectors. The hard times cut across the board.