Business

Nigerians voice frustrations over cost of living crisis


When Gbenga Oladejo, a 42-year-old carpenter in Lagos, was celebrating the victory of Muhammed Buhari in the 2015 presidential election, he was hoping for a better life from a president that promised to eliminate corruption, reform an economy hooked on petrodollars, reduce poverty and create jobs.

But seven years later, his hope for a better life has faded as he was forced to shut down his carpentry workshop. Low patronage and his inability to cope with the steep rise in the rental fee – alongside his children’s school fees and all other costs that keep growing for a family of four – forced him out of business.

“The constant increase in the prices of all items is making things very difficult for us. We can hardly feed since I shut down my shop and prices are increasing daily,” he said.

“This wasn’t the change Buhari promised us and I regretted voting and campaigning for him in 2015,” he said.

Chinedu Okafor, 37, was born and raised in Ikeja, Lagos and now lives in a self-contained apartment in a suburb in Ikorodu. In March, his landlord increased his rent from N120,000 to N200,000.

His rent is now 40 percent of his annual income as a school teacher. “It’s hard right now for me,” he said.

“The recent rent increase by my landlord is a big blow to me. After buying food, paying for electricity and other bills, I have nothing to save,” he lamented. “I pray I don’t fall sick because I can’t even afford any healthcare.”

Benedicta Denedo, an accountant with an engineering firm in Ikeja, has healthcare insurance courtesy of her employer. Denedo pays out of pocket for her mother who is battling diabetes and rheumatism.

She said: “Prices of all the drugs my mum takes for her diabetes have almost doubled, and the cost of transportation to the hospital has also doubled but my salary is still the same. It’s been difficult for us, and I am the only one my mum has to depend on.

“The sad thing about it all is that the government is not even doing anything to help its citizens. I won’t be voting in 2023 because they are all the same. They make all the promises and after winning, they never fulfill them.”

Many households and businesses in the country have been treading water for decades – weighed down by stagnant incomes and rising prices. But the accelerating inflation that resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the Russian-Ukraine war has triggered a groundswell of frustration among Nigerians.

The country has suffered two recessions in the last six years which have exacerbated poverty and unemployment levels in the country.

Read also: The cost-of-living crisis has a global toll

The average prices of key staples across major cities in the country have surged by over 200 percent since 2015, causing inflation to hit 17.71percent in May.

Inflation in Africa’s biggest economy has remained double-digit yearly since it recorded a single digit in 2015, wiping out a large portion of Nigeria’s middle class, according to SB Morgen.

The inflation rate accelerated from 9.01 in 2015 to 15.68 percent in 2016, 16.52percent in 2017 but slowed to 12.09 percent in 2018. It further dropped to 11.40 percent in 2019 but jumped to 15.75 percent in 2020 and 15.63 percent in 2021, according to a recent SB Morgen report.

Insecurity has worsened in the country, with killings and kidnappings on the rise. Foreign investments have plunged and the naira has tumbled.

Nigerians have had to bear the brunt of an economy stuck in a rot. With businesses groaning over rising production costs, which have worsened this year amid spiralling inflation, rising diesel and energy costs.

Currently, over 105 million Nigerians still live in extreme poverty, according to data from the World Poverty Clock of the Brookings Institute. The World Bank, in its latest Nigeria Development Update report, said the accelerating inflation will push an additional 7 million into poverty by the end of 2022.

The country’s unemployment and underemployment rate stood at 56.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, with 14 million jobless youths agitating for a better life.

Its GDP per capita has been declining every year since 2016, a sign that the economy is unable to provide sufficient opportunities for its rapidly growing population.

GDP per capita declined by 0.02 percent, 4.16 percent and 1.78 percent in 2015, 2016, and 2017 respectively. In 2018, 2019, and 2020, it declined by 0.68 percent, 0.38 percent, and 4.57 percent, according to the most recent data from the World Bank.



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