It is as if Nigerians are presently living in the proverbial Dante’s Inferno, the hottest part of hell reserved for serious, unrepentant sinners whose sins have gone beyond redemption.
Such is life in today’s Nigeria; and indeed so tough and difficult has life become that eking out a living has become like the Twelve Labours of Hercules.
Nigerians from all walks of life, all strata of society, complain of high cost of foodstuff, that electricity bills have reached the rooftops, and also that transportation cost is hurting, while prices of essential products as toiletries and beverages have equally shot up.
In the face of this is inflation amidst lack of increment of income. For months, Nigerians have been lamenting a steady increase in prices of goods and services.
In Lagos, as in other major cities, in the country, prices of goods have increased drastically with residents and traders blaming President Muhammadu Buhari for not doing enough to check rising food prices.
In his view, John Ojo, an artisan opines that the core factor behind the rising food inflation in the country is the heinous activities of the criminally minded among and amidst the rampaging Fulani herdsmen who kill farmers at will and with searing impunity, after destroying their farmlands.
“When people talk of soaring prices of food items they should know that incidentally, Buhari’s kinsmen, the Fulani herdsmen, are responsible”, he said in a chat with Business Hallmark.
When Business Hallmark visited the Oshodi market, traders ruefully complained of rising prices of goods on a daily basis, while they lament that the President seems to be looking the other way even as Nigerians groan, cry and complain about the high cost of living.
A trader, SherifatAdemuloye who sells provisions and groceries in the market, said: “Buhari knows what he is doing. He literally wants to punish us for voting for him. This is hell on earth.He knows the solution, only that he wants to punish us in this country. Can’t he see that the prices of goods are unbearable? The prices of goods are going up now and then. We can’t bear it again in Nigeria because the prices of things are increasing every minute.
“Let me tell you, before now, we normally bought small Hollandia milk for N60, now it is N100. If you want to buy noodles, a carton goes for N950. Now, we are buying it for N2,450. The Spaghetti that I used to buy for N2,400 now goes for N4,800 per carton. As traders, we are tired, we just sit under the sun getting nothing,” she said. She complained of low sales, as she said Nigerians are not to blame for this downturn, but the president.
Next to Sherifat was a pepper trader, who identified herself as mama Mulikat, she stated that : “The cost of food is no longer a joke, it has become really expensive, most especially pepper and tomatoes. Two years ago, a basket of tomatoes went for N4,000, but now, it is N18,000 or N17,000. I can’t afford to buy a basket because of the hike. The money we used to buy a basket of pepper and tomatoes is what we now use to buy smaller quantities. Also, a quarter bag of pepper is now N6,500. We bought one bag of Shombo for N13,000 yesterday. Today, I could not afford the price, and so I had to buy a bit from other traders.
“The cost of pepper and tomatoes is as high as N18,000 this year compared to 2015 when a basket was sold for N4,000. Some of the traders complained that the government is involved in the hike of prices. The traders also complained of over taxation and the high cost of transportation to Lagos.
“I heard that some security officials collect up to N25,000 from traders just to bring the goods into Lagos. When we approached the dealers to reduce the price, they became furious,” mama Mulikat said.
Juliet Okonedo, another trader who sells dried fish said the president should have mercy on the masses, saying it was not a good way of repaying the masses that voted for Buhari. She said everything in this country has gone up, wondering that if things continue like this before expiration of this administration’s tenure many Nigerians will die of hunger.
“President Buhari should come to our aid. If things continue like this many Nigerians will die of hunger. He should know that we have children who are in higher institutions and most of us bear the burden of their fees. Where is the money now that things are expensive and money is hard to come by amidst inflation.”
“Their fees are now very high. I have sponsored three children who are now graduates from different universities in Nigeria. The fees I am currently paying on my last child are more than the money I paid to train his older ones through school. The government should help us.”
Ade Onitiri, a butcher, shared similar experience. Recounting his experiences, Onitiri said he had been recording losses in the last six months. ” How many people come to me to buy meat, just a fraction compared to say two years ago. ” My take is that Buhari has killed us with high cost, while his kinsmen, the Fulani herdsmen kill our brothers and sisters who are farmers in the villages with AK-47.”
Another trader, who sells fruits, Baba Ahmed, said the price of a measure of dates that used to cost N1,500, rose to N2,000 at the beginning of the year.
While calling on the Federal Government to address the situation, Lagosians threatened a mass protest to shut down the country if the situation continued.
“The government should know that everyone is not a civil servant that receives salaries. We are not depending on the government to pay bills other than this business than we do. Some of us have graduated from school without working.
I am not happy at all and if President Buhari or anyone responsible does not do something, we will close down our businesses till our yearnings are heard,” IsiakaJimoh, another butcher said.
An insurance executive who spoke with Business Hallmark in confidence said: “It is like I am not working at all. I work with the Lagos State Government and receive a salary, but at the end of the month, I pay the debt because I borrow weekly from friends to buy groceries for my family. How much is a bottle of Coca Cola soft drink now? How much was it three months ago? That is what we are saying. It keeps increasing.”
Six years into Buhari’s presidency, public trust in the Nigerian government has declined to a record low alongside a growing perception of lacking political inclusion. This gloomy outlook is hardened by negative economic impacts caused by the pandemic, and a sense of undelivered political promises, leading to stagnation in the country.
Recall that in September 2020, during a ministerial retreat to assess his stewardship, Nigeria’s President MohammaduBuhari declared his administration’s progress in all fronts to improve his citizens’ quality of life and set them on the path to prosperity. Speaking further, he commended his administration for innovatively addressing insecurity and insurgency by rehabilitating and re-integrating repentant terrorists into society. Seemingly triumphant, he affirmed that his administration is on the right course and highlighted their efforts in building strong institutional capacities to fight corruption, while urging his appointees to defend his government by going on the offensive to better present information.
But many analysts and observers have said the president was being economical with truth and mealy- mouthed to whitewash his gross failures at different levels.
Professor AdeagboMoritiwon, a political scientist said ” on record, this administration is the worst in the history of the country.” He said what Buhari said in 2020 Presidential Retreat and the white washing of his failures by his apologists are now clear to Nigerians to be nothing but absolute falsehood.
In his election manifesto were promises to ensure the equitable distribution of the nation’s wealth and close the gap between different classes. He had committed to lifting 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years, but he did not explain, however, how he intends to achieve this. Many Nigerians did not believe their President, and currently many more rather feel the opposite about his positive self-assessment – that things have actually gone from bad to worse under Buhari’s watch.
Evidence of this is the fact that today, poverty, unemployment and mass hopelessness literarily defines the lives of most Nigerians.
Such a self-assessment of success begs certain questions: could this stance be a political pretence or stem from a genuine insensitivity to the pulse of the street? Professor Adeagbo believes it was delusion of grandeur with a dose of pretence for Buhari to ascribe success to his many failures.
With an unenviable reputation as the world’s new poverty capital, about 40% (82 million people) of Nigeria’s population are living on less than 1$US per day, according to figures from National Bureau of Statistics. Amidst repeated claims by the government of undertaking measured to alleviate poverty, the recent increase in fuel pump prices and electricity tariffs has triggered questions about Buhari’s commitments and priorities. Considering the economic downtown experienced by many Nigerians in a period marked by a remarkable loss of jobs and income, owing to the severity of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the decision to eliminate the expensive but popular petrol subsidy programme, and likewise the programme for electricity tariffs, is considered insensitive to the realities on ground and generally an act in bad-timing.
In the last five years, the price of food items has risen steadily, with rice that used to sell for 9,000 naira per bag in 2015 now tripled up to about 26,000 naira – a fact acknowledged by the Nigeria’s Minister for Finance, Budget and Planning, Zainab Ahmed. This has impacted disproportionately the poor in a country that is said to be already hosting a high population of the world’s poorest citizens.
For many in the country now then, the question is how much longer would this state of distress continue?