….suffering, hunger everywhere
….Buhari plea for patience
Following the recession that bedeviled Nigeria, ONU OKORIE with a team from Saturday Pilot reports that hardship has forced many Nigerians to indulge in nasty criminal activities
Body of a 50-year-old man, identified as Chief EkanemEdet, dangled from a rope tied to the roof of his room at MbiabongItam in Itu Local Government Area of AkwaIbom State when a close associate, Mr. OkonEffiong, went to visit him.
Chief Edet, a former Secretary of the Mbiabong Village Council, popularly called Jolly Boy, waited until his wife and two sons went out before taking his life, allegedly leaving a suicide note in which he blamed his action on harsh economic condition. According to a close family source, the deceased, in the suicide note, blamed government for inflicting unbearable pains and hardship on Nigerians.
“He was a very sociable man and always shared his thoughts on issues. I do not know why he should consider suicide as the last option to escape from these hard times, although few days to his death, he complained bitterly about the current economic crunch.” The source added that the deceased decided to take his life when it appeared that he could no longer run his small family with the meager earnings from his trade.
The story of Edet is just one out of different tales of woes that is prevalent across the country today as a result of biting economic hardship. The situation is no doubt pushing Nigerians to do funny things.
Recently it was reported that in Kano, the second biggest city in Nigeria after Lagos, the growing hunger in the land forced a man to trade his son for a bag of rice. In the Federal Capital City, Abuja, a woman reportedly stole a pot of soup on fire belonging to her neighbor because as she said, her children were very hungry and she did not have money to provide food for them. In Mararaba, a suburb in the FCT, theft of cooked food has become rampant that people no longer openly complain about it but about the ‘change mantra’ being a ‘chain mantra’. Also, in a satellite town of the FCT known as Lugbe, a man who was returning home with a bag of rice was ambushed by some people who snatched it from him and disappeared into a nearby bush.
Currently, residents in Warri, Delta State economic hub and environs, are decrying the effects of the present harsh economy as the crisis is already affecting the living standard on daily basis. Hunger and poverty in the land is now the slogan or common word from the mouth of the residents especially as a result of collapse of businesses.
Most private companies in Warri have been sacking their workers. Some motorists and residents in Warri, who spoke to Saturday Pilot, said the situation was getting worse but expressed hope that things would get better. Investigations disclosed that price of food stuffs had gone high with over 400 percent and there is no money to even buy the food items. A Delta State born indigene, who spoke to our Correspondent on phone, said “the economy is really unstable now, we are labour employers and as I speak, we are dropping majority of our workers and how would those dropped care for their families, it is a serious situation”.
When Nigerian Pilot on Saturday went on market survey at Garki Modern Market Federal Capital Territory, FCT, prices of food items like rice, both imported and local are virtually out of the reach of majority of Nigerians. The survey showed that a bag of Caprice Rice now sells for between N18, 000- N20, 000 as against N10, 000 – N12, 000. A mudu of rice sells for between N600- N700. Local rice sells for N400 as against N200. A Bag of Beans sells for between N25, 000 – N27, 000 as against N9, 000 – N12, 000. A mudu of Beans sells for N370- N400 as against N180- N250. A Bag of Gari sells for between N16, 000 –N 17,500 as against N8, 000- N11, 000. A mudu of gari sells for N240 as against N170.
One carton of Indomie sells for N2, 300 as against N1, 650. A gallon of Groundnut oil N1, 800 as against N1, 300. A carton of spaghetti sells for N2, 250 as against N3, 300. A carton of Titus ice fish sells for N18, 000 as against N12, 000. A basket of Irish potato sells for N1, 500 as against N700.
MrsNkechiObinna a trader at Garki Modern Market told this reporter that the prices of food items have skyrocketed because of factors like high exchange rate of the naira to dollar , increase in fuel price including government’s ban on importation of rice and that the locally produced rice cannot even meet up with the demand.
MrsAminaShehu, a housewife who resides at Apo area of Abuja also lamented the high cost of feeding her family. She told Pilot that her husband’s income can barely cater for the needs of her family. ‘’It is very hard to eat each day.’’
“Look at me, she lamented, my husband gave me N5000 for soup and other food items to go with it but it is not enough to buy anything. I only managed to buy meat, tomato, pepper and other small condiments and the money is finished. I have been roaming about in the market for the past two hours pricing things. Please government should better do something about this bad situation before husbands start sending their wives away because of high cost of feeding’’, she said. This scenario is very common as more Nigerians continue to bemoan the present economic hardship in the country.
There is no doubt that this is the worst time for parents whose children and wards will be going back to school in September. How to pay school fees is causing depression for a lot of parents in just over a year of the present administration.
Even basic drugs and Medicare are getting out the reach of the common people and the resultant effect of this will be avoidable deaths. “As at today, a bag of cement is N2, 200, increment of N600 on one bag in just one day. Within four months, exchange rate rose with more than 150 percent, with dollar that was a little above N200 then, now more than N400.
Sultan of Sokoto, AlhajiSa’adAbubakarlll has said recently that 50,000 children may die before the end of 2016 in Nigeria due to poverty. The royal father spoke in Kaduna during a one day dialogue and sensitisation meeting with 21 traditional leaders on the current Maternal Health Challenges, especially Maternal Deaths (MPDSR) and Girl Child Education in Northern Nigeria. The dialogue was organised by the Sultan Foundation for Peace and Development with head office in Kaduna. He said unless federal government tackled the problem of poverty, lack of access to education and infrastructure, children in the country would continue to die.
He, however, said that as traditional leaders, they would not allow such a catastrophe to occur in their communities. His words: “It is expected that about 49,000 children will die before the end of the year if nothing is done; how do we sit down and allow 50,000 children die by the end of this year. We cannot sit down and see this catastrophic nightmare happen in our communities?
National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, report confirmed that Nigerian economy has slid into recession after negative growth in the first two quarters of the year. Nigeria, Africa’s top economy, has been battered by low oil prices hammering government revenues, weakening the national currency and driving up inflation to 17 percent, an 11-year high.
NBS also said the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, declines by -2.06 per cent (year-on-year in the second quarter of 2016. “In the second quarter of 2016, the nation’s Gross Domestic Product GDP declined by -2.06 percent year-on-years in real terms,” the NBS said. “This was lower by 1.70 percentage points from the growth rate of 0.36 percent recorded in the preceding quarter, and also lower by 4.41 percentage points from the growth rate of 2.35 percent recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2015,” it said.
According to NBS in its unemployment and underemployment report, 1.5 million Nigerians became unemployed in the first quarter of 2016, adding that the country’s unemployment rate grew from 10.4 percent in the last quarter in 2015 to 12.1 percent.
In the third and fourth quarter of 2015, Nigeria saw about the same number of people become unemployed. The economically active population or working age population (persons within ages 15- 64) increased from 105.02 million in Q4 2015 to 106.0 million in Q1 2016, the report adds.
“In Q1 2016, the labour force population (i.e. those within the working age population willing, able and actively looking for work) increased to 78.4 million from 76.9million in q4 2015. “This means an additional 1,528,647 economically active persons within 15-64 entered the labour force i.e. were able and willing and actively looking for work between January 1 and March 31 2016.
“Within the same period, the total number in full time employment (did any form of work for at least 40 hours) decreased by 528,148 persons or 0.97%. “This consists of people who lost their jobs and were either forced or for various reasons chose to move from full time employment to underemployment. “Within the same period, the number of unemployed in the labour force, increased by 1,449,18 persons (increase of 518,000 between Q3 and Q4 2015) between Q4 2015 and Q1 2016,” NBS said.
Youth unemployment also rose to 42.24 percent, as 15.2million youths remain unemployed in the economy. “Accordingly, out of a total youth labour force of 38.2 million (representing 48.7% of total labour force in Nigeria of 78.48mn), a total of 15.2mn of them were either unemployed or underemployed in Q1 2016 representing a youth unemployment rate of 42.24%.”
In recent times, more than half of the 175million Nigerians have had to grapple with high cost of living as many families find it very difficult to feed themselves. This is as a result of the present economic degradation looming over the country where majority of businesses have been liquidated characterized by mass retrenchment and nonpayment of salaries of the meager number of people who through whiskers of luck still have their jobs.
From the NBS report on the nation’s economy, a lot of Nigerians every day are finding it extremely difficult to feed, clothe and provide other essentials of living. Most families now do what is colloquially called as ‘’011, 001 or 010’’ partner of feeding. Explicitly 001 partner of feeding simply means skip breakfast, eat lunch and dinner. The same interpretation goes for the other partners.
It stated: “The pace of the increase in the headline index was however weighed upon by a slower increase in three divisions; health, transport, recreation and culture divisions. “The onset of the harvest season is yet to have a significant impact on food prices. It is yet to have a significant impact as the Food Sub-index increased by 15.8 per cent (year-on-year) in July, 0.5 per cent points lower from rates recorded in June. “Prices however increased at a slower pace across a few groups within the food sub-index, namely milk, cheese and eggs; oils and fats; and fruits.’’
The report added that imported foods as reflected by the imported food sub-index increased by 0.4 per cent points from June to 20.5 per cent in July. Further, it stated: “In July, the core sub-index increased by 16.9 per cent during the month, up by 0.7 per cent points from rates recorded in June 16.2 per cent. “During the month, the highest increases were seen in the electricity, liquid fuel (kerosene), solid fuels, and fuels and lubricants for personal transport and equipment.
Well meaning Nigerians are asking government to wake up to its responsibility of providing employment, payment of salaries and make the economy to work so that citizens would not starve to death and the country become one of those poverty stricken nations daily losing their citizens to humanitarian crisis.
This agrees with the concern expressed by former Heads of State, Generals OlusegunObasanjo and Yakubu Gowon that the federal government should develop common man friendly policies.
They lauded his frontal battle against corruption but urged that some reasonable attention should be directed at evolving policies and programmes which could have positive effect on the lives of Nigerians.
Emir of Kano, AlhajiSanusiLamidoSanusi, slammed the federal government’s repressive policies and urged the President to return to the drawing board and expand the economy through wise investments capable of yielding economic growth and development.
Speaking at a lecture of the joint planning board and National Council on Development Planning in Kano, titled: “Nigeria in search of new growth model”, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, said as a friend of the president he could not shy away from advising the government when he found that he was getting it wrong on the economy. Sanusi put the blame on the door step of Buhari’s economic advisers and cautioned him to be wary of the activities of “voodoo economists at the corridors of power”. “If we do not expand the economy through wise investment, we can end up in classical Malthusian situation.”
Meanwhile Ekiti State Governor, AyodeleFayoshe has called President MuhammaduBuhari to listen to the cries of common Nigerians who are suffering the economic crunch in the country instead of seeing it as threat to his government.
For him, “it is no longer about politics. Rather, is about preventing hunger from exterminating Nigerians and i am sure that the President himself knows that hunger does not understand political parties.’’
According to him, “A bag of rice that was less than N8, 000 when President Buhari assumed office is now over N20, 000! How can a civil servant that is earning N18,000 minimum wage survive when his monthly salary cannot buy one bag of rice.’’
“Even basic drugs and Medicare are getting out of the reach of the common people and the resultant effect of this will be avoidable deaths.”
“As of today, a bag of cement is N2, 200- increment of N600 on one bag in just one day. Within four months, the exchange rate rose with more than 150 % with the US dollar that was a little above N200 then, now more than N400.”
The governor said that the harsh reality is that a Nigerian whose income was N100,000 per month is actually earning less than N40,000 because what he could buy with N100,000 then cannot be bought with N200,000 now.’ ‘’this is the worst time for parents whose children and wards will be going to school in September. How to pay school fees is causing depression for a lot of parents in just over one year of the Buhari administration.’’
A renowned Economist and a chieftain of the All Progressive Congress, APC, Prof. Pat Utomi who spoke in Warri, also lamented the prevailing hunger and increasing rate of youth’s unemployment in the country, noting that over reliance on oil against diversification of the economy affected the growth of the other sector which could have created jobs for the youth.