Up goes the bare necessities of life

Therefore, the bare necessities of life – food, clothing and housing may someday become luxury in Nigeria if the rate of inflation keep going steady and the naira keeps falling…” When I wrote this last year, many Nigerians dismissed my projection as the ranting of a naysaying columnist. In no time, I gained the epithet ‘prophetess of doom’ and was in some cases tagged ‘anti-government’ but I didn’t need any special sort of clairvoyance to predict that. I simply projected our economic future based on recent past and current happenings. Alas, I turned out to be quiet the prophet…

Houseowners are lamenting, tenants are gnashing their teeth. The landlord who a few years ago wouldn’t take any payment short of a two-year rent equivalent now has to coerce or cajole tenants to receive quarterly installments.  Court rooms are fraught with such cases nationwide.  Last week, I starred sadly at the front page of one of the dailies which had this headline at the bottom strip, “inflation rate rises to 18.72 per cent.” The statistic was credited to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). Fellow Nigerians, it is happening…our nation is beginning to look like the 21st century pharaoh’s Egypt ravaged by famine. Behold, the fat cows have been swallowed up and all that may be left will be bones and more bones. This inflation is biting harder, drilling deeper and we all know how much it hurts. Yes, we all feel it.  Were we not anticipating better years after the transition from transformation to change? The following tale depicts the life of the average Nigerian. Read this:

‘Baba Naija’ looked frail and his skin exuded a dirty brown hue. The brownness of the visible flesh around his neck and face was not his natural pigmentation, but he was so coloured due of the layers of dust, held steady with shimmering dots of sweat that have accumulated on his face after a very long walk on a recently muddy-sand filled road. His white and green bathroom slippers had as well been repainted by the dust to a depressing shade of pale brown. Frantically, he made his way to the only road side shop on the stretch of the dusty road he’s been travelling on. All the items in the wooden kiosk wore a rich layer of dust like foundation on a woman’s face after the primer. Its rusty roof creaked, willingly obeying the Physics law of expansion as hellish rays of the scorching sun perched upon it. A makeshift bench, constructed from unfinished timber, sat in front of the kiosk.

As ‘Baba Naija’ approached, he gave a weak smile and quickly patted the dust off the edge of the bench to make himself comfortable. He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, psychologically feeling the air massage his worn out muscles. He had been up since dawn, working on a construction site as a brick carrier but his shift for the day was over at 2pm and he was on his journey home.  However, he needed to get some supplies for his pregnant wife and his twin boys. The storeowner had approached him in no time and the transaction kicked off earnestly. ‘Baba Naija’, who was too exhausted to start a conversation with the prattling seller, simply pointed at what he wanted to purchase while the seller, undeterred by his lack of interest in her small talk while cackling away like a cockatoo, put the items in a tiny plastic bag.

After a careful selection of the items he believed should gain ascendancy on his scale of preference, Baba reached into the back pocket of his ragged work trouser and pulled out a worn out centenary N100 note and another good looking N50 polymer bill. A sudden awkward silence ensued as the loquacious seller stopped in mid sentence and stared at him with fire in her eyes. ‘Baba Naija’, shocked but oblivious of his trespass, flashed a hesitant smile to reveal a horribly plaque-infested set of teeth in a mouth of unending bacteria proliferation and inquired his balance of the seller.

At that moment, the temporary dumbness that had taken hold of the talkative seller was exorcised and she angrily spat out venomous words at her victim. ‘Baba Naija’, who had requested to buy a sachet of tomato puree, the smallest loaf of locally made bread, popularly called “Agege bread”, a sachet of water, an egg and a sachet of evaporated milk for his pregnant wife, insisted that by his calculation the total cost of his purchase was N145, reason why he paid N150.The loquacious seller had sneered at him as the altercation intensified and with one calculated move, pulled the plastic bag from his grasp, “are you not in this change era? Everything has gone up, Oga!”

In her summation, the total of goods purchased by ‘Baba naija’ was N220 due to inflation as sachet water and tomato puree had each doubled in price. The loaf of bread which used to be sold at N50 was now up for sale at N70 and the price for sachet evaporated milk as well had gone up with over N10 and eggs were not left out of the contagious inflation as the increase in one item had a trickling effect on others. ‘Baba Naija’ was perplexed, though never a student of Economics, he applied the opportunity cost theory so he could afford the most important items.

‘Baba Naija’, I can assure you, is an epitome of the average Nigerian in today’s economy. We are constantly marooned on the island of cost cutting as prices hit the sky, tear it apart and cross unbridled to the other side of austerity. The average Nigerian is currently witnessing an excruciatingly painful financial dilemma as everything, aside from the dollar, keeps rising and rising. Ironically, incomes, salaries and wages, remain stationary, if not on the decline in some severe austerity-stricken states. A situation that suffices to describe the bulk of Nigerian states at the moment.

According to Trading Economics global macro models and analysts, there has been a steady rise in Nigeria’s Inflation Rate since April 2015 as recorded by the National Bureau of Statistics. In April 2015, inflation rate was 8.7 per cent, but it became 9.2 per cent in July of the same year and by the time 2015 was closing, it had risen to 9.4 per cent.  In January of 2016, annual inflation rate in Nigeria came in at 9.6 per cent and has been the highest since December of the year 2012 as a plummeting naira keeps pushing import prices up, mainly food.

Compared to January of 2015, food cost increased by 10.6 per cent and imported food prices grew to 11.2 per cent. Additional upward pressure came from: transport (+10.6 per cent); education (+10 per cent); clothing and footwear (+9.8 per cent). By the middle of 2016, it had almost doubled, becoming 16.48 per cent and as the year 2016 closed, it had hit 18.55 per cent. Ever wondered why Santa didn’t come to town last Christmas? Today, we have recorded an all time high of 18.72 per cent and very assuredly, I must say unto you, fellow countrymen, just fasten your stomach belts as we are in for a long ride in Nigeria’s sport car, ‘Bugatti-inflation’.