Rising prices, dwindling fortunes: Nigerians’ unending agonies, frustration

Between December last year and now, prices of services and commodities have risen exponentially. TADE MAKINDE report that Nigerians are not really excited about a better standard of living this year, as cost of living keeps rising on a daily basis.

 

AS the economic recession bites harder, prices of goods and services in the country are getting beyond the reach of average citizens. Many blame the crisis situation on economic policies currently foisted on the nation by the government, especially the moneytary policy that has caused the naira to lose its  value against major foreign currencies.

Since mid-2015 till date, the naira has been taking a bashing, especially against the British pound sterling, the US dollar, while unemployment rate has continued to soar as a result of the closure of some companies due to their inability to access foreign exchange to import essential ingredients of their productions. To make matters worse, many are afraid that things are not likely to get better despite government’s assurance to the contrary.

Recent report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBC) last week that by December, 2016, inflation rate had jumped to 18.55 per cent from 18.48, an increase of 0.07 per cent, has caused more panic. The increase was attributed to rise in the prices of electricity, housing, education, water,clothing and footwear, while communications, restaurants and hotels recorded the slowest pace of growth in December.

Interestingly (and may even sound absurdly ribald though) it is not only the prices of foodstuffs that have skyrocketted, a placard-carrying youngman had bizzaredly claimed the recession had hit his sex life hard: “Do something about recession. Condom is now N700 per pack from N350.” Many people had laughed at his negative lifestyle, but the man couldn’t be bothered. The risen price of latex was his immediate concern. Surely he understood the economic sense of not bringing babies he could not take care of into a financially depressed Nigeria.

The man also wouldn’t be bothered about the new prices of cars which has risen between December, 2016 and January 2017. The widely popular Toyota Camry (Muscle), which sold at N2.3m now sells for bewteen N3m and N3.3m. Its smaller version, Toyota Corolla, has risen to between N2.1m and N2.3m from N1.3m. Mazda 626 has risen from N550,000 to N900,000; Camry (Big Daddy) is now between N1.9 to N2.1m from N1.4m. Toyota Highlander now goes for N2.9m from N2m, while a Lexus SUV has risen from N1.4m to N2.2m. Nissan Pathfinder is between N2m and N2.2m from N1.5m, Sienna has also increased from N1.2m to N1.8m, Primeria, from N700,000 to N1.05m, Rav4 also sells for N1.9m now from N1.4m.

It’s not just cars’ prices that have risen, same for their parts. Battery has risen from N13,000 to N23,000, Tires from N8,000 to N17,000. Auto dealers blame the increase primarily on the unstable exchange rate (N498/$1) and also the closure of Nigerians borders against car importation.

Across the country, the prices of goods – from foodstuffs to utensils – have risen from between 50 to 100 per cent, especially in one month.

In Abuja, the prices of refill for cooking gas cylinders now range between N1,500 and N6,500 depending on the size. The cost of filling a 6kg camp gas cylinder is N3000; that of 12kg cylinder ranges between N6000 and N6,500 while 3kg and 5kg cylinders costs N1500 and N2500 respectively.

Between December and early January, refilling the 6kg cylinder would cost between N2,000 and N2,200 from between N1,600 and N1,800. An attendant at a gas filling shop at Lugbe, Abuja, expressed frustration at the slow pace of customers’ response.

“The cost just dey go up. In December, I didn’t sell at all because gas too cost. But now anybody that cannot buy should leave it,” he lamented.

Home cooking, which used to be cherished, is now an uphill task as gas is out of the reach of many homes. Firewood, an alternative, is even more difficult to get. Sunday Tribune even observed some kids getting into a fight over firewood in the course of our investigation.

One Madam Seri Adenekan, who lives in Soka area of Ibadan, said she used to give out some planks meant for firewood in the past, but not anymore.

“My husband has a huge deposit of used planks he brings from construction sites. We used to give it out until recently when the prices of gas and kerosene increased. We decided we wouldn’t be giving it out again. My son told his friend that he would no longer be getting free firewood from us. But that day, the young boy sneaked into our backyard to pack more planks than usual.

“Someone saw him and called my attention to it. When I saw it was Ayo (my son’s friend), I told my son to go and tell his friend not to come again after this. I think they got into an argument and my son refused to let the boy take anything from what he had already gathered. They were fighting by the time I rushed there to separate them.

“My son, (13 years old), now knows the value of what he used to give out for free. It’s not that he sells them; he knows that we also need it as gas now costs N500 per kilogramme,” she said.

The acute scarcity of kerosene has worsened in Enugu State as a litre of the essential commodity is now sold for N600 and above as against the official pump price of N150. It has equally created room for prices of firewood and charcoal to skyrocket in the area as a bundle with about five pieces of wood, which formally sold for N150 and N200 within Enugu metropolis is now between N400 and above.

“Due to the high cost of kerosene, the prices of firewood and charcoal have increased as well, as the quantity of firewood we used to buy for N250 now sells for N500, said a restaurant operator along Abgani road Enugu.

A plate of food containing two pieces of meat, which before the scarcity was sold for N300 in most restaurants in Enugu, is now N600. Another commodity which has become expensive is cooking oil. A big bottle of palm-oil which used to sell for N200 is now being sold at N700 per bottle. In a market survey conducted by Sunday Tribune in Abuja, a 10-litre keg of palm oil sells at N10,500, while the small milk cup sells for N200. Traders complained that the over 100 per cent increase in price of food stuffs only gives them marginal returns.

In Bayelsa, patronage has dropped drastically due to the sharp increase in the prices of goods and commodities. At the ultra-modern Swali market, buyers were seen lamenting over the cost of foodstuffs. Container of garri sells for N1,000; rice at N1,500.00 per container, while beans sells for N1.700.00 per measure. The development has, put these staple food items beyond the reach of the masses. Fish and meat are gradually being priced out of reach. Many now see crayfish (lobsters), crabs and periwinkle as alternatives.

Premium Motor Spirit (petrol) sells for between N160 and N170 per litre. The abnormal increase has resulted in the withdrawal of some private vehicles from the roads, while residents who depend on fuel to generate power are left with no choice but to remain in darkness due to constant power outage in the state.

Though the price of kerosene has gone up, Bayelsans have come to depend on kerosene refined at illegal refineries, who sell a 75cl bottled water container of kerosene for N200, while same container from the regular filling station sells for between N300 and N400.

 

Even building materials…

The construction industry is also facing a difficult time as intending builders are holding on to their money. Mr Adu David, a native of Kogi State, but resident in Lagos, told Sunday Tribune that he would have to stop working on the house he is building in Ibadan as building materials have risen beyond him. “I can no longer go ahead with the building due to high cost of materials. I have to wait until things get better,” he said.

From depots, a bag of cement is now about N2,500. In the recent past, a bag of cement was sold for between N1,350 and N1,700. Prices of other building materials like blocks, planks, roofing sheets and sand have all skyrocketed. The price of a small size tipper of sand was sold for N7,000 but is now being sold for N11,000, while big size, sold for N16,000, now goes for between N21,000 and N23,000 depending on the type.

The photography industry is also not left out of the hardship. Printing paper that sold for N3,600 a pack of 25 last month has now risen to N5,500, while a 16’x20’ frame that cost N1,600 around December now sells for N2,200. Mr Ade Fasehun, a photographer, in Molete area of Ibadan, Oyo State, told Sunday Tribune that the year has not been finacially rewarding.

“I had a premonition that it won’t be business as usual when patronage shrank during Christmas and New Year festivities. Religious holidays are our peak periods, but not in the last one month. Jobs for passport photographs, photo-books and other printing jobs have been on the downside as many won’t take pictures again.

“For me, it is only the demand for passport pictures that has not changed because it is required by financial outlets that lend people money. The majority of my clients are those who access loans from microfinance organisations and the first requirement is two passport photographs. If it is not very important, many probably won’t take pictures again,” he said.

The price of most of the popular soft drink brands have increased in the last one month and now it has dawned on many consumers that the increment, which came into effect pre-Xmas has come to stay despite the silence from manufacturers.

“We were not told the reason for the increment. The manufacturers just increased their prices in the second week of December and we had since followed suit,” said Mrs Bola Sonibare, a retailer at Ring Road, Ibadan.

In the past, a crate of small bottles of a popular cola brand used to sell for N890, but now it is N1,000. Same for the orange flavour of another popular brand of soft drink of same size. A crate of big bottles of a particular brand was N1,050 but now N1,200. Others have changed from N1,200 to N1,500 per crate just as the unit price has also changed.

A tin of Coast milk is now N150, while Peak milk now sells for N220. Bournvita (medium size) is now N950. Premier bar soap has increased from N80 to N150

Yam flour, used to prepare amala, a popular meal in Yoruba land, which sold for N500 per measure during the Christmas period, now sells for N700. Yam, which cost N700 for three tubers as of last month, now sells for N1,200. Baby diapers, which cost N2,750 for 3kg size now costs N3,850 as of last week, for a pack of thirty pieces.

The 32-inch size of a particular television brand which was N89,000 is now selling for between N100,000 and N150,000 and above; other brands are also within this range. A particular brand of a washing machine that was N32,000 is now N60,000. Another brand that went for N42,000 is now N89,000.

Against the background of galloping prices of essential items, which most Nigerians are unable to meet not even overtake, the issue bothering the minds of most people is when will these interesting times end?

 

—Additional report by TOLA ADENUBI, AUSTIN EBIPADE