Are Nigerians celebrating the quietest Yuletide in 2023?

NIGERIANS are always excited in December because it is the last month of the year when Christians celebrate Christmas, and all citizens prepare to welcome the new year.

Shopping for foodstuff, new clothes, and shoes, plus individuals and families travelling to their hometowns to visit loved ones, are some major events characterising the month.

However, this year’s festivities come with unusual challenges – biting inflation and naira scarcity. 

In the last five years, Nigeria has seen a steady rise in the prices of commodities, leading to economic downturn and hardships for many homes.

The ICIR reported that the inflation rate rose to 28.2 per cent in November, making it the highest rate recorded in almost two decades since August 2005, according to data from National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). 

Economic experts said fuel subsidy removal and insecurity, amongst others, were the major causes of the nation’s constant inflation.

The ICIR conducted a market survey of food prices in October and compared the prices with a similar period in 2022, which revealed alarming price differentials in foodstuffs in just twelve months.

Nigerians react to rising costs, naira scarcity

Rachel Onyema, a resident of Dutse Alhaji of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), stated that despite the inflation, she would still celebrate the holidays with minimal hitch.

Onyema joined a thrift contribution for foodstuffs at the beginning of the year and would receive her share of the items before the festivities.

‘It was because of things like this that I decided to join the group in January. Even if I have to spend, I will just buy fish or chicken to compliment the beef I would receive as cow sharing is also  part of the items,’ Onyema stated.

She added that she would do away with the frivolities she usually engaged in during previous celebrations.

The situation is different for Abimbola Emmanuel, a Kubwa resident who would barely have the money to feed herself during Christmas.

‘I know people will visit me and would have eaten before coming. So there’s no point in giving them food again.” She said rather than cook food for guests, she would buy snacks to entertain them.

“A pack of frozen small chops costs about N1,000. If I buy ten packs, they will cost approximately 10,000, which should be enough,” Emmanuel explained. 

Segun Akintunde, a father of three who resides at Gwarinpa, stated that he had told his children to pick between new clothes and shoes or their school fees in January.

‘Schools are resuming in January. I have to pay over a hundred thousand as fees for three children. The children also saw what was happening, so they didn’t grumble when I clarified my stance,” Akintunde explained.

When asked if she would travel for the Yuletide, a mother of two who wished to be identified simply as Omoniyi responded with ‘Travel to where?’.

She had wanted her children and herself to spend Christmas with her husband in Lagos state, but they could not because of the transportation cost.

“I’m hearing that Lagos is N25,000, three of us. That is N75,000. I know it would still increase. Apart from that, there would be other expenses like movement to and from the park and things to buy on the road,’ Omoniyi stated.

The ICIR reports that to alleviate the pain of travelling costs, President Bola Tinubu subsidised transportation costs across Nigeria between December 21 and January 4, engaging five transport firms. The ICIR could not independently verify if this has been implemented.

Business owners bemoan high cost of goods and services

The ICIR visited the popular Wuse Market and Maitama Ultra Modern Market in Kubwa and met traders complaining about low patronage by customers. In addition, there has been disquiet among marketers over a steady increase in the price of goods, particularly as the Yuletide approaches.

‘The prices of things are not stable. You might buy things now, and their price will increase within hours. Njideka Azubuike, a raw foodstuff and condiments seller at Ultra Modern Market in Kubwa, lamented.

Entrance of Wuse Market/Photo Credit Fatimah Quadri The ICIR
Entrance of Wuse Market/Photo Credit Fatimah Quadri The ICIR

Azubuike cited an example of a roll of a condiment, which cost N950 when the reporter visited the market but was just N750 a week before. Similarly, a gallon of 25 litres of vegetable oil sold for N38,000 in November is selling for N42,000 in December.

She added that a bag of rice costs between N50,000 and N53,000. It sold for N47,000 in September. A kilogramme of tomato paste costs N4,500 and five litres of oil costs N9,000. They much much less months before.

A vegetable stall in the market
A vegetable stall in the market/ Photo credit Fatimah Quadri The ICIR

Azubuike said most customers complained about the rising costs of goods while stating that they assumed the prices were inflated by the traders.

‘People might think you are the one adding it, not knowing that it is from the producers because we buy from them directly. They keep asking why things are costly, even as we bring it directly from the company we need to pay for transport, add our profit so we can have our money back. But they won’t see it that way.”

The situation was the same with the owner of a frozen foods stall (names withheld because she bears the business’s name) in the same market, who expressed frustration while speaking with this reporter. 

‘People are not shopping. They are not even buying anything. Businesses are not doing well; the customers complain that there is no money.

She said a carton of turkey costs N52,000, a carton of soft chicken went for N30,000 and a carton of hake fish (panla) was sold for N25,000. She added that she couldn’t give the exact price of Titus fish because its price varied across markets and could increase at any time.

Traders at the market
Traders at the market/ Photo Credit; Fatimah Quadri The ICIR

The tale wasn’t different with Princess Okeke, who sells children’s clothes and shoes in the Wuse market. She complained about the low sales as parents prioritised their needs.

Another visit to Kukwaba Motor Park in Kubwa was met with the same reactions. A trip to Lagos state, which cost between N26,000 and N35,000 as of Thursday, December 14 2023, depending on the transport company managing the trip, was between N30,000 and N45,000 on December 18.

“Lagos is generally N26,000, but some transporters are taking N30,000. Osun is N18,000. From next week, it will be N20,000. Currently, the transport cost to Ilorin is N18,000, but it will increase from next week, Gerrard Izu, a driver at the park, told The ICIR.

Ify, a manager at another transport firm, said a trip to Enugu from Kubwa cost N20,000, but would increase from the following week. The journey from the city’s semi-urban town to Anambra state was N25,000 but might jump to N27,000 before Christmas.

“As the season draws near, the transport fares will increase,” she stated. 

She added that the turnout of passengers was very low as they had only loaded two vehicles for the day. During the same period in 2022, they had loaded seven vehicles, she noted.

Kukwaba Motor Park/ Photo Credit : Fatimah Quadri
Kukwaba Motor Park/ Photo Credit : Fatimah Quadri

The reporter, who was at the park at 9:00 a.m., observed that the park was scanty with passengers as drivers and bus owners struggled to get passengers. 

Cash crunch

Another issue that will affect Christmas and New Year celebrations is cash scarcity. Most businesses already have point-of-sales (POS) machines to ease doing business.

However, transport businesses still have to give their drivers cash to purchase fuel and meet other needs, as making a transfer while travelling could be difficult due to network failure.

Experts react

Ayokunle Olubunmi, an economic analyst, stated that besides fuel subsidy removal, other factors such as the exchange rate, naira devaluation and insecurity were affecting the inflation rate.






     

     

    ‘The foreign exchange challenges are affecting the ability of manufacturing companies to import their goods. Even for traders, getting goods into the country is expensive. Goods are transferred predominantly by roads, which also increases the distribution cost of goods and pushes up inflation.

    ‘Let’s not also forget that Nigerians still power their business with generators using petroleum products. That also has increased inflation. Nigeria is also predominantly import-dependent, whether directly or indirectly. Most of the things we use are imported,” Olubunmi stated.

    He added that despite how hard things could get, Nigerians loved fun and would always find a way to make themselves happy.

    ‘Nigerians like celebrations. Even if it’s the last money the person has, they will still find a way to enjoy themselves. Of course, the level of spending would reduce, but Nigerians would still find a way of making themselves happy,” he concluded.

    Fatimah Quadri is a Journalist and a Fact-checker at The ICIR. She has written news articles, fact-checks, explainers, and media literacy in an effort to combat information disinformation.
    She can be reached at sunmibola_q on X or [email protected]

    Join the ICIR WhatsApp channel for in-depth reports on the economy, politics and governance, and investigative reports.

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