NIGERIA’s fragile economic situation has been worsened by the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This situation has led to several job losses which have impacted most Nigerian households negatively.
The concerns have been further heightened by the rising level of insecurity and inflation in the country.
Opeyemi Adeyemi, a 42-year-old finance expert who works with one of the big finance companies in Nigeria in Lagos, had to take a pay cut during the coronavirus pandemic.
“To keep your job during this period, a pay cut is a relief as thousands were fired,” Adeyemi said in an interview with The ICIR.
“I was overwhelmed with the prices of foodstuffs. I often discussed with my wife, who was nursing our second child, ensuring we find a substitute for afternoon meals by taking garri or noodles instead of a three-square meal in a day.
“The cost was high on me and my household. My salary was slashed by 30 per cent to sustain my job, then rising inflation took a toll on me. I lost most of my savings to cater for the family.
“The cost of electricity also skyrocketed during this period and I had to work from home. Despite paying a higher electricity bill, most times I still have to get fuel to power my generator due to the erratic power supply in my area during ‘this period,” a visibly angry and frustrated Adeyemi said.
Adeyemi’s story describes the situation of millions of Nigerians who lost considerable regular income due to drastic cuts in salaries and wages as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, analysts also attributed the upwards trend in the inflation rate to the rising level of insecurity in Nigeria’s food belt, mostly in the Northern part of the country.
Although the economy rebounded in the first quarter of 2021 at 0.51 per cent, the Central Bank of Nigeria forewarned that such growth should not be relied upon as it is still very much fragile.
Several analysts also repeated the apex bank concerns stressing that Nigeria must ensure double-digit growth consecutively in order to lift people out of poverty and create wealth for the teeming youthful population.
Notably, an analysis by Dataphyte on the prices of foodstuffs across 11 states and the Federal Capital Territory showed that the food price situation had contracted the purchasing power of citizens. The states sampled are Anambra, Benue, Enugu, Ebonyi, Kano, Kwara, Lagos, Niger, Ogun, Ondo and Sokoto.
The survey captured most staple food items in every Nigerian home, including rice, beans, eggs, garri, plantain, yam, beef, palm oil, fish, pepper, tomatoes, onions, bread and groundnut oil.
According to the Dataphyte survey, the price of beans and garri nearly doubled within the period under review. Beans rose from N2,457 to N2,883 per paint tuber, representing a 98 per cent increase. Also, the cost of garri rose from N869 to N1,856 per paint rubber, a 97 per cent change. The increase in the price of these two staple foodstuffs was the highest in the last year since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.
Garri is made from cassava, a tuber plant that is one of the most important food crops in West Africa.
Nigeria produces about 250,000 tonnes of it annually. Nigeria is also regarded as the largest producer of cassava in the world. Garri is either made into ‘Eba’ or soaked to drink.
It is often regarded as the ‘poor man’s food because of its relatively low price and the ease of taking it as a snack without the need of cooking, unlike most of the other food items.
At the peak of the coronavirus pandemic last year, Nigeria alongside other global governments shut down economies.
The shutdown affected farming, manufacturing and all productive activities. The border closure further complicated issues as no supplements were coming into the country, creating a high demand for the few available items.
THE ICIR reports that the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown of the economy affected the key economic sectors in Nigeria as only essential service providers were exempted from the movement restrictions.
This development affected several households, most of whom were affected by job losses and weak purchasing power despite rising food prices and inflation at 18 per cent in May, leading to deeper concerns for Nigeria’s economy amid the burgeoning population.
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.