By Fred Itua, Aidoghie Paulinus and Charity Nwakaudu, Abuja

The biting economic hardship, soaring inflation and deteriorating security in the country are having serious impacts on every Nigerian. The disturbing trends have escalated to the point that many households in the country are struggling to meet their basic needs. For large families, the scenarios are better imagined than experienced.

While incomes, wages and salaries have been on the declining side in recent months, prices of food commodities are skyrocketing. Many people have blamed the rise on inflation, but experts think otherwise. They have linked it to the inability of many farmers in rural parts of the country to cultivate their lands.

For instance, the country’s food inflation rate surged to 21.79 per cent in February 2021, which is the highest rate recorded in Nigeria since October 2005, exactly 15 years and four months ago. In March, it fell to 20 per cent.

The February 2021 Inflation Report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) revealed that the rise in the food index was caused by increases recorded in the prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers. Also, the increase in the prices of meat, food products, fruits, oil and fats, vegetables, and fish contributed to the spike in the food inflation rate.

From Kubwa to Nyanya, Garki to Lokogoma, Maitama to Mabushi, the wailing is the same. Families, as part of measures to cut costs, are re-evaluating their priorities and opting for basic food needs, pending when the inflation will abate and farmers are able to return to the field.

With the hike in prices of foodstuffs, most families in Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, have continued to groan, saying it is becoming very difficult to feed, much less attend to other family demands.

A resident of Kubwa, Mariam Abel, said, in the past, her family could budget N50,000 for feeding for a month, but now it can’t take them comfortably for two weeks, “I don’t even know where to start from, the last time I went to the market, I thought I had misplaced my money not until I calculated the things I bought. You cannot send someone to help you out with buying foodstuffs because you might end up thinking the person used your money for other things.

“Beans, was once said to be the easiest way to cover the shame of the family because it could be served with only garri, but now even garri can’t be reached. A small bucket of beans is now sold for N800 instead of N400. Garri is now between N500 to N600 against the former price of N300. A bottle of red oil is now N600 instead of the N400. A sizeable yam of N500 is now sold between N800 and N1,000. These are ordinary foodstuffs. One cannot talk of provisions because everything has gone up.”

Titus Age, a civil servant in Gwarinpa,  lamented that the high cost of food was seriously affecting family budgets. He said salaries were still the same, but market prices increased by the day, making life unbearable for many people.

“This situation is not funny anymore because we have so many things contending with our small salaries. We are yet to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. We used to budget N50,000 from my little salary and my wife added her little part to it for feeding for a month. Now, that money can’t take good care of one week. Iced fish that is said to be the common man’s protein has also gone high. Before one can prepare any type of soup now, N4,000 must have gone. I’m afraid for people with large families,” he said.

A teacher in one of the private schools in Dawaki, Ann Okeke, said her salary was N15,000 and she normally budgeted N7,000 for feeding, but now the money cannot take care of her anymore.

She said: “What is happening? I’m working like I’m not. I can’t feed myself talk more of giving to my younger ones. It is not easy; my rent just expired but I couldn’t pay because I had spent all my money on feeding and transport. I cannot remember buying anything like clothes since after lockdown but my account is red. I really don’t know what to do again.”

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A retailer dealing in red oil,  popularly known as Madam White, in Garki Market, blamed the increase in prices of foodstuff on insecurity. She said it was not from the traders, as they were also facing the heat “because what you bought N10,000, after selling, you will discover that it is no longer the same price.”

“This increment is affecting everyone. We too buy other things. Imagine this 25 litres of oil. I bought it N11,000 last week. When I went back today, they were telling me that was N15,000 plus that interest I made in selling the previous one. I can’t afford the new price.”

In Mararaba, Nyanya and Karu markets, five tubers of yam is N3,500; a tuber of yam, N700; a kilogramme of meat is N2,000; a small basket of garri is N450; a basket of beans N650; a small basket of different types of local rice, N650, N700, N900; one chicken is N1,500, N1,700, N2,000; a small basket of potatoes is N2,000; a bunch of plantain, N2,000; a crate of eggs, N1,400.

President-general of the Association of Commodity Market Women and Men Association, Mrs. Felicia Sani, said that traders should not be blamed for the current increase in commodities.

Sani, in an interview with Daily Sun in Abuja, said those complaining against marketwomen and men were wicked people because they do not get their commodities free of charge.

According to Sani, if people complain that things are expensive, marketwomen and men do not have personal cars and fuel to transport their goods: “Things are expensive. We don’t have cars of our own; we don’t have petrol of our own. We enter vehicles to where we buy the commodities, pay for transport and bring them to the market.

“Don’t we pay the drivers? Do they carry us free of charge? Petrol is expensive. Once petrol is expensive, the driver will increase the transport fare and we will pay. There are no two ways about it.”

Asked where she would situate the blame, 83 years old Sani said Nigerians know where to situate the blame, stressing that the only way to avert the current food crisis is for Nigerians to return to their old ways.

Sani added: “Look, I am telling Nigerians, July 22nd this year, I will be 84. I have been telling them, if you live in riverine area, if you are swimming and you are going to the deep side of the water and you know that you will be drowned, you swim back. This thing is happening in Nigeria now. Let us swim back because we cannot afford what is happening.”

While noting that Nigeria was a beautiful country, Sani called on Nigerians to eschew greed and live in the same Nigeria that Nigerians used to know.

“I am telling Nigerians, I am tired of talking. Let them close their mouths and go back to the Nigeria we used to know. Nigeria is a beautiful country. Things are cheap. If I plant pepper in front of my house, it will grow. Even five big yams that I planted here, I harvested and ate them. The same thing with ugwu (pumpkin leaves),” Sani said.

Sani also disclosed that the hunger Nigerians are currently battling with will not be comparable to that of 2022 as a result of the refusal by Nigerians to engage in farming activities.