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Nigerians express frustration over cost of living crisis

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When Gbenga Oladejo, a 42-year-old carpenter in Lagos, celebrated Muhammed Buhari’s victory in the 2015 presidential election, he hoped for a better life from a president who promised to root out corruption, reform a petrodollar-addicted economy , reduce poverty and create jobs.

But seven years later, his hope for a better life faded as he was forced to close his carpentry shop. Low attendance and his inability to keep up with soaring rental costs — on top of his kids’ tuition and all the other ever-increasing costs for a family of four — the forced it to close.

“The constantly rising prices of all items make it very difficult for us. We can barely feed ourselves since I closed my shop and the prices are going up every day,” he said.

“It was not the change Buhari promised us and I regretted voting and campaigning for him in 2015,” he said.

Chinedu Okafor, 37, was born and raised in Ikeja, Lagos and now lives in a self-catering apartment in a suburb of Ikorodu. In March, its landlord raised his rent from N120,000 to N200,000.

His rent now represents 40% of his annual teaching income. “It’s difficult right now for me,” he said.

“The recent rent increase by my landlord is a blow to me. After buying food, paying electricity and other bills, I have nothing left to save,” he lamented. “I pray that I don’t get sick because I can’t even afford health care.”

Benedicta Denedo, an accountant in an engineering company in Ikeja, benefits from health insurance offered by her employer. Denedo pays out of pocket for his mother who is battling diabetes and rheumatism.

She said: “The prices of all the medicine my mum is taking for her diabetes have almost doubled, and the cost of transport to hospital has also doubled, but my salary is still the same. It’s been hard for us, and I’m the only one my mom has to rely on.

“The sad thing about all of this is that the government is not even doing anything to help its citizens. I will not vote in 2023 because they are all the same. They make all the promises and after winning they never keep them.

Many households and businesses across the country have been treading water for decades – weighed down by stagnating incomes and rising prices. But the acceleration in inflation that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war has sparked a wave of frustration among Nigerians.

The country has suffered two recessions in the last six years, which have exacerbated the levels of poverty and unemployment in the country.

Also read: The cost of living crisis has a global toll

Average prices for major commodities in major cities across the country have jumped more than 200% since 2015, driving inflation to 17.71% in May.

Inflation in Africa’s largest economy has remained in double digits every year since hitting single digits in 2015, wiping out much of Nigeria’s middle class, according to SB Morgen.

Inflation rate accelerated from 9.01 in 2015 to 15.68% in 2016, 16.52% in 2017 but slowed down to 12.09% in 2018. It dropped further to 11.40% in 2019 but jumped to 15.75% in 2020 and 15.63% in 2021, according to a recent report by SB Morgen.

Insecurity has worsened in the country, with an increase in killings and kidnappings. Foreign investment plunged and the naira fell.

Nigerians have had to bear the brunt of a rotting economy. With companies groaning over rising production costs, which have worsened this year amid runaway inflation, rising diesel and energy costs.

Currently, more than 105 million Nigerians still live in extreme poverty, according to data from the Brookings Institute’s World Poverty Clock. The World Bank, in its latest report on Nigeria’s development, said accelerating inflation will push an additional 7 million people into poverty by the end of 2022.

The country’s unemployment and underemployment rate stood at 56.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, with 14 million jobless young people campaigning for a better life.

Its GDP per capita has been declining every year since 2016, a sign that the economy is unable to provide enough opportunities for its rapidly growing population.

GDP per capita decreased by 0.02%, 4.16% and 1.78% in 2015, 2016 and 2017 respectively. In 2018, 2019 and 2020, it decreased by 0.68%, 0.38% and 4.57%, according to the most recent data from the World Bank.