THIS, again, is a terrible time for Nigerians. Nigerians across the country are complaining about soaring food prices as food inflation figures worsen. From 19.50% in May, the figures rose to 20.60% in June. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the composite food index rose to 20.60% in June 2022 on an annual basis, even though the rate of change in the average price level declined by 1.23% from compared to 21.83. % in June 2021. In a report titled “Consumer Price Index May 2022”, the BES said that the rate of change in food prices compared to the same period last year was higher due to increased food price volatility caused by COVID-19. It is no surprise that according to the annual Hanke Misery Index, Nigerians were more miserable in 2021 than they were in 2020. According to the report which analyzed 156 countries by calculating their poverty rates unemployment, inflation, prevailing lending rates and GDP growth, Nigeria has moved from 15th among the most miserable countries in the world rankings in 2020 to 11th in 2021.
The Federal Government has of course stuck to the narrative that it is working hard to lift Nigerians out of the quagmire of discouragement. This week again, the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs. Sadiya Umar Farouq, reiterated her unwavering commitment to the successful implementation of the Buhari administration’s social investment programs aimed at exiting 100 million Nigerians vulnerable out of poverty by 2030. In a statement released by her media assistant, Nneka Anibeze, the minister would not be deterred “by hardened critics who will stop at nothing” to derail the noble agendas . in the country is getting worse. With high inflation rates, staggering unemployment figures and massive debts, the country is going through one of the worst times in its history. As we have noted in previous editorials, while the current situation is linked to the COVID-19 pandemic and the Russian-Ukrainian war, the country had not weathered well even before these crises. In 2018, it was declared the poverty capital of the world, undermining the federal government’s regime of bad policies.
Currently, prices of goods and services have skyrocketed and the naira is plummeting as households sink further into the poverty trap due to low purchasing power. The number of Nigerians who cannot afford to save for future investments and even for projects such as building houses and buying automobiles is huge: the little savings that households manage to make is sooner or later spent on everyday life. In fact, fintechs, many of which operate outside the confines of the law, have taken advantage of the current economic situation to scam Nigerians with loans at odd interest rates and crude collection methods. The number of Nigerians borrowing from these fintech companies just to meet existential needs like food is staggering. Be that as it may, in the public sector as in the private sector, we owe workers months of salary arrears and living decently has become a mirage.
While the current minimum wage rate of 30,000 naira can hardly cover the cost of transporting workers on its own, it is a fact that many state governments across the country do not even pay anything close to it. So it is misery writ large for vast populations of Nigerians. Ridiculously enough, minimum wage isn’t even enough to buy a bag of rice. Again, it is evident that with little or no profits, high production costs and massive debts, businesses collapse, with the ugly corollaries of job losses, limited tax options for the government and growing security risks. Unemployment, with the factors of weak social infrastructure, insecurity, high cost of doing business and scarcity of foreign investment fueled in part by President Muhammadu Buhari’s de-marketing of Nigerians and poor business environment in Nigeria, is a threat to the existence of the country’s businesses. Furthermore, the misery of Nigerians has been aggravated by the fuel crisis and the weak currency: the CFA is now stronger than the Naira. This is indeed a terrible situation.
There is no reason to continue the regime of pervasive insecurity and non-existent social services dressed in a veneer of government complacency for infrastructure development. Statistical bodies such as the World Bank insist that millions of Nigerians are falling into poverty every day because they are unable to make ends meet or secure a reasonable living. This should lead the government to first apprehend the current precarious situation of many Nigerians and shoulder the responsibility and the task of working to improve the situation. Sadly, it would appear that the government does not appreciate the dire circumstances that many Nigerians have found themselves in due to the inhospitable living environment they find themselves in, and this is a recipe for crises and social upheaval. . We hope the government will recognize this and act on the urgency of the situation, so that Nigerians can be assured of improvements. We have not been persuaded to abandon our view that to solve the country’s economic problem there must be production. In this regard, it is certain that if the country gets good electricity and boosts manufacturing, things will change drastically.
According to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG), a private sector-led think tank and policy advocacy platform, the biggest missing variable that has limited Nigeria’s performance over the years is determined leadership. The NESG took this position following its National Economic Dialogue held in Abuja in May this year. He said: “Since politics is superior to economics as it provides the process or ecosystem that produces the type of leaders to govern the country, Nigeria’s lack of strong leadership with the ability to understand its problems and solving them is his biggest problem.” We endorse this submission and urge the Buhari administration to strive and make a difference even if it is winding down. Giving up is not an option.