Why Nigerians are facing daily challenges of inflation, falling income, and rising insecurity

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Photo by AriseNews, used with permission

By Abdulrosheed Fadipe

Since the third quarter of 2023, millions of Nigerians have been in turmoil as they face unprecedented levels of inflation, currency devaluation and growing insecurity. The prices of goods and foods have soared astronomically. 

Naira, Nigeria's currency, keeps depreciating against the US dollar. As of Monday, February 13, 2023, a dollar is being traded for N1,500 (USD 0.93). This situation has pushed millions of its citizens into despair and drastically reduced the standard of living.

Immediately after assuming office in May 2023, Nigeria's President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, carried out some policy reforms. He removed the fuel subsidy in May 2023 and floated the naira against other global currencies. Economic experts believe that these reforms have contributed to inflation in the economy. Since then, the price of petrol has tripled across the country from less than N 200 (USD 0.12) per litre to about N 600 (USD 0.37) per litre. This has also led to a continuing rise in the general price of goods and services. 

Amid this inflationary pressure, incidents of mass abductions and kidnapping for ransom have been on the rise around the country. 

Last month, a group of kidnappers invaded Sagwari Estate, Abuja, in Bwari Area Council of the federal capital of Nigeria (FCT) and kidnapped 10 residents. Three of the abductees were killed when the ransom was not paid within the initial deadline. The remaining seven individuals were released after a ransom was paid.

In late January, gunmen suspected to be kidnappers, attempted to abduct the traditional rulers of three communities in Ekiti State. Two of the kings were killed while the king of Ara-Ekiti, Oba Adebayo Fatoba, escaped the attack. Also in January, five primary school pupils and three staff members of The Apostolic Faith Group of Schools, Emure-Ekiti were kidnapped in Emure-Ekiti in Ekiti State, Nigeria. They regained their freedom on Sunday, February 4. 

According to a news report by The International Centre for Investigative Reporting, over 380 people were kidnapped between December 1, 2023 and January 3, 2024.

Reacting to the issue on January 15, the director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Isah Sanusi, said, We are now facing an epidemic of kidnapping. People in Nigeria are now living on the knife edge.” He said there is widespread insecurity and chaos, exacerbated by routine kidnapping, “as armed groups tighten their stranglehold on the country,” and he called on the authorities to “immediately stem the tide of kidnapping.”

Sanusi said that many families do not report cases of kidnapping after paying ransom for fear of reprisals, and as a result, many incidents go undocumented, adding, “The current epidemic of kidnapping highlights the utter failure of the Nigerian authorities to effectively protect lives.”

Some angry citizens have staged protests over the rising costs and widespread insecurity in the country.

On January 17, members of the Middle-Belt Youth Forum in Abuja protested the rising cases of kidnapping in the federal capital and the insecurity that has ravaged parts of the country. A group of women and young people protested against hunger and the rising cost of living in Minna, Niger State, on February 5. On February 9, students of the Federal University of Technology, Akure, protested against the incessant robbery attacks ravaging the student community.

The day before, on February 8, the Nigerian Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress issued a 14-day nationwide strike notice to the government over the failure to implement the agreements reached on October 2, 2023, following the removal of the fuel subsidy. 

Responding in a WhatsApp conversation with Global Voices on Wednesday, Umasoye Igwe, a National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) member serving in Abuja, described how the situation has affected her daily life and work: The rising cost of living has really impacted my daily life, work, and relationship with loved ones. I am an NYSC intern at a company. I can’t afford to go to work every day because of the high transport fare. If I want to go to work daily, I would be spending over half of my income. I also can’t travel to see my family. I would have to think twice before embarking on a road trip because of the rising insecurity. This has made it difficult for me to see my family. The cost of food items is also expensive. This week, you buy a food item for N 1,500 (USD 0.93) at the market; by the following week, the price will have increased. I’m hopeful that things will get better.”

A teacher living in Ibadan, a southwest city in Nigeria, Wale Adekola, decried the frustration caused by the crisis. In an email interview, he expressed his dissatisfaction with the government’s response: “I will say personally that the rising cost of living in Nigeria has affected my healthy living goals as one has to increase commitments in order to multiply sources of income to be able to cater for oneself and one's parents, at least. This reality has reduced, if not eroded, rest schedules from my daily routine, thereby leading to some form of health deterioration. And speaking of insecurities, I avoid staying out late and also work more from home.”

To ease the hardship faced by Nigerians, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, on February 8, ordered the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to immediately release 42,000 metric tons of food items to the public. 

In his speech during Independence Day celebrations last year on October 1, President Tinubu urged Nigerians to endure the hardship caused by the subsidy removal, saying, “I wish today’s difficulties did not exist. But we must endure if we are to reach the good side of our future.”

As the economic and security situations worsen, Nigerians continue to question how much longer they are expected to endure until things get better.

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