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Counting the cost of a Greek gift

By Charles Kumolu
ISAIAH Danmaliki (not real name) works with one of the Federal Government parastatals in Lagos State. But for the recent increment of the national minimum wage he lived on a monthly salary of N18,000 before now.

Following the 2010 salary increase his whole activities in Lagos were now benchmarked on his new wage, which is now about N23,000 higher. Instructively, his monthly take home after tax is about N42,000. On a daily basis, the level three civil servant, whose office is located on Lagos Island, spends N600 and N400 on transportion and feeding respectively. Baring other unforseen expenses, the father of three, spends about N30,000 monthly on transportation and feeding at work.

This amount, however, did not include the money expended to run his family of four and his younger brother, who lives with him in his Abule Egba home. For Danmaliki, residing  in this outskirt where a room apartment goes for N3,000 monthly was borne out of the harsh reality, that houses within the city are  beyond his ability to pay. But the decision is also a challenge to him, as living far away from work implies that he usually pays more to work from his meagre income.

This combination of high cost of living and poor remuneration, has left the Kaduna State born civil servant without life savings, given that his take home can hardly be described as subsisting. With the recent removal of fuel subsidy and its multiplier effects, the forty three year old Secondary  School Certificate holder is contemplating quitting his job and moving back to his village.

*Labour coalition against the removal of fuel subidy by the government

He told Vanguard at a newspaper stand in Satellite Town, Lagos: “How can I cope with this, I am happy that you are a news man and you know the implications of what we are going through currently. I am just an ordinary level three civil servant, I have given you the breakdown of how I survive on what  the Federal Government pays me, if the general price hike does not go down, I will move my family back to the village.”

Nura’s story speaks volume about the fate of the average Nigerian, following the over hundred percent rise in cost of living as a result of the removal of subsidy on petroleum products. From the creeks of the Niger Delta to the savannah  regions of the North, prices of petroleum products and good and services have hit the rooftop. In fact since this announcement through a statement  by  the Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency, PPPRA, socio-economic activities  have witnessed high level of inflation.

Short term inflation

Although, the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, Governor, Lamido Sanusi had in December last year, said that the planned removal of fuel subsidy would not trigger high inflation rate in the country, events of the last six days have proved the apex bank governor  wrong. “If inflation remains at about 10.5 per cent and if subsidy is removed, we expect it to be at about 12.5 per cent, which is just an addition of two per cent,” Sanusi said at the third Bankers’ Committee retreat in Calabar.

He said the apex bank was aware of consequent inflation as a result of the removal of fuel subsidy, “but most of what is said is exaggerated,”adding that “inflation impact will be present in the short term, but over the long term the benefits of the removal will outweigh it.”

Whether the rate will be temporary or not, does not matter to Nigerians, who have been going through untold hardship accentuated by poor leadership and alleged  institutionalisation of corruption as government policy before the  January 1, 2011 removal of subsidy, Vanguard gathered.

Already, the  worst hit is the transport sector, where commuters and transporters are  experiencing hard times.

Most affected in this regard are commuters, especially those, who travelled for the Christmas break. As at the time of this report, millions of people who departed their cities of residence for their various villages to celebrate the Yuletide season, are stranded.

Activities yet to pick up in Lagos: This have led to availability of few people in most cities across the country. A drive round Lagos metropolis revealed that people are yet to come back from their festive trips. even those who had managed to come back rarely come out because of exorbitant fares.

The situation is unlike in the past when normal activities pick up in Nigeria’s economic hub from January 3 of every year. Similarly, reports from Abuja indicated that most civil servants and workers in federal ministries, departments and agencies are yet to resume at their duty posts. Most of them are reportedly stranded in their hometowns after the yuletide festivities owing to the prevailing hike in fares.

It has made nonsense of minimum wage: In like manner, further investigations indicated that prices of foodstuff have equally skyrocketted. A  bag  of  rice  now  goes for  N10,500 against the previous N7,000  and  N7, 500.

Other items like tomatoes have gone up with a big basket selling for N19,500 and N18,000 as against the former price of between N8,500 and N9,000. Prices of fruits like oranges, pineapples and banana have risen with a bag of oranges now selling for between N7,000 and N7,500 from the  previous N4,000 and N5,000.

A big bunch of banana now goes for N1,5000 and N2,0000 from the previous N700 and N1,000 while the price of water melon has increased from N400 to N600. Prices of frozen fish, and vegetable oil have also increased. The cost of frozen fish has increased with a medium sized fish selling between N300 and N450 as against N150 and N200, previously.

Regretting  this development, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Emeka Ngige said: “The destiny of Nigerians is on their hands. From what is happening, you don’t need a soothsayer to tell you that people might protest in the days ahead.

The situation is so bad that it is affecting everyone. As I am speaking to you, I experienced the ugly side of this subsidy removal today. When I got to the village, I wanted to buy tyre for my car before Christmas and was told that it was N18,000, I didn’t buy it then because I wanted to buy it after Christmas when I would be leaving the village, but surprisingly, when I went to buy it today, we discovered that the price is now N25,000.

So, you can see how bad it is. If they are claiming that subsidy removal would not bite hard because of the new minimum wage, that does not make sense. This policy has even made nonsense of the minimum wage.”

Imposition of death penalty

The position of  Ngige was also substantiated by Civil Society Organisations, CSOs, in Nigeria. Festus Okoye, Executive Director of Human Rights Monitor, noted the removal of  the subsidy on petroleum products, was described as insensitive, callous and a declaration of war of starvation on the Nigerian people.

Okoye said: “The decision has left thousands of Nigerians who travelled home for the Christmas and New Year holidays stranded in their hometowns and villages in different parts of the country. This is because most of them cannot afford the increase in rates being charged by motorists.

It has also left the Nigerian people despondent, afraid and nervous at what the future holds for them given the irresponsibility of the political elite and their penchant for aggravated mismanagement of the Nigerian economy.

“The decision of the President to remove the subsidy on Petroleum products can lead to generalized lawlessness and endanger democracy and a democratic Nigeria.

Government has been and continues to be insensitive to the plight of the ordinary people of Nigeria by asking citizens who have been groaning under increased and increasing hardship to make additional and back breaking sacrifices while government officials wallow in obscene opulence and are not called upon to make similar sacrifices in the form of reduction in their salaries, allowance and other perquisites of office.”

While stating the position of the CSOs on the issue, Okoye maintained that, “civil society groups and the Nigerian people will hold the President, his kitchen cabinet and the cabal around him personally responsible and accountable for the current deaths and destruction of properties across the country.

Civil society groups and organisations will join forces with all democratic forces to make sure that the imposition of the death penalty on the Nigerian people through the withdrawal of subsidy on petroleum products does not stand. We call on organised labour to take the lead and organise the Nigerian people to massively resist the current imposition of hardship and death on the Nigerian people.”

Reports across the states

Meanwhile, reports across the states, have shown that the multiplier effect of this policy, is bitting harder by the day. From Gambarou Ngala border town in Bornu State to Nembe creeks in Bayelsa State, the story is the same. Suffering  is the word.

Lagos: In Lagos, fares to most parts of the state were increased by over 100 per cent. Fare from Oshodi to Mile 2 was increased from N100 to N200 and N250. Same also is Oshodi to Ojota, which jerked from N100 to N200. Transportation between Ikeja and Yaba now costs N250 instead of the previous N120; Obalende to Oshodi which used to be N70 is now N200.

Ojodu to CMS is now N400 from N150. Commuters travelling to Abuja from Lagos now pay between N9,000 and N8,000. At the Mazamaza Bus terminal,  fare to Port Harcourt is now N7,000 from the previous price of N2,500. Many Lagosians are reportedly staying indoors due to the increasing transportation costs.

Ebonyi: Reports from Abakaliki and its environs revealed that most filling stations in Ebonyi State witnessed long queues, as they sold the product to motorists between N150 and N200. per litre. There were long queues in filling stations that sold the product at N150, while those that sold at N200 per litre recorded low patronage.

The situation had led to increase in transportation fares in the state, and made some travelers to be stranded. A journey from Abakaliki to Enugu, which cost N300, now cost N1, 000, while Abakaliki to Afikpo, which was formerly N250, now cost N900.

Bauchi: It was gathered that from Bauchi to Abuja now costs N2,500 from N1,300, while Bauchi to Jos is now between N800 to N1000 from the previous price of N500. Intra city transport, especially in Bauchi metropolis which is mainly by taxi, buses and Achaba (commercial motorcycles), the fares has increased to over 100 per cent.

Kano: In Kano, fares rose as okada riders  now charge a minimum of  N100 instead of N50, while transport from Bata to Gidan Murtala in a taxi now is N200 and Gwarzo to Kano is now N400 instead of the previous N200. Kano to Kaduna is now N2,000, Abuja is now 4,000.

Anambra: Apart from the NNPC mega stations that sold at N141 per litre, other independent marketers, including OANDO, Mobil, Texaco and Conoil sold at N145 and N150 per litre in Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Ihiala, Ekwulobia, Aguleri and other towns.

In all the major towns in Anambra State, fares have increased by 100 percent. Taxi drop from Awka to Enugu which used to cost N600 is now N1000, while Keke NAPEP has increased from N30 to N60 per drop within the town.

Plateau: In Plateau state, commuters travelling to Lagos from Jos now pay between N7,000 and N8,000 depending on the type of car they want to board. Jos to Kano is now between N1,500 and N2,000, up from N1,000. Jos to Yola is also now N3,000 from the previous fare of N2,200.

Also, Jos to Abuja now costs N1,500 from N1,000 and Jos to Bauchi is now N1,000 from the previous price of N500. For intra city transport, the widely used Okada now take a minimum of N50. The previous minimum was N30. Taxis plying the Jos to Bukuru axis now charge between N100 and N120 while the buses charge between N80 and N100.

Abuja: In the Federal Capital Territory, fare from Suleja to Abuja which hitherto ranged between N150 to N200, is now  between N300 and N350; Suleja to Zuba is now N150 from N50; Area one to Jabi is now N100 from N50; Apo bridge to Kabusa is now N200 from N100 and Berger to Jabi is now N100 from N50.

A bus ride from Area 1 in Garki to Berger, Arab and Jabi which used to cost N40 naira now costs N100 naira. A taxi drop from the Federal secretariat to Wuse which before now cost N200, now costs N400 or more, depending on the time of the day. Fares from Zuba to Lokoja, Okene and Edo now stands at N1,500, N1,700 and N3,000 respectively. These prices represent a double of the former fares.

At  Jabi Park in Abuja, cost of transport from Abuja to Kano is now N2, 500 as compared to N1,500. Abuja to Bauchi now costs N2,000 as against N1,150. A trip from Abuja to Lagos now cost N6, 500 as against N4, 400. At the Peace Mass Transit Park, a trip from Abuja to Aba which cost N1, 800 during the festivities now goes for N2,800. Abuja to Enugu is now N3,500 as against N2,500. The subsidy has reportedly reduced  the tempo of economic activities in the state.

Zamfara: The situation is not different Gusau. Gusau to Abuja which was previously N2,500 is now N3,000; Gusau to Kano is up to N1,500 from N1,000; Gusau to Kaduna is now N1,500 from N900 and Gusau to Jos is now N2,500 from N2,000. Passengers to Lagos from Gusau now have to pay N5,500 instead of N4,000 and N4,500 to Ibadan from the previous price of N3,500.

Bayelsa: In Bayelsa, taxi drivers now charge N600 against the former price of N400 between Yenagoa and Ogbia. Yenagoa to Sagbama which was N350 is now between N500 and N600 while Yenagoa to Port Harcourt is now N1,500 against the former price of between N800 and N1,000. Yenagoa to Lagos is now N3,500 from N2,200.

Fuel stations were not helping matters as some of them sell between N150 and N180 per litre. For commuters using riverine transportation, boat drivers now charge N2,000 and N2,500 from Yenagoa to Brass and Akassa against the old fare of N1,500 and N1,800. The southern Ijaw axis now goes for as much as between N3,000 and N3,500 against the former prices of N2,000 and N2,500.

Niger: The cost of travelling from Minna in Niger State to Kano is now N2,000 from N1,200. Minna to Abuja is now N1,500 from N1,000; Minna to Kaduna is now N2,000 from N1,200 and Minna to Lokoja is now N2,200 from N1,500. Minna to Jos is now N2,500 from N1,700 and Minna to Makurdi is now N2,500 from N1,500.

Kaduna: Bus fares have been increased from N50 to N100 in Kaduna. Taxi fare from Kaduna to Abuja is now N1500 as against N1000, Kaduna/Kano route N1200 as against N800 before the removal of the subsidy. Also, Kaduna to Sokoto now costs N3200 as against N2000 while Kaduna to Jos now goes for N2000 from N1,300.


Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.