December 24, 2023

Cashless Christmas: Nigerians groan amid naira scarcity, high cost of living

Cashless Christmas: Nigerians groan amid naira scarcity, high cost of living

Scarcity of the naira notes, astronomic increases in transport fares and food items, among others, have made it extremely difficult for many Nigerians to travel for Christmas.

By Nnamdi Ojiego, Fumi Ajumobi, Gabriel Ewepu & Ezra Ukanwa

It is another Christmas, a season of celebrations and merriment, a period when people take extended vacations to unwind and take a deserved rest.

It is also a time people travel to be with their loved ones. For some Nigerians, it is more than celebrations. It is a period of homecoming.

Many Nigerians are used to travelling home every end of the year for Christmas and New Year celebrations. The Yuletide provides people with the opportunity to unite with their families and loved ones.

However, the scarcity of the naira notes, astronomic increases in transport fares and food items, among others, have made it extremely difficult for many people to travel during this period.

The high cost of living and other economic issues have combined to worsen the current situation.  

Many people are hungry and cannot afford the basic things of life like food, clothing, etc. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor out of over 200 million citizens.


Gloomy situation ahead of Christmas

  Removal of fuel subsidy and devaluation of the naira are at the core of the biting economic hardship.

Lack of job opportunities and high inflation has also taken a toll on household’s welfare and price increases have pushed more Nigerians into poverty.

Recall that President Bola Tinubu, during his inauguration on May 29, removed payment of subsidy on Premium Motor Spirit, PMS, otherwise known as petrol, thereby hiking the price from N185 to N620 per litre.  

A trip to ever-busy motor parks and markets in major cities like Lagos and Abuja tells the actual mood of the people.

 Low patronage  

  Traders at various markets are lamenting low patronage. At the main Kuje Market, Abuja, two traders, who spoke to our correspondent, blamed the removal of fuel subsidy as the major cause for low patronage and high cost of food items.

One of the traders, who identified herself as Mummy Ade, and sells rice, beans, and major cooking items, said: “I’m just a year old in this market. My fellow marketers and I have been complaining that people are not really buying much because of the prices now.

“Everything you see now in my shop has added price, I am not selling them at the same price I was selling earlier this year and even last month.

“This is due to the increase in the price of fuel. These things we buy are transported from one place to the other, so we do not expect that the price will not reflect on the food items we are buying.

“It is really affecting us negatively. Assuming customers were buying these things at a cheaper rate, people would have been buying more. The only thing I will beg of President Tinubu is to bring down the price of fuel.

“If there is no increase in fuel price, everything won’t go up like this because I believe that fuel for Nigeria is like water, and without it, we cannot survive”.

The second trader, Jude Eze, also blamed the high cost of food items on the removal of fuel subsidy and appealed to the President to address the situation.  

Eze said, “Last year was better than this year. Things were cheaper last year because there was subsidy on petrol.

“But this year, take for example my 25 litres of King’s vegetable oil, as of November, I bought it at the rate of N35, 000 and I was selling it at N36, 000.

But it is currently at N38, 500, which then means I will sell it at N39, 000 or N40, 000.

“Things are costly, we are not making profit. As a result, people are leaving the country because the pressure and harsh economic conditions of Nigeria are becoming unbearable.

“If I were to directly talk to Tinubu, I would ask him to reverse the removal of fuel subsidy and crash the prices of food items. That’s the only way he can show that he cares for the poor masses.”  

Economic hardship

 The scenario is the same across major markets. In Lagos, major markets like Oyingbo and Mile12 recorded low turnouts of traders. The reason is not far-fetched: Economic hardship. 

For instance, a bag of 50kg long grains of rice costs N65, 000 while a bag of short grains is sold for N50, 000.

  A basket of tomatoes is sold at between N18,000 and N20,000 while a bag of onions is selling between N110,000 and N120,000.

“How many Nigerians do you think can afford a bag of rice at this period when the minimum wage is N30,000 and salaries are owed in many states?”, Jacinta, who sells foodstuff in Ejigbo, Lagos, said.

“The economy is bad and nothing is working. It’s unfortunate that this government only knows how to visit hardship on the people”.  

At Mile12 International Market, Mrs Bukola Osagie, a wholesaler of Rice, beans, and groundnut said as of December 2022, a trailer of Nigerian rice with 600 bags was sold for N14.400 million at 24,000 a bag.

She said it is now N52,000 per bag, implying that anyone buying to sell would have to look for N31,200,000   to buy a trailer of rice. This is more than 100 percent increase within a year.

Further checks showed that a bag of foreign rice in 2022 was between N30,000 and N32,000, depending on the grain.

A bag of beans in 2022 was between N60,000 and N75,000 depending on the size of the bag. It now goes for between N90,000 and N120,000.

25 litres of vegetable oil that was selling at N21,000 and N22,000 in 2022, now sells at N38,000.

A ball of watermelon sells for as high as N2000 and N4000 depending on the size.   

A packet of spaghetti that was N220 now sells for N750.

Cartons of noodles now sell between N5600 and N6,000 while a carton of tomato paste is N5,500.

High fares

 Transporters are not happy with the gloomy situation. They voiced their frustration when asked to compare this year with previous years. For example, as of Friday, a journey from Lagos to Onitsha costs between N30, 000 and N35,000 depending on the brand of the bus and the transport company.  

“This is supposed to be a boom time but we are not seeing many people travelling”, said Owelle, a Sienna bus driver plying Lagos-Owerri route. “But you can see what’s happening here, this place used to boom by this time. As you can see, everywhere is somehow dry, not many people are travelling and it’s not good for us.”


Unlike last year when insecurity topped the reasons why many people did not travel, the reverse is the case this year. The security situation in the country has relatively improved. Those who spoke to our correspondents stressed that insecurity was not a deterring factor but economic hardship.  

Favour, who prided himself as a regular traveller, said he would not be travelling this yuletide because of the high cost of living in Nigeria. “The only thing preventing me from going to my village during this yuletide is the high cost of transportation. Things are hard. When things get better, I will travel home,”he stated.  

Christmas plans amidst scarcity of Naira

The cash shortages currently being experienced in the country have made life even more difficult for the people. According to the United Nations, the informal sector feels the brunt of the scarcity the most.  

Ordinary Nigerians cannot withdraw cash for food, transportation and health care. As of Friday, most ATM points in Lagos State were not dispensing cash. Those who attempted to withdraw from banks’ counters could only get a maximum of N10,000 per withdrawal. This has inflicted pain on ordinary Nigerians and added to their present economic woes.  

Presidential intervention  

Meanwhile, President Bola Tinubu is not resting on his oars. To cushion the effects of the high cost of transportation, the President, on Wednesday, approved a price rebate of 50 per cent in land transportation fares for the Nigerians travelling between December 21 and January 4, 2024 across the country. He also approved zero fares for train transportation in all the states of the federation within the same period.  

The Federal Government followed it up on Thursday by announcing five motor transport companies to be involved in the agreement for the 50 per cent fare cut and the 28 routes covered.

The five transport companies are GIG (God is Good), Chisco Transport, Young Shall Grow, God Bless Ezenwata and Area Motor.

The 28 routes to enjoy the 50 percent fare subsidy include Lagos-Kano, Lagos-Abuja, Lagos-Kaduna-Zaria, Lagos-Jos, Lagos-Enugu, Lagos-Onitsha, Lagos-Owerri, Lagos-Aba, Lagos-Abakaliki, Lagos-Nsukka, Lagos-Uyo, Lagos-Port Harcourt, Onitsha-Kano and Onitsha-Lagos.

Others include Onitsha-Jos, Onitsha-Abuja, Onitsha-Sokoto, Onitsha-Gombe, Onitsha-Zakibiam, Port Harcourt-Owerri-Aba-Kano, Aba-Owerri-Abuja, Aba-Lagos, Abuja-Sokoto, Abuja-Lagos, Abuja-Onitsha-Owerri-Port Harcourt, Abuja-Enugu/Abakaliki, Abuja-Gombe and Abuja-Kano.

  However, a nonprofit organisation, One Love Foundation, OLF, yesterday, urged President Tinubu to urgently intervene and address cash scarcity.

  Founder and President, OLF, Chief Patrick Eholor, told Sunday Vanguard that the scarcity of cash has taken a toll on Nigerians as many are being ripped off by operators of Point of Sale, PoS.

Eholor said people are paying N800 as charges for N10, 000 cash withdrawals via PoS, saying the fees are not affordable.

He said: “The Federal Government should take a decisive action on this scarcity of cash Nigerians are experiencing. PoS operators are also saying they withdraw less cash from the banks.

Tinubu needs to promptly address the root causes of cash scarcity and implement effective measures. The intervention is crucial not only for alleviating immediate challenges but also for fostering a robust and inclusive financial system.”

Vanguard News

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