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Households adopt extreme coping measures as hunger spreads

by Maryam Olaniyi
Traders

Several Nigerian households are feeling the brunt of the current economic hardship that has ravaged the country in recent times.

Many of them who spoke to our correspondents said they have devised cost-cutting measures and changed feeding patterns to survive the hardship.

Nigeria’s annual inflation rate climbed further to a near 28-year high of 29.9 per cent in January 2024, up from 28.9 per cent in December and above market forecasts of 29.5 per cent.

Food prices are at an all-time high, with a bag of long-grain rice hitting N77,000.

Protests have also erupted in Kano, Ondo, Niger, and in other parts of the country, and on social media, asking the President, Bola Tinubu, to do something decisive about the situation fast.

Skipping meals

In Nasarawa, residents have lamented the increasing prices of food stuffs which had forced them to start skipping meals to survive the economic hardship meted on Nigerians.

A resident of Lafia Local Government Area of the state, Ibrahim Angibi, told our correspondent that the method of skipping meals had to be adopted at his residence because his monthly salary would no longer be enough to cater to his family’s needs.

Angibi, while explaining that the economic crunch had also negatively affected the petty trading of his wife, appealed to the federal and state governments to urgently intervene in the matter by regulating the prices of commodities in markets.

He said, “Salaries have not been increased but the prices of everything in the market keep increasing every day. This kind of situation can make people go into depression because it is unbearable. In my house, we had to start skipping meals to remain alive.”

Another resident of the state, Hannatu Musa, said the patronage for her business had been low in the past weeks because of the dwindling prices of commodities.

“This is the first time in many months that I hardly make good sales after staying in my shop for the entire day. I cannot blame my customers for the low patronage because I also know that there is inflation because of the recent exchange rates palaver.”

Cash transfer

Meanwhile, in a bid to proffer solutions to the yearnings of the people, Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Sule has flagged off the second phase of the Conditional Cash Transfer programme where 6,000 residents would be receiving N7,000 as monthly stipends for the next 24 months.

Sule, while flagging off the exercise tagged, ‘Kudin A A Sule’ in Lafia, said it was to improve the standard of living of the widows, the aged, and the orphans among other less privileged ones in the state.

He explained that his administration decided to increase the money from N5,000 to N7,000 in the second phase of the programme due to the present economic situation and reality in the country.

Hunger strike in Benue

A middle-aged woman, who gave her name only as Tina and claimed to be a Level 14 officer in a federal government parastatal in Makurdi, said she and her two kids can no longer afford to eat more than once in a day.

She said, “I have two kids. One is in secondary school. The other is in primary school. Both of them attend private schools. I struggle to pay their school fees now because the fees have been increased. To feed is even a problem.

“My salary does not have value again. I have abandoned my car and I am planning to leave the two-bedroom apartment I am staying in a one-room self-contained apartment. The government needs to come to our aid.”

One of our correspondents who spoke to other residents in Makurdi, the capital city of Benue State, noted that many families now live from hand to mouth.

For instance, a fashion designer at the Wadata Market, who gave his name only as Daniel Peters, said the present economic reality has taken a toll on his family.

Peters, who has five children, said his family only eats once a day and takes snacks at night or simply drinks water before bed.

“If you take a look at me now, you will think I am sick. I am not. I have not eaten. I intentionally starve myself till 6 pm so I will be able to eat once and for all and take it to bed. The hardship now is something else,” he lamented.

For a 32-year-old motorcyclist, who simply identified himself as Terna Akudi, surviving the hard times now is by the grace of God.

Terna who has two children said that despite the petty trading his wife does, he wakes up every day thinking of how to provide for his family.

“How much do I make from okada business that my family will afford three square meals daily for me, my two kids, and my wife?” he queried.

Bauchi residents lament

Nigerians in Bauchi State are increasingly lamenting how hunger occasioned by the current economic hardship in the country has forced them to change lifestyles.

A young father, Mr Umar Yunusa, said the current economic hardship has affected how he managed his life and family, adding that he only ate once every day.

Another resident, Auwal Gital, on his part, who resides at Isah Yuguda Guest House in Bauchi said to manage his ten dependents, he has to make his soups watery and stop meat intake.

“We only eat once a day now and we don’t eat meat at all. We only eat fish occasionally. Beans and awara are the only proteins affordable to me now,” he said.

Cooking gas abandoned

As the economic hardship continues to bite harder in the country, residents in Jos, Plateau state said they have abandoned cooking gas and have resorted to firewood.

A civil servant, Benita Yakubu, said the rise in the price of cooking gas from N900 to N1300 per kg had made her abandon the product for firewood thereby making life more difficult for her and her family.

She said “We have been complaining of high cost food and other things in the market. Now, even if you struggle and get the food, to cook the food has become another problem because of the price of cooking gas which has gone up so high that we can no longer afford it.”

Another resident, Mrs Agnes Gyang, who lives in the Tudun Wada community in the state said firewood is now a highly prized commodity in the area.

“The way people are scavenging for firewood, you will know that something is wrong. Even as people are walking on the road, some are doing so to see if they could find anything like firewood on their way to enable them to boil even water to make eba to eat their soups,” she said.

No more meat

Following the high cost of food items, many people in Zamfara state cannot afford three square meals per day, while several others have said they no longer include meat or fish in their meals.

A resident of the Samaru area in Gusau town, Mohammed Idris told Sunday PUNCH that he no longer eats meat or fish as a result of their high costs.

He also said that his family now eats only once a day for the past three months.

Survival hard

In Kano, the escalating cost of food items, coupled with the current economic crisis in the country has compelled many residents of the ancient city, especially the less privileged, to stop buying meat and fish for use in their food.

A cross-section of the residents explained that following the high cost of living, they have stopped being selective as to what to eat but are concerned about what will come their way.

One of the residents who simply gave his name as Auwal said he could not recall when last he ate meat or fish in his meal since after the removal of fuel subsidy by the President, Bola Tinubu.

Kaduna, Rivers, Kwara

In Kaduna, a resident at the NBTE Quarters around Post Office Road, Sabon-Tasha in the Chikun Local Government Area of the state, Kara Bawa, said her family had forgotten when they ate either meat or fish as part of their nutrition.

She said rather they now eat sweet potatoes twice every day because it was cheaper than yam, rice, or beans, whose prices have skyrocketed in recent times.

Some families in Port Harcourt and its environs now resort to buying ponmo (cow skin) instead of meat to survive.

Also, our correspondent learnt that many buy cheaper dried fish, shunning the bigger and more expensive ones.

Also, some buy low-grade rice, filled with stones which take a lot of time to pick because of the cost of high-quality rice which costs around N80,000 in the state.

In Kwara, The residents now feed on yam and cassava peel as well as use soya bean cake (beske) as a protein supplement in their daily meals in Kwara state to beat the high cost of foodstuff.

They also re-grind cassava left-over (koko garri).

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