Because of the economic recession, many Nigerians have lost their jobs, causing harsh ripple effects on the people. To survive, some families have adopted unusual measures, reports Omolara Akintoye
Hard times, they say, call for strange and deliberate solutions. It is a bit alarming to know some unusual and strange strategies Nigerians are now adopting to survive as the economic hardship continues to bite. Since the economic recession began, a lot of citizens have lost their jobs and this has left a harsh ripple effects on so many families as they now adopt unusual measures to survive.
Our investigation confirms that there are increased cases of petty stealing and robbery; cases of children withdrawn from schools because their parents or guardians can no longer afford the bills; cases of sick people seeking herbal remedies because they can’t afford medical bills, among other desperate measures. There are even stories of women now engaged in professional begging or in the extreme, offering sex to neighbours and strangers just for a meal.
Mr. Kola Adedire was a senior staff with one of the leading manufacturing companies in Lagos and was earning good salary for many years until June last year when he lost his job. All efforts he made to secure another job proved abortive and the meager income of his wife, who sells petty things in front of their rented two bedroom apartment, is not enough to sustain the family of five. Since last year’s October, when Adedire’s rent became due, he has been playing hide and seek with his landlord in order to buy time even as he made frantic effort to borrow money from friends and relatives to pay his rent. As at the end of the year, it became obvious to him that all his efforts to get financial help from relatives and friends proved abortive.
He therefore resolved to look for a one room apartment but was shocked to discover that the rent has sky rocketed so much that it has also become unaffordable to him. “With the way things are, I’ve already prepared my mind and told my family members that this year, 2017, we are going back to the village,” said Adedire.
The Godwins, they are being ejected from their three-bedroom apartment and because they couldn’t get money to get another apartment he lamented that he is squatting with his relatives. “As I speak to you, I, my wife and four children are squatting with my elder brother”, he lamented. For Mrs. Chinyere Ukachukwu, who lives in Amuwo-Odofin area and just delivered a baby, she narrated how she had to register in an Herbal home in order to save cost. ‘It is sad to note that although the money I was asked to pay in government hospital was not much, I don’t even have the money so I had to register in a herbal home where you pay little or nothing but mind you, you are at the mercy of those people because God forbid, if anything happens to you,” she said. “I just thank God there was no complication all through my period of pregnancy and delivery”, said Mrs. Ukachukwu.
In the case of Mrs. Odinakachukwu Ali who hails from Ebonyi State, she was caught by Ebonyi State Police while attempting to sell off her three children whose ages range between 8 months and 6 years. The reason for this according to her was because she could no longer take care of these children single-handedly. “I did not have problem with my husband when he abandoned us since April. I started doing menial jobs to enable me take care of my children. I kept doing this till it became so difficult for me to continue and I decided to return to the village”, she said. Mrs. Odinakachukwu revealed that she did not want to sell her children because she passed through Caesarean Session (C/S) before giving birth to all of them. “But life is hard”, she lamented.
There is also the case of a housewife who has been offering sex to her next door neighbour as collateral for food to feed her children. These are some of the weird things that people do now just to survive
In a related development, a popular businesswoman in Shomolu Local Government Area of Lagos, Olubunmi Uko, recently walked out of her home with her last child (Seun) after leaving behind a suicide note. Oku, according to Mrs. Alake Idris,(her neighbour) had complained to a relative that her business had gone bad as a result of the exchange rate and that her debt had risen beyond redemption. She reportedly woke up her other children and informed them that she was going to visit someone and as at the time of this publication, Mrs. Uko is still missing.
Idris also told The Nation about another case in Osun State that shows the depth of hunger in the land. According to her, it all began when a woman went to her neighbour and asked for money to buy some food items for her children and the neighbour said she doesn’t have. While the woman was cooking, she went inside to get seasoning, but when she came out, she found that her pot was gone. She went to knock at the doors of her neighbours in search of the pot of food but nobody, including the woman that asked for some money from her, owned up. But after some time, she saw the woman’s children coming out with food and asked, ‘So how did you get the food?’ It was then that the woman owned up that she took the food so that she and her children won’t die, adding, “For two days, we have not had anything to eat; I won’t watch my children starve to death.”
Reports have also shown that there is a growing army of dependants in Nigeria. People who used to work are no longer working; maybe they have been laid off from their places of employment. So, there is a growing army of dependants. As a result, begging is also on the increase. According to Mr. Steve Uko, a businessman in Lagos, “Crime rate has increased, from petty crimes to pick pocketing, to stealing of foods and to hard crimes like robbery. The rate of crime has increased and we saw this clearly across the states we visited recently. We also heard of cases of missing pots of soup, especially those who live in communal kitchens. You come out; your pot of soup is gone,” he said.
Another evidence of the economic hardship is job losses, a development that has led to emergency taxi drivers now seen all over town. “So, someone has a car but in order to buy fuel and put some little extra cash in his pocket, he takes his car out for taxi. Now, if you just park your car somewhere, someone comes out and they have printed papers and medical papers to show you. Begging has become a profession,” said Mr. Abiodun Ajayi, an airport taxi driver in Lagos. Ajayi, who also takes passengers to neighbouring states, said “in addition to begging, there has also been an increase in crime. According to him, there is hardly any state we visited which did not have increased number of beggars, including Abuja.
Other Nigerians who shared their experiences also said they are cutting down on unnecessary household expenses and luxury items.
“What that means is that they are cutting out those little ice creams, suya, pepper soup and those little extras that Nigerians used to delight themselves in. Everyone, at least those we spoke to, are now focusing on the basics: food to eat and clothing as last resort.
“We also have those who told us that they have adjusted their family feeding pattern. So, in the past some families that used to have three square meals now have either a meal or two in a day,” he said.
We also learnt that many families now survive by creating alternative sources of income, especially by making use of their talents, while others who were buying expensive foreign products now purchase locally-manufactured products.
Many families are also increasingly engaging in subsistence agriculture, like planting of vegetables in their backyard to sustain living. There are also those who said they have cut down on their transport expenses by resorting to trekking; so Nigerians are now trekking a little more to be able to cover up transport expenses as a result of the hike in transport costs.
“Prior to now, people who could ask for money were those that are jobless, but now, even those that I well respect and look up to, the economy has created a little twist and they are now calling, asking for favour,” a respondent said.
The very tough situation has been captured by recent result of some sets of surveys conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics. The bureau assessed the perceptions of Nigerians regarding their current personal economic situation and coping strategies to manage the economic situation over the past few months. It revealed that about two-thirds of Nigerians (66 percent) have been lamenting the worsening state of their personal economic situation in the past few months. Ninety-seven percent of the respondents acknowledged that these recent economic realities have had a negative effect on the general wellbeing of the average Nigerian.
It added that “Buhari’s government has come out to reassure hope but it is practically difficult to sell the hope story to the citizens, who have now taken their survival in their own hands as against the optimism with which the president was massively voted for early last year. Despite repeated slogan about job creation by the current administration and its efforts geared towards salvaging the ailing economy, Nigeria’s federal government could not tame unemployment that accelerated to 13.3 percent in the second quarter of 2016. Youth unemployment was recorded at 24 percent. National unemployment rate rose to 13.3 percent as against 12.1 in Q1 2016, 10.4 percent in Q4 2015 from 9.9 percent in Q3 2015 and from 8.2 percent in Q2 2015.These tough conditions are now pushing people into daring things that were hardly heard of before now just to keep afloat.”
Mr. Olalekan Shobande, an educationist and a social commentator, in an interview, proffers the following as steps with which people can fight recession. Reduce Ponzi (a fraudulent investment operation where the operator, an individual or organisation, pays returns) schemes advocates and referrals. According to him, people’s inordinate desire to amass wealth at all cost will make them an easy prey such as the crashed MMM in which Nigerians are counting their losses. He warned Nigerians to desist from such. He also enjoined Nigerians to take the following precautionary measures: “Sieve information as many will try to prey on your money, adjust expenses to below income levels and save for rainy days.”
On the part of government, the business analyst said government can curb recession by “reducing tax and rebates, expanding recreation opportunities, reducing dollar dominance of our economy, enforcing laws and protecting businesses and entrepreneurs. He also calls for infrastructural development, job creation drive, among others.