By Genevieve Aningo
It’s a day after December 25th, a day set aside to celebrate Christmas among Christian believers. Christmas for Christians reminds them of the birth of their Saviour –Jesus Christ. In Nigeria, the Christian faith is a predominant religion thus even those that are not Christians can be pressured to be in the festive mood. Regardless, for us in Nigeria, aside from the usual public holiday that was pegged with this year’s merriment, most Nigerians would testify that Christmas is on strike.
The hyper inflationary cost of living has chased Christmas away. Hence, instead of the usual spending, pleasure and sharing that comes with the celebration; Nigerians just have to pretend that there is Christmas in order not to be left in the global Calendar that slated this occasion.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s inflation rose to 21.47% in the month of November from 21.09% recorded in October 2022. Since this year the inflation index has kept a steady growth. As at January 2022, Nigeria entered the New Year with a 15.6% inflation index but in just less than 12 months, the figures have jumped. This outrageous inflation has been attributed by NBS to soaring food prices, disruption in food supply chain, and rise in import cost due to the currency depreciation and increase in the cost of production. In the same month of November in order to curb inflation, the Central Bank of Nigeria increased the Monetary Policy rate to 16.5%, unveiled new Naira notes designs and restricted withdrawal amounts yet inflation still gains momentum.
Inflation has ultimately affected every Consumer Price Index (CPI) component; that is goods and services consumed by people for day-to-day living. Prices of food, non-alcoholic beverages, transportation, housing, water, electricity, clothing and every other need have increased. For instance a 50Kg bag of standard rice now sells between N30, 000 to N40, 000. A loaf of a standard bread cost between N800-N1200. Sweetened beverage drinks such as coke, fanta, sprite etc also have had their own share of the inflation surge by selling at retail price N200 as against N100 previously.
Thus, in this face of a burning economy, Christmas may not dwell in Nigeria. What is a Christmas occasion without having enough food and drink to merry and share? Recall that the NBS reported that 133 million Nigerians are multi-dimensionally poor in 2022; this population represented 63 percent of the population. This statistics also exceeded the World Bank projection of poverty in 2022, WB had earlier forecasted in the first Q of 2022 that a number of 95.1 million Nigeria would plummet into multi-dimensional poverty.
In the midst of this penury fragrance, its most probably many families may not be able to celebrate the festive as status quo. As well, companies may not be able to give their employees Christmas packages in kinds as before. Employees should be ready to bid farewell to the rites of receiving 50kg bags of rice, 25 liters of oils and other cooking condiments for the season. Things are no longer as they ought to be. A blind observer can even spot that the usual Christmas decorations that usually litter malls, shops and companies during the yuletide have reduced. The decorations are scanty shadows of how things used to be previously. The Christmas season used to be a herald of street parties among residents but we can no longer spot any posters inviting members to come and eat. In fact, in Lagos state, the scene of the roads cannot even accommodate any decorations. The roads are either deplorable or undergoing road constructions, worsening gridlock. The streets of Lagos used to be filled with many roadside sellers retailing fashion apparels, fairly used electronics, home appliances etc. The scene could make a crowd even in residential crannies but now the streets are no longer busy. The cost of importing goods is nearly impossible for the average business person.
In this festive mood, Nigerians are still bemoaning the new Naira notes that are yet to fully circulate as promised by the CBN from December 15th. They have a target to deposit the denominations of the redesigned Naira in the bank before January 2023. The issue of fuel scarcity is still lingering despite the promise by the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources; Timipre Sylvia to ensure the availability of the resource to Nigerians. The third largest producer of crude oil in Africa as accredited by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on November 14th also decries fuel scarcity for consumption.
In the presence of this cribbing economy, Nigerians are gearing up to match the polling units in February 2023 to create a new political history. Hence, with these tortuous escapades and deadlines, we wonder if there is truly Christmas for Nigerians to celebrate because based on evidence; Christmas is definitely on strike in Nigeria.