Coping with Nigeria’s suffocating inflation

Nigerian residents still cope amid the country’s record inflation. ONYEKORMAKA ASABOR reveals some of their strategies

With no option of survival in the suffocating Nigerian market, low-income earners are beginning to adjust to the new normal market situation worsened daily by continuous inflation that is not giving any sign of abating.

The prevailing inflation since January has eroded purchasing power, forcing consumers to buy only items they can conveniently afford, and at worse, in some cases, forgoing such items.

For the sake of clarity, Nigeria’s yesrly inflation rate eased for the sixth straight month to 16.63 per cent in September, from 17.01 per cent in August. It was the lowest rate since January, largely due to a sustained moderation in food inflation since April (19.57 per cent vs 20.3 per cent in August) and despite the naira’s daily depreciation.

The yearly core inflation rate, which excludes the prices of agricultural produce, rose to 13.74 per cent in September from 13.41 per cent in the previous month. On a monthly basis, consumer goods prices increased by 1.15 per cent, following a 1.02 per cent rise in the previous month.


Lamentations over soaring prices

Financial Street, in its bid to analytically look into the situation, asked some respondents, who are invariably consumers, to name the most important financial problem facing their families, nearly half of them pointed to crazy energy bill, mainly electricity and cooking. They did not spare soaring prices of foodstuff. All culminating into high cost of living.

Most of the respondents were on low income; hence they lack the financial muscle to survive.

In the same vein, not a few of them complained of rising healthcare costs or the cost of owning or renting accommodation. Worst of all, cost of food increased by 19.57 per cent in September of 2021 against the price in the corresponding month the previous year.

In fact, never in the history of the country has inflation hit consumers so hard that experts in the World Bank, in June 2021, was compelled to assert that the high inflation rate caused by rise in prices of goods and services pushed seven million Nigerians down below the poverty line.

Some respondents said meagre income, high healthcare costs and/or the cost of owning or renting accommodation compelled them to adjust their purchasing behaviour by buying very essential items.

Inflation is not just one of those trends or a fancy terminologies in the news. It is real in Nigeria and it greatly affects people’s finances, particularly low-income earners.


Coping mechanism

On how the situation is being managed, Mike Ugbo, a factory supervisor, said, “The most economical way to beat inflation is for anyone to accept it and immediately begin to adjust to the new normal and make little changes.

According to him, one best strategy is to buy things in bulk at the early stage or when the price seems right, because the prices may go up even more. “So it is more prudent to buy only what one needs, to avoid waste.

He explained that the most economical way to manage one’s money during inflation is to track expenses. Even if expenses are not tracked at any other time (although one should), it is an approach that works best for surviving inflation. It is expedient to jot down items bought with the prices for each, then find areas and ways to cut costs. Also, it is wise to eliminate items that are not necessary and focus on the ones that are needed. To cut costs, it is prudent to forgo the items that can be substituted.

Mrs Alice Ajetumobi, a housewife based in Mowe, Ogun State, says since the inflationary rate became unbearable, she, in agreement with the other family members, re-strategised modus of shopping, as former necessities have become luxury.

She said, “It is not everything we buy now. We buy according to available cash.”

Ajetumobi is not alone in the adoption of the austere shopping strategy. Mr Bamidele Emmanuel, a driver, also shared the same sentiment. “I can’t kill myself. I buy what I can buy,” he said.

A finance expert, Lisa Smith, writes on that during high food prices, one of the ways to cope is to eat at home.

“Dining out is an expensive proposition. Many of the meals that you pay for in a formal restaurant can be made at home for a fraction of the price. Even good coffee is cheaper to make, if you do it yourself.

She added, “Fast food is excluded from the category. While high calorie, low quality food can be had at a bargained price. The impact on your long-term health overrides the benefit of short term savings.

“If you go to the grocery store and fill your cart with everything that catches your eye, you will spend more than if you had prepared a shopping list in advance.

“Plan your meals for the week ahead and make careful note of what ingredients you need to prepare those dishes. Once the list is made, purchase only the items on the list and avoid impulse buys.”

Martina Iwegbue explained that her husband’s “breakfast is daily packed in his cooler as he prepares to go to work.”

Just like Smith, she said the strategy was to prevent her husband avoid patronising restauranteurs in Victoria Island, Lagos, where he works.

Mr Abiodun Shonuga, a landlord in Pakuro, Ogun State, says, “Many people now have farms not too far from where they live. They are farming because it is a way of contributing to food and nutritional security and livelihoods.

His words, “Food production on small plots adjacent to human settlements is the oldest and most enduring form of cultivation. For ages, farming around homes has been a fundamental constituent of family farming and local food systems. Home farming is an olden and well-known practice all over the world.”

Kingsley Noyenum said his employer just introduced a cooperative society to the workers, to help workers beat the inflationary trend that is becoming worse by the day.

Buttressing his view, he said, “The decision to start the cooperative society is to make the workers, who will join the cooperative and operate it, to survive the market situation, m6⁶

He explained that the formation of a cooperative society, particularly the one that is to ensure that members, who are staff of the company, had best bargains, and be able to survive the hard times.

“If the cooperative is efficient and serves the needs of its members, it will prosper. In any cooperative, cooperation is an important principle. In most instances, being members of a local cooperative have actually helped many workers to survive in the midst of hardship,” he added.

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