By: Emmanuel Utibe.
Since the dawn of 2023, students and non-students alike have been made to face financial realities that were erstwhile non-existent in , say, 2021.
For instance, if we were told that having money and having cash could practically translate to different things, we would have disregarded it as some technical play on semantics. However, recent financial policies have given logical coherence, even to tautologies.
In UI, specifically, this translated to less spending, less sales, and more trekking. As documented by Indy press in another story, the situation – at some point – seemed to suggest amelioration, especially after the CBN pumped cash back into the economy, to offset the scarcity induced by the cash redesign policy.
However, despite the relative availability of cash, the die seemed to have been cast. The policy seems to have destroyed the economic scaffold that kept the cost of living within a reasonable threshold. Inflation – it would seem –is the new Mayor, in the town of Nigeria’s economic Catastrophe.
What are the Data and Theories are saying
According to recent data on inflation released by the National Bureau of statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s national inflation rate for the month of march climbed to 22.04%. This represents a 13.4 point increase compared to 21.91% it was at just in February. On the one hand, food inflation was 24.45% in March 2023 from the 24.35% in February 2023. Urban inflation – on the other hand – was 23.07% and rural inflation was 21.09%.
The NBS also suggested that this increase in the food index was driven by increases in prices of oil and fat, bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, fruits, meat, vegetables and spirits.
On a year on year basis, the headline inflation rate was 6.13% points higher compared to the rate recorded in March 2022 which was 15.92%. On a month on month basis, the all-items index in march 2023 was 1.86%, which was 0.15% points higher than the rate recorded in February 2023(1.71%). By implication, the average general price level was 0.15 percent higher relative to February 2023.
These statistics represent the shockwave from the cash crunch that Nigerians have experienced since the beginning of the year. It should be noted that high inflation rates are known to add inefficiencies in the market and make it difficult for companies to budget/plan long term. It also discourages investment and savings because of the falling value of money and even encourages hoarding particularly of nonperishable commodities leading to scarcity of such.
Overall, if the inflation rate keeps on a high, the current mumble from certain corners about the risk of the Nigerian economy slipping into another inflation would gain more authority and validity.
How has Inflation Affected UI Students
Speaking to some UI students to get a picture of what these numbers translate to, Michael, a student of Mathematics from Indy hall, noted that prices have been tilting towards the high side lately. He said that before, around February, Rice and Beans were tagged at N1000 and N600 per Congo respectively. He stated that as recently as last week, it was hard to get the same quantity of rice for N1200; beans on the other hand now went for N800. He also added that the prices of things he gets Inside school , like a Dettol soap, have gone up.
Precious, another student from Idia Hall in the department of Medicine and surgery, also noted a considerable increase in prices in a short frame of time. She said that pepper which she bought – just weeks ago – for N300 and which would suffice for a week’s worth pot of stew now reads up to N500. She also spoke on how she previously was able to get 4 big pieces of plantain from outside school for N300 as against the 5 little pieces that now go for N500.
Temi, a resident of the Queen Idia Hall, opines slightly different. According to her, price increases have been majorly a thing with food, especially seasonal food. Temi believes that only Perishable food items have had any significant increase in price. She further opined that items like cereals, bread, spaghetti and other packaged food commodities have not experienced much of a price change over the months.
Indy Press Correspondent, on a tour of Bodija Market, noted that prices of things like a Cup of grinded Egusi, Periwinkle, Ugu, Palm oil, Garri, Tomato, Pepper and even Sugar have increased over the months. Also, stuff like yam and potatoes , Rice and Beans have truly risen in their prices.
Speaking to some traders, some hinted at an even more intense increase in prices. According to the most of them, they’ve had to settle at selling for the current price despite the considerable increase in cost at the wholesale end. They argued enforcing the new costs suddenly wouldn’t translate to good turnovers on sale. Eventually they would be compelled to increase the prices in the attempt to balance profit and turnover.
In summary, students have had to live with the reality of a devalued currency. Just as it is outside the campus, the reality points to an economy where we hold more and have less.