By Edu Abade
Since the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu-led government removed fuel subsidy on petroleum products, most Nigerians, particularly the poor, vulnerable, low and medium income earners have adopted several strategies to survive the new level of hard times foisted on them when Tinubu assumed office on May 29, 2023.
Of special interest are housewives of poor Nigerians, who can neither afford firewood, sawdust, kerosene, nor buy gas (at its current high price) to feed their cooking needs. Even in the rural areas, where dry wood used to be sourced from the forests or bushes, they now resort to sourcing their energy needs by scavenging building sites for pieces of leftover woods for cooking their meals.
This is due mainly to depletion to desertification and scarcity of woods, which also has been adversely affected by furniture makers and merchants of charcoal for export to Europe and other developing countries of the world.
To make matters worse, rice, a major staple food item in most homes has gone out of the reach of most households, as a 50kg bag of the essential item now costs between N48,000 and N50,000 and N52,000 to N58,000 per bag depending on the brand. As such, most Nigerians can ill-afford to buy half bag of full bag of rice as they used to do, even before the locust years of former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Lamenting the current developments in the nation’s economy, a journalist (Sub-Editor) with a first-tier national daily, Davidson Ezikefe, who earns about N100,000 monthly, lamented that he had made up his mind to resign from his job when the management of the publishing outfit (faced by the realisation of losing the millions of revenue being generated from advert placements) decided to adopt a work-from-home policy.
In his words: “When the management realised that employees who were supposed to report for essential duties on a daily basis started failing to report for work due mainly to the unmanageable transport fares, they knew the time was up and if proactive measures were not taken, the newspaper will soon start disappearing from the newsstands.
“They, therefore, acquired laptops for all sub-editors and graphic artists, whose responsibility it is to deliver the newspaper to the press on a daily basis. Management also made it mandatory for us to work from home three days in a week and report to the office on Mondays and Wednesdays. Reporters, correspondents and other categories of staff were also made to report to the office based on exigencies.
“Since then, we have been delivering the paper every day without hitches, which is why I regret that the management should have adopted this policy during the COVID-19 days during which our salaries were cut by over 50 percent, in spite of being made to report daily to the office under very excruciating circumstances and the risk of our lives.
“If not that the management resolved to make us work remotely, what would have happened is that one would have resigned and left the highly demanding but poorly paid job. After all one could take risk and survive outside frustrating jobs just like some other colleagues had done earlier,” he said.
If the experience of the journalist above could be described as “mild” compared to what other Nigerians are going through in the aftermath of the fuel subsidy removal regime, other Nigerians now suffer untold hardships due to the energy crisis.
Jerome Ezeife, who lives in Ikorodu and works on Victoria Island, Lagos with a total take home pay of N97,000, explained that when the fuel subsidy removal took effect and transport fares more than doubled, he did not need to be reminded to re-strategise.
In his words: “When this fuel thing started, I managed it for the first two weeks as usual, but when I realised that I could end up spending all my salary on transport, I resorted to sleeping in the office from Mondays to Fridays and go to my house on weekends. Only then would I be able to have money to settle other bills from my salary, which is not even enough in the first place.
“This is the first time I will stay away from my young family five days in a week and spend only weekends with my wife and two kids. That’s the only way to survive our new level of the hard times we have suffered in the last eight years of the Buhari government.
“One would have thought that a new government under a supposed democrat would usher in a fresh breath of air, but as we have seen since May this year, the reverse has been the case in our present circumstances,” he stated.
Also, a civil servant, Benson Imonijabo, who works at the Lagos liaison office of one of the South-South states, explained that he could no longer afford the fare from Ikotun-Igando to Victoria Island every day, and as such he decided to squat in a small corner at the office from Mondays to Fridays and only returns home at the weekends.
“I discussed it with members of my immediate family and since they know my meagre salary of less than N70,000 per month and a daily fare of about N3,000, which would surpass my monthly salary, they were comfortable with the arrangement, as long as I assured them of my safety, while the situation lasts.
“Desperate times demand desperate measures and so that is where we are currently in the country. So, let’s keep hope alive and believe that things will improve, while we pray and hope that the government will initiate policies and programmes that will ultimately lift Nigerians out of the socio-economic and political quagmire they have found themselves in over the years,” he stated.