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Christmas: Nigerians plan low-key celebration, shelve travelling

By Maria Famakinwa

Christmas season, each year, remains the period for never-ending seasonal foods and free drinks. It no doubt brings with it a strip of parties, gatherings, end of the year functions and family events. For most people, Christmas is a period to be with friends and family members who reside in villages across the country, even as some use the opportunity to attend weddings and funerals scheduled to hold in their home towns and villages.

However, few days to the much awaited Christmas, several families who spoke with The Hope stated that life has become tougher for them as a result of the economic hardship in the country occasioned by the rising inflation,  following the removal of subsidy on petrol. They said that this year’s Yuletide celebration would be low-keyed, adding that they might not make the usual trips to their hometowns as a result of the high cost of transportation and rising inflation.

A salary earner, Mr Kadiri Alao, lamented that this year’s Christmas  in his family would be on a lower-key because his salary has not been regular since the introduction of fuel subsidy removal, which he disclosed led to the sack of his colleagues. The man who added that he was more concerned about how to pay his children school fees next year also revealed that he had cancelled his earlier plan to travel to his village for the celebration.

His words: “The only thing I am happy about regarding this year’s Christmas is that I didn’t lose any of my family members despite the tough economic situation we went through. At a point, I thought I would not make it to December because things were very hard for me and my family but God proved Himself and we scales through. This year’s Christmas will be the only one I will not travel home to see my aged parents but it is to show appreciation to God for life and eat whatever I am able to afford, with focus on how to pay my children school fees next year. I pray that the coming year will be far better than this year.”

A civil servant, Mr Jaye Oladiran, said that he had already been appealing to his family members that this year’s Christmas would not be as earlier planned.” Though I assured them of eating rice and chicken, it will be within my income. Christmas is expected to be fun but the hike in prices of foodstuffs and other essentials has robbed the celebration of its usual fun.

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“As we speak, most families will not be able to afford rice for Christmas because it is very expensive. Not only rice, yams, beans, vegetable oil and others things that make Christmas special are beyond the reach of the common man. This is not the best way to celebrate Christmas. I have told my family that we will just stay indoors, eat what we can afford, pray and appreciate God for the gift of life,” he said.

According to a teacher, Mrs Taye Olukale, this year’s Christmas would be remembered for a long time as one she could not afford to share gifts with friends and family members. The woman also said that she would  not be able to travel to her village with her family for celebration due to increase in transportation. While revealing that traveling to Kogi State with her four children and husband would gulp close to N100, 000. She  added that she decided to shelve it and send money to her parents instead.

Her words: “My parents and my husband’s parents live in the same village which makes it a yearly ritual for us to celebrate Christmas with them, but it will not be possible this year because of hike in transportation and insecurity. When I told my mother in-law that we would not be coming this year for Christmas,  she was not happy but was pacified because of the increase rate of kidnapping along the road. My mother also supported the idea that our safety must be prioritised as she reminded me of some people kidnapped along the same road who are yet to be released, despite paying ransom.”

The woman who lamented rising standard of living observed that many households would not be able to afford rice this yuletide, due to the increase in price which she blamed on the economic hardship bedeviling the country.

She said: “The situation has further been worsened as Inflation continues to devastate not a few Nigerians, particularly the poor who constitute the majority and who are now settling for cheaper products and services, as they try to deal with their declining purchasing power.

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“In fact, not quite long after the declaration “Subsidy Is Gone”, was made, the cost of transportation literarily developed wings and flew beyond the affordability of the masses hence not a few people now struggle to move from one destination to another. A peep into the last few months revealed that the rise in fares has become problematic for the people. How can people who hardly feed think of traveling for celebration? There is  no doubt that insecurity and poverty are taking the shine off Christmas, which is the more reason the Federal Government should put modality in place to ameliorate the suffering of the poor.”

An Akure based businessman, Mr China Benerd, revealed that the increase in fares to most cities in the eastern part of the country has compelled him to be reconsidering his earlier intention to travel. He said: “I am yet to decide whether I will be traveling alone or with my wife and children, which will depend on how much money I would be able to make before Christmas.

“In the eastern part of the country where I came from, it has become a culture for us to go home with our wives and children during Christmas to wine and dine with families in the village, but as things are, I might change my plan unless my sales improve. I remember that by this time last year, I had bought almost all that I needed to travel with, but now, there is  nothing yet. The removal of fuel subsidy really affected my business. See how dry every where is few days to Christmas. My traveling to the village depends on how much sales I make. If there is, no improvement, I will have to postpone it because you must be fully prepared before traveling with your family to the village for Christmas.

“I told my wife and children that we have to accept things the way they come. We are faced with unbearable rising costs of things in the market. I won’t lie to you, we are now adopting a new lifestyle. Things are no longer the way they used to be. This is no longer the time to buy new clothes for children to wear at Christmas, for parents who cannot afford it.  It is not the time to share gifts with friends and family members because the means are not there.

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Rather, the priority now is to cut costs, in order to meet other pressing needs that comes with a new year because survival in the first month of the year, is always challenging. Some of my friends with whom we are planning to travel for Christmas are also not sure. Some are considering the money involved, while others are lamenting about insecurity on our roads which is always on the rise during festive season. Nigerians are facing many challenges and we need the government to act fast,” he pleaded.

Sharing a similar view, a trader, Mrs Omotayo Babawande, explained that she is looking beyond Christmas which according to her comes a day but focusing on how to pay her children’s school fees and house rent next year.

“My husband told me that payment of our children’s school fees should be the most important thing and I think it is sensible enough. I am a Christian but I will celebrate Christmas with what I have. If it is fish I can afford, I will cook it with joy. Next year, I will be paying school fees and other essentials needs which I must start to plan for now.

“You can see that prices of foodstuffs are increasing on a daily basis and I cannot borrow to celebrate Christmas that comes a day. My initial plan was to travel this year to my village, but the situation of things proved otherwise. So I have to adjust. Even my brother who earlier had it in mind to travel with his family for yuletide  changed his mind when he heard that a family friend who was kidnapped three months ago was yet to be released after ransom was paid. The only option is for one to travel by air, but how many people can afford it? Living condition and insecurity are robbing Christmas of its glamour and fun. We are appealing to the Federal Government to urgently look into this,” she lamented.

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