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Protests on cost of living

By Afolabi Aribigbola

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Nigeria has been noted to house a huge population of poverty-stricken people generally and the pathetic situation is not abating but escalating with more and more people becoming impoverish due to recent government tendencies and policies. Recent records revealed that over 160 million Nigerians out of a population of about 220 million are critically poor. This was why the country is pejoratively referred to as the world poverty capital to describe the humongous poverty level in the country.

 Amidst the unprecedented escalating poverty level in the country, cost of living has also continued to rise rapidly to the extent that many Nigerians can no longer feed themselves and their families and hence the new slogan “EbiNpawa’, as people begin to protest the harsh economic conditions resulting in very high cost of living. The slogan “ebinpawa,”  a Yoruba word meaning we are hungry was coined to pass on the message to the ruling class especially President Bola Tinubu that the times are hard so that he could know the pathetic situation of common Nigerians.

The essence is to call on him to intervene to save the poor from extermination. This serious high cost of living problem result from the  government tendencies, policy action and directives that embrace sudden executive fiat  removing petroleum subsidy and unfettered floating of the national currency that has seriously devalued the currency against all other international curries. Unsurprising these actions of the federal government resulted in unprecedented increases in the cost of essential commodities in the country particularly staple food that keep the poor alive.

Consequently, majority of Nigerians especially the poorest of the poor segment of the population of the country have been facing serious hardship resulting in their ability to feed themselves and their families. This in turn motivated and forced the people into the streets to protest the dangerous dimension of the high cost of living in the country. The cost of living protests that started in Minna and Ilorin some two weeks back were extended to Ibadan last week and currently is taking place in Lagos, the economic capital of Nigeria.

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 Yesterday, many other states joined the train of protesters on the very unprecedented hard times in the country. Of course, this unwholesome development  has been giving many serious minded Nigerians worry as to how the situation of Nigeria, a once prosperous nation  degenerated to a level where it could no longer feed her people thereby subjecting them to untold hardship and suffering. Also, how did the country descend to a situation where it could not feed itself amidst the abundant vast resources bequeathed on her by God. This fear or concern has been heightened by the two-day nationwide protest by the Nigerian Labour Congress, the umbrella labour organization comprising of all unions in the country.

The fear is also hinged on the results of past peaceful protests that were highjacked by hoodlums and other criminal minded people to loot and cause havoc. You will recollect that the 1989 Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, protest embarked upon to protest economic problem especially of unemployment among the youths t was highjacked by hoodlum to visit on the country with a lot of destruction. Similar highjack of the 1993 protest took place in the county with its unpalatable destructive outcome. The problem of inability of Nigeria unable to feed itself is a culmination of several factors that include the abandonment of farms by farmers in pursuit of office work in the past. This was aggravated by the serious security emanating from the nefarious activities of herders, bandits, kidnappers that drove the remaining farmers from the farms. Other factors include corruption especially by priviledged Nigerians including bankers stealing and diverting the scarce foreign exchange of the country.

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Lately the unplanned and not well thought removal of petroleum subsidy and floating of the naira caused serious inflation that the people could no longer afford the prices of staple food and other essential commodities that make for good living. The consequence is people now trouping to the streets to protest high cost of living in the country. Unfortunately, while the Federal government led by President Bola Tinubu was making serious spirited efforts and policy action to assuage the debilitating or precarious situation of Nigerians, at the state government level not much is happening to assist the people. Most states have yet to pay the wage awards to their workers while some paid only a fraction leaving some out.

Yet, they have all enjoyed increases in their monthly allocations resulting from increasing revenue.  Most States Governors seem unconcerned and are not doing enough to attend to the cost-of-living crisis to support the people. Instead, most are busy committing the increase in their allocations from the federation account to frivolous mundane things. Suffice to say that despite the glaring serious hardship facing the people, the interest of some of them is how to continue to be relevant in the politics of Nigeria rather than focusing on mitigating measures to cushion the effects of the economic crisis pervading in the country on their people.

In response the prevailing economic crisis and the cost of living protests, the Federal Government in a statement opined that the present administration is solidly committed to doing everything in its power to mitigate the pains in the county as a consequence of the reforms designed for economic recovery of the country.  It is not enough to begin to issue statements defending the government, what the country needs at this crucial time is concrete policies and actions to eliminate the suffering of the people.  The solution Nigerians want at this critical period to avoid death through hunger is to work out how food and essential commodities can be made available to the suffering masses.

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The truth on ground is that majority of Nigerians are passing through serious crisis occasioned by high cost of food.

Thus, the  Yoruba adage that “ti ebi ba ti kuro ninu ise ise buse” becomes apt this period when some segments of the Nigerian population are calling on the President Bola Tinubu to give them food, they are hungry. Indeed, this call is a testimony to the precarious situation majority of Nigerians are facing. Of course, it will be a disservice to Nigerians and posterity if the leadership of the country failed to recognise that the times are really hard and provide succour by making food available to the hungry population. Also, since all Nigerians contributed in one way or the other to the present cost of living crisis, we should join hands to address the problem. The farmers that abandoned their farms need to go back to the farm while the issue of insecurity need to be addressed more decisively.

The President should not only rely on his advisers who may reveal the real situation must look for ways to connect with the poor masses of the country. Those responsible for the falling naira for their selfish economic gain need to be dealt with and what they have been illegally acquired retrieved from them. Indeed, the cost of living crisis is real and it has the potency to spread further unless the President rise up to the occasion to address the problem before it get out of hand

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