Things are hard. As grim as that may sound, it actually captures our current reality in Nigeria. Things are really hard. And nothing quite prepared us for this hardship.
In the past few months since the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a global lockdown, the Nigerian economy which was hitherto standing on shaky feet quite literally took a nosedive. And the resultant effect of that nosedive has been anything but pleasing. So yeah, things are reeeeally hard.
If you were planning (and saving) to buy a car in February, chances are you can’t even afford a tyre right now. Why? You’ve probably lost your job or had your salary slashed by 80 percent.
Okay, let’s say none of that is the case, and you’re one of the very lucky ones who actually still have their jobs and full salaries, the truth is your salary is literally worth much less than it was a few months ago, no thanks to the naira devaluation; N359 to $1 in January, now N485 to $1 in August 2020!
Asides the devaluation, the government had also earlier this year increased VAT from 5% to 7.5%. A 2.5 percent increase may not seem like a lot. I mean, a lot of us did shrug it off like “what’s our own?” But a few months down the line, we’ve seen how much of ‘our own’ it truly is.
The VAT increase coupled with the devaluation has had more far-reaching effects than many of us could have anticipated. And no one is spared – not individuals and definitely not businesses.
With uncertainty looming on the horizon and an alarming hike in operational costs, businesses are faced with the choice to either close-up shop or make some not-so-pleasant adjustments. A lot of them are choosing the latter – and you can’t blame them, we are all doing what we can to survive.
These adjustments for the most part come in the form of cost-cutting (layoffs, furloughs, office closures, etc) and price increment on the products and services offered by the businesses.
The price of literally everything you can think of has gone up. Everything! From food to clothes to transportation. A mudu of garri has gone from N150 to N300. Fuel pump price went from N123.5 to N143.5 overnight. Ikorodu to Costain by BRT used to be N250, now you have to pay double that amount for the same trip.
The social scene also took a hit, and we are all still reeling from the effect. The lockdown meant that weddings, concerts, owambes, and all such other events where we would normally turn to let down our hair and forget the stress of adulting for a while, no matter how short, were put on hold.
A lot of us turned to Netflix, DStv, StarTimes and any other form of at-home entertainment that we could think of to stay sane. But even those are currently under threat as their operational costs go up and the economy hits them. StarTimes recently increased its subscription prices by an average of 22%, and won’t be shocking if DStv follows suit soon enough. There’s really no winning for anyone in a tough economy.
While the shutdown has no doubt been a difficult reality for partygoers to adapt to, it’s not as difficult as it is for the people whose livelihoods depend on these events and activities.
The event planners, designers, tailors, stylists, makeup artists, entertainers, caterers, and all other vendors – most of these people haven’t booked a job since the pandemic began. And with the lockdown gradually easing up, what would have been a respite at long last, is looking like the direct opposite. The cost of running a business has more than doubled since we locked shop to begin observing the mandatory lockdown in March.
The pandemic undoubtedly left a lot of businesses around the world shook and messed with a lot of people’s bags. Now, without clear government interventions, palliatives, or support for businesses, plus Nigeria’s already tough operating environment and unfavorable regulatory policies, the effects of the pandemic on businesses – both big and small, have gotten even worse.
Just last week, news got out that South African grocery retailer Shoprite was exiting Nigeria after 15 years, and they won’t be the first international company to pack up and leave the country.
Just a few months ago, Mr Price did the same. Local companies are also not spared. We all know someone who has lost their job in the past couple of months because their workplace was downsizing.
Things are really hard, and from all indications, it’s going to be that way for a long while. Here’s hoping we all pull through.