For many Nigerians, the Christmas season is a time to be merry, a period to give, share love and receive the same. This is usually expressed through gifting of valuable items to friends, loved ones, colleagues among others.
At this period, the aroma of the varieties of dishes coupled with the scent of seasoned meat is a major feature of the kitchen.
However, the Christmas celebration for the year 2020 seems bleak. Many Nigerians are lamenting the high cost of food items, forcing them to buy little for a huge amount.
SaharaReporters spoke with some traders and other Nigerians about the situation.
Grace Onyebuchi, who deals in foodstuffs such as rice and beans alongside her husband seemed downcast when she was approached by our correspondent. Her store, which is usually packed with customers during Christmas, was deserted except for the display of the wares.
When Onyebuchi was asked for the price of a tin of rice, she muttered an amount and her husband screamed from behind, “If you don’t know the cost of the market, ask me! Did we buy it at that amount?”
Onyebuchi, whose entrepreneurial spirit had been downplayed, moved to one side of the store, leaving her husband to attend to customers.
She later told SaharaReporters that the low sales turnout had discouraged business owners. For her, this year’s Christmas is not like previous ones.
“Let me be sincere with you, people are not really coming out to buy foodstuffs like they did in previous years. And I won’t blame them, it’s just that there is no money out there, so what will they use to buy? The few that come out to buy food items are buying little. We are only getting customers now because people must eat.”
She, however, said the cost of food items had even reduced unlike how it was during the lockdown occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic. “The prices of rice and some other food items are still better now unlike during the lockdown but you can’t compare the situation to what we experienced around previous Christmas seasons. How much was a bag of rice last Christmas?”
Another businessman, Joshua Fashola, who sells frozen foods couldn’t hide his anger, bellowing: “Na person wey get money dey buy plenty things for Christmas (It is somehow who is rich that can buy lots of things for Christmas).”
According to him, people are not really buying chicken and turkey that are commonly purchased during Christmas because of the state of the economy in Nigeria.
“People are struggling and you know, we are really worried and scared of what might possibly happen in January. What if things get more expensive?” he said.
Joshua said though the cost of frozen foods keeps increasing, money is not being pumped into the economy at the same rate. “There’s no money in circulation, so people can’t really spend like they used to. A pack of turkey that I bought for N12, 000 just two days ago now costs N14, 500. Imagine the cost now, within how many days, and this will likely affect the sales price.”
He said as a Christian who would also be celebrating Christmas, he would only manage his resources so as to survive in 2021.
The situation was the same for Elizabeth Onimen. Her head was delicately placed on the plank behind a heap of yams. At first glance, she appeared to be taking a nap, but on a closer look, it became obvious that Elizabeth was exhausted and discouraged by the low sales of the day.
According to her, Christmas Eve has always been her best sales day for the year but this year, the situation was different.
“Today is the 24th, just a day to Christmas and my wares are still this much,” she lamented.
“I restocked yesterday and I’m supposed to have sold all my wares. In the past, I’d have gone to restock this morning but I still have lots of wares.”
She blamed worsening insecurity in the country for the hike in the cost of food items. “If only the government could tackle the issue of insecurity, especially the ones targeted at farmers, things would be better. They are killing farmers so many of them are scared to go to their farms. If it were in previous years, you would have seen trucks coming in from the North with yams and potatoes in large numbers but things are really bad this year.”
She pleaded with the government to tackle banditry and kidnapping in the North so that food items would become more affordable.
Just like it is traders, it is for teachers. James Eneche, a teacher, had a worried frown on his face when asked how he would be celebrating this year’s Christmas with his family.
“Things have really not been the same. This period of the year used to be the most cherished every year. But that was when things were affordable. With the situation of things in the country, my meagre salary can barely feed my family. I only hope that things improve come 2021,” he said.
Several Nigerians have also taken to Twitter to comment on the situation of things.
A Twitter user whose handle is @Akortainment wrote: “Christmas didn’t come this year. We just dey force am (We are only forcing it).”
Christmas didn’t come this year. We just dey force am
— Attah of Nigeriað³ð¬ (@Akortainment) December 24, 2020
In the same vein, another Twitter user, @Footsoldier_1, wrote: “Its December 24 and I still cannot afford to buy feathers, let alone a whole chicken. My account balance has been in the Intensive Care Unit receiving treatment.”
Similarly, singer, Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz, using his Twitter handle, @falzthebahdguy, wrote: “This Christmas is somehow.”
Replying to what Falz wrote, @AmandaM14393356 (Amanda Martins) wrote, “Yes. It’s the worst I have ever experienced. No hope for food sef. Please God, let my 2021 be better than 2020. Compliments of the season, Sir.”
Also, @UncleBiodun wrote: “Everything is just like normal thing. I don’t think this year Jesus birthday go sweet o (I don’t think this Christmas will be great).”
Similarly, @FLOwithFLORA wrote: “We’re in the middle of a pandemic so obviously this Christmas will be somehow, guys. We’ve been through a lot this year as a country and as individuals; it’s bound to be somehow.”
Likewise, @ChefUchy wrote: “This Christmas really dey somehow. Na garri person go drink tomorrow be that ooo (This is Christmas is different. It looks like it is garri I will take tomorrow). Nothing (is) sure.”
SaharaReporters, New York