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Opinions of Monday, 16 November 2020


President Buhari is killing Nigerians with rising food prices

President Muhammadu Buhari President Muhammadu Buhari

The rising costs of foodstuff across Nigeria is sufficient reason for the Muhammadu Buhari administration to be labelled a monumental failure.

These days, it’s difficult to know what to expect when you venture into the grocery store or the neighborhood, local market.

Commodity prices have been on an upward trajectory for months on end and it doesn’t look like this government has got a clue on how to get Nigerians out of this mess.

It also doesn’t look like Buhari and his team are even remotely interested in stabilizing an economy that continues to asphyxiate everyone by the day.

I’ll begin with onions which has now gone beyond the reach of the average Nigerian. Four tiny pieces of miserable-looking onions, which cost N50 in October, now go for N200. As a consequence, I have now taken onions off my culinary basket.

The Suya chap on my street has also taken onions off his seasoning list.

A carton of noodles now goes for N2,800 from N2,200 just a couple of weeks ago. Bread prices have also gone up. Same for rice, which we were told would be different once we closed our land borders to imports. I have since given up on beef and other meaty stuff--I can no longer afford them. There's never been a better time to go vegan.

Nigeria's Consumer Price Index (CPI) which measures inflation, now stands at 14.23% in October 2020, the highest in over two years.

Food inflation has risen to 17.38% and core inflation has risen to 11.14%.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), “the composite food index rose by 16.00% in August 2020 compared to 15.48% in July 2020.”

The rise in the food index was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, potatoes, yam and other tubers, meat, fish, fruits, oils and fats and vegetables, the NBS stated further.

According to a recent survey of retail prices, the prices of foodstuff in the market have increased by 100 percent.

While there is very little to say about the hikes in the prices of petrol and electricity because both sectors have been deregulated, a steady spike in the prices of goods and foodstuff has everything to do with some of the policies of the Buhari administration.

The closure of land borders in August for example, led to the spike in price of rice. Rice prices continue to rise as you read this.

Nigeria is yet to attain food sufficiency, even though this government would want you to believe otherwise. In shutting land borders and implementing a protectionist policy, the Buhari administration allowed inflation to gallop and spiral out of control because demand for basic goods soon outstripped supply.

Nigeria hasn’t empowered or equipped its farmers enough to drive the nation toward self sufficiency in food and staples. And that’s the truth.

Worse, salaries and wages have stayed the same as prices have spiralled out of control.

This administration’s COVID-19 palliatives and economic stimulus measures like the N2.3 trillion Economic Sustainability Plan (ESP) have failed to rejig the economy, increase purchasing power, steamroll small and medium businesses and get people back to work, thanks in large part to poor implementation and the dearth of a workable strategy.

What can be done? President Buhari has to listen to his economic advisory council which he inaugurated with so much fanfare in 2019.

This administration should also do away with its increasingly protectionist and insular bent; while implementing quality and standard measures to ensure that Nigeria doesn’t become a dumping ground in the West African sub-region.

Clearly, the government’s economic stimulus packages haven’t moved the needle on the economy because of cronyism, nepotism and corruption. It may just be time to take a closer look at the personnel charged with disbursing these monies to businesses who desperately need them.

The government has to create an enabling environment for businesses and the private sector to thrive by granting tax holidays/reliefs to small and medium businesses, invest significantly in road networks, stop over-taxing the citizenry, improve the state of access roads to farms and processing factories, improve electricity supply to homes and businesses, grant loans to businesses without stringent conditions and cut down on public procurement bureaucracy.

There also has to be a concerted, strategic approach to diversifying the economy from crude oil and ramping up local production in vital sectors.

Nigerians are dying from inflation and poverty right now and the Buhari administration has got to move quicker.