A vast majority of Nigerians are celebrating the 2023 Christmas wearing forlorn faces.
No thanks to the economic crisis bedevilling the nation at the moment, which has forced the majority of the citizens to celebrate Christmas on low-key.
Our correspondence gathered that apart from the price of essential commodities which have continued to soar since fuel subsidy was removed in May 2023, many Nigerians are unable to travel home to celebrate the yuletide with their loved ones due to an unprecedented hike in transportation fare.
Another factor causing many families to lose the cheers and joys of the season is the cash crunch that recently resurfaced across the country.
Price of food items
Cost of food and other household items has continued to skyrocket since the fuel subsidy was removed in May this year.
The surge took a turn for the worst in December following the preparation for Christmas and New Year celebrations.
A survey by DAILY POST over the weekend revealed that the price of food stuff, including rice, chicken goat and other items have tripled in the market.
A bag of local rice that was hitherto sold at N44,000 is now sold in parts of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, as high as N61,000 depending on the brand.
A jerry can of 25 litres of vegetable oil that used to cost N30,000 is now over 45,000 Naira.
Prior to the current economic situation, Nigerian households, particularly the Christians, usually purchased goats and chicken to spice up the celebration. Only a few people afford to buy cows.
But the 2023 Christmas season has maintained a holistic departure from the previous years’ due to the soaring prices of items.
A goat seller, Mr Danjuma Danladi told DAILY POST in Abuja on Saturday that a single goat costs about N70,000 and above depending on the size.
According to him, the cost of transportation was one of the factors responsible for the hike in price of goats.
“Last year, we sold goats for as low as N25,000 but you cannot see that anywhere again.
“Goats are very expensive in the market. By the time you buy it a little cheaper from the villages in the neighbouring states and you transport them to Abuja, the price automatically goes up. And of course, every trader wants to have some gains.
“Sometimes the amount we spend in bringing these goats to Abuja is higher than the price we bought it. It’s all because of the fuel issue.
“Since I started this business in 2015, this is the worst year for me. People are not buying, when they come and you tell them the price, many of them turn back and opt for chicken”, he lamented.
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Hike in transportation fare
Although President Bola Tinubu approved a 50 per cent discount for inter-state road travel, effective from December 21 to January 4, 2024, several travellers were stranded in many parks following the exorbitant charges by transport companies.
The Federal Government has said it established a deal with at least five transport companies including GIG (God is Good), Chisco Transport, Young Shall Grow, God Bless Ezenwata and Area Motor for the price cut.
Eaglesforesight also observed that many motorists who stormed the GIG and Young Shall Grow motors in Abuja were stranded as there were no adequate buses to convey them to their destinations.
Inquired if the promise by the president has been implemented, a staff of GIG told our correspondence in Utako, Abuja on condition of anonymity that the company started the implementation on Friday.
According to him, a trip of N50,000 has been slashed to N25,000. He, however, said passengers are usually asked to pay the full fare and expect their 50 percent refund later.
“What we do is that when a passenger pays, we ask them to drop their account number, we will refund the 50 percent of the amount paid after 24 hours”, he said.
One of the travellers, who identified herself simply as Chiamaka, and who was stranded at the GIG park, told our correspondent that she was unable to secure a ticket for her trip.
“I don’t know how they are doing this thing. Even before we came here, many of us tried booking but it was not working. Coming here again they are saying they no longer have tickets for us going to Imo.
“I have decided to just send the goods to my people. Only the bag of rice and the oil, they are charging me N7,000. I don’t have a choice than to pay”, she said.
The Eaglesforesight gathered that in most transport companies, Abuja to Enugu State as of Saturday cost about 25,000 and above depending on the company and whether it is AC or non AC bus.
A motorist, Mr Adole Mathias, who was travelling to Benue State, lamented the hike in transportation fare, alleging that the transport companies were exorbitantly charging passengers without reason.
“Before now, we used to have fuel scarcity in every Christmas season which was the reason for the hike in transportation fare but now the price of fuel has been stable. So why am I paying double of what I paid to go to Benue just last month?
“Most times, the government is not our problem. We are the problem of ourselves. There is no justification for this hike. They just want to suck everything out of our pockets.
“Benue is not far from Abuja but as it is now, N20,000 may not take me to my village”, he lamented.
Further enquiries by our correspondence showed that flight tickets were even more exorbitant.
It was observed that a one-way flight from either Abuja or Lagos to any part of the East was pegged at far above N200,000.
Speaking on the matter, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera told DAILY POST that the agency is monitoring the companies against excessive price hikes.
He, however, regretted that the commission lacked the capacity to impose prices on any company, saying the country operates a free market.
He said, “We have seen this for so many years when prices of transportation go up.
“What we do is to monitor it as much as we can. Nigeria does not have price control. It happened only during the military regime.
“The country switched to democracy and adopted a free market, so the government doesn’t impose prices”.