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Hardship in the land

There is no gainsaying that these, indeed, are not the best of times for Nigerians. With the spiraling rate of inflation and the fangs and pangs of economic hardship Nigerians are exposed to today, there is an urgent need to check this trend before the situation completely gets out of hand.
As the nation’s revenue continues to dwindle due to fall in the cost of crude oil, many Nigerians are going through a lot of harrowing experiences as never before. For an average family of six to feed today it will cost a fortune.
With inflation rising above 17 per cent, coupled with devaluation of the naira, the implication is that for those on regular salaries, they will require over a 100 per cent more than what it used to cost them to purchase the same goods today.
This pathetic situation is not helped too by the fact that a lot of companies are closing shops and relocating to a more business-friendly environment outside the country while some banks and organizations are retrenching workers as a response to declining fortunes in their businesses.
For those in the private sector, power and other infrastructure are virtually non-existent. They have to grapple with the recent increase in the pump price of petroleum, electricity tariff and lack of fund to survive.
Today, the cost of staple foods like rice, garri, yam, beans etc have completely gone out of the reach of the common man. A bag of rice today is sold at over N20, 000, while until very recently tomatoes completely vanished from the homes of lots of Nigerians.
Majority of the Nigerians eking out a living from the informal sector are completely left to the vicissitude of the economic elements while the less than 10 per cent in the public sector have had their purchasing power eroded over time.
Recently, the Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC was involved in an industrial dispute with the Federal Government over demand for increase in the minimum wage. While labour is demanding N52,000 as new minimum wage, the federal and state governments insist that their demand was outrageous given the fact that with the existing minimum wage of N18,000 many state governments, parastatals and agencies are still finding it difficult to pay salaries as at when due.
Perhaps, another indication of the declining fortune of the nation is the recent reclaim from Nigeria by South Africa as the biggest economy on the African continent, no thanks to the continued free-fall of the naira.
Using the Gross Domestic Product domestic, GDP at the end of 2015 published by the International Monetary Fund, Bloomberg reported that the size of South Africa’s economy is $301 billion at the rand’s current exchange rate, while Nigeria’s GDP is $296 billion.
Bloomberg noted that the rand has gained more than 16 per cent against the US currency since the start of 2016; while in contrast, Nigeria’s naira has lost more than a third of its value.
Many eminent Nigerians have voiced out on the present situation facing the country. They demand that the Federal Government urgently provide the right response to the hardship across the country.  They warned that if appropriate answers were not provided within the shortest possible time, the country might experience a total economic collapse.
We cannot but join these patriotic Nigerians in appealing that some of the palliatives promised the NLC during the labour disputes be implemented so as to assuage the feeling of the average Nigerian.
Granted that the Federal Government too has at various fora admitted that Nigerians are indeed going through hard times, still some policies of the government do not seem to suggest that they indeed feel the pains of the people as President MuhammaduBuhari had said while signing the 2016 Appropriation Act.
Currently, another trouble is already brewing within the education sector with the unilateral increase in school fees of the unity colleges from N20,000 to N75,000 by the ministry of education. Coming at a time when many parents are either out of jobs or are being owed, these and other moves by the FG do not suggest that they feel the pains of the people.
There is no contesting the fact that the situation that confronts the nation did not begin today, but since government is a continuum, the time worn-out bulk-passing of the present government can no longer hold because the very reason they got the mandate of Nigerians was because they wanted change and nothing but positive change can assuage the feeling of the common man.
Governments should as a matter of urgency reflate the economy through massive infrastructural development and investment. They should also pursue with vigour medium and long term policies to help lift the nation out of the woods.
It is no longer news that the mono-economy of the nation is the main impediment militating against its development but beyond mere rhetorics, the government should begin to make agriculture attractive by making and implementing policies that will see the nation return to its former status before the discovery of oil in 1956.The need for diversification of the nation’s economy should be pursued with all the seriousness it demands.
The ministry of power should as a matter of urgency begin to justify the recent increase in electricity tariff by improving on power supply so as to save the nation’s industries the huge resources spent on generating power which will eventually impact on the cost price of their goods.
We also, as a temporary measure, call on government to lift the ban on importation of some staple food like rice until such a time when the nation can boast of enough local production.
The nation is not in short supply of suggestions and experienced hands required to improve the economy. The government should look beyond the confines of political parties and seek support from anywhere before the nation’s situation slides to that of Venezuela. The time to act is now.

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