IT was very broadly predicted that the prolonged lockdowns due to the coronavirus pandemic would come with severe adverse economic consequences all over the world. As we enter the seventh month of the pandemic in Nigeria with a considerable measure of economic reopening, the realities of our situation have hit very hard.
Though nobody is exempt, the hardest-hit, as usual, are the poor and vulnerable. Rising costs are coming at the people from major sectors like guided missiles, all at the same time.
In June 2020, just as we started easing off the lockdowns, Nigerians woke up to hear that the price capping on petroleum products had been removed by the Federal Government, signifying the total deregulation of the downstream sector of the petroleum industry which President Muhammadu Buhari personally handles. Today, petrol sells at between N151.50 and N165 per litre, up from N87 in 2015.
The naira now exchanges officially at N381 to the dollar, up from about N360 in March this year, but sells at nearly N480 at the informal market.
The most outrageous of the lot is the monstrous price hike from N30.23 per kilowatt hour (pkwh) to N66 by the power distribution companies without any guarantees that this will provide steady power supply.
All these price hikes mean only one thing: a general ballooning in the cost of living. People are also going to pay through their noses for transportation, food, school and hospital fees, among others.
Yet, the ongoing pandemic has led to loss of millions of jobs, while many of those who are still employed have been forced to take pay cuts.
This situation of diminished earnings confronted by exploding costs of essential goods and services means that a lot more people will fall into the poverty hole where already over 82 million Nigerians are languishing, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.
All these and the general insecurity and the looming food scarcity/inflation mean that Nigerians may be headed for a level of hardship that was only experienced in 1984 when President Buhari was a military dictator.
We call on the federal and state governments to assert themselves on this situation and save the masses from prolonged suffering. This is the moment when those who offered themselves for election into top leadership positions must justify the mandates given them.
The time for wasteful spending and big, frivolous government is over. This moment calls for innovative thinking and sacrificial leadership.
We hope the masses will not be pushed to extreme desperation which will spell doom for our socio-political stability.