Residents in Imo state are uncertain of how festive the season’s celebration will be for them, considering the financial implications and the current deplorable economic situation.
The Christmas season, especially for South-easterners, has always been characterized by festivities such as weddings, ceremonies, cultural celebrations and more, and has always been a period wherein most urban residents retire to their hometowns to spend time with long-seen family members and relatives.
This, however, requires a lot of financial responsibilities, as it incurs costs in transportation, purchase of foodstuff and commodities, purchase of gifts for family members and friends, and other costs required to organize celebrations.
Reactions of Owerri residents, as gathered by our correspondent, indicates that the recently reported food inflation, alongside the speculated increase in fuel price, among other factors, seem to stand as a threat to the continuity of these festive traditions amongst South-Easterners, most especially residents of Owerri, the capital city of Imo State.
Obigere, a merchant in Owerri, who lamented over the current economic situation, stated how this year’s celebration will be different for her, as compared to previous years’, and how this, in turn, affected her plans.
“The economy has changed totally, in everything. The prices of foodstuff have increased. Anything you want to buy right now has changed. How much is a bag of rice now? Or drinks? Not to talk of clothes. I lack words”.
“What of the workers? How many have been paid? The ones that were paid have their salaries slashed. Is it not after they are paid, that they can purchase things in the market?”
She added that unlike previous years’ festive periods, it is certain she won’t be travelling to her hometown for the holidays, considering how costly it will be for her, and for fear of returning empty-handed to friends and family.
Another Owerri resident, Chiwendu Lukson, who however had a different view, highlighted the resilient spirit always possessed by Nigerians, and how this year’s celebration will remain unchanged and not affected by the economic tides.
He said “there is every tendency that hence everything is increasing, people will not celebrate it like previous ones. But we are Nigerians; we always known how to adapt. We have been known as survivors, always surviving and smiling.”
Within the past few months, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and other international, and national bodies such as The Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN), had reported that the nation was experiencing food inflation, and had lamented over the increase in commodities such as foodstuff and cooking gas, which they attributed to factors such as the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, international market prices and flow, and more.
Last week, The International Monetary Fund (iMF) reported that the rise in food and oil prices and other policy regulations was fuelling inflation in the country, and called for ease in commodity prices as a remedial solution.
The World Bank, specifically, had stated in June, that the recent food inflation, asides from the direct impact of COVID-19 were driving close to 7 million Nigerians into poverty.
A local rice distributor, who preferred withholding his name, attested to the recent low purchasing power of Imolites, although he pointed out that the wholesale prices of the commodity had not changed, after witnessing an initial rise earlier this year.
“When our goods come in, it is a problem to sell them. People don’t come to buy. There is no money in Nigeria. We just depend on God now to make sales this December”.
Similarly, a wholesale drinks distributor, Chizobe Amaoka, feared having lesser customers this period considering how the present US dollar exchange value, along with other factors have greatly impacted the market flow.
Comparing the availability of products to last year, she confirmed that the supply of products this year was preferable, as last year; the pandemic left the market with a high demand that was disproportionate to the supply of goods.
“Last year, people were hawking for products because COVID affected everything. But this time around, you see what you want to buy. But the problem there is, there is no money. People banked their money last year, waiting for goods to buy, but they couldn’t see the goods. But this year the product is everywhere, but the prices have added a little higher”.