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Cost of Living: Economic Hardship Puts Nigerian University Students in a Tight Corner

On a Monday afternoon in March, Popoluwa Adebisi was at a stall to purchase food items at the Ibaka market in the Akungba area of Ondo state. She craved spicy food, but sky-high food prices quenched her craving.

The student of Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba (AAUA), like many other Nigerians, was stunned to see that the country’s economic reality has skyrocketed food item prices. Adebisi would have purchased the food items she craved with the little fund with her before now, but Nigeria’s harsh economy has changed the situation — albeit for the worse.

At a pepper stall in the market, the trader attending to Adebisi blamed the government for the sudden increase in the price of commodities and appealed to authorities to find a lasting solution to the problem.

Source: Dreamstime

She is not alone in this; many Nigerian students also have their share of the high cost of living in the country.

Nigeria’s dwindling inflation

In December 2023, Nigeria’s annual inflation rate rose to 28.92 per cent from 28.20 per cent in the preceding month, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS). The NBS said the inflation rate was 7.58 per cent points higher compared to the rate recorded in December 2022, which was 21.34 per cent.

“This shows that the headline inflation rate (year-on-year basis) increased in December 2023 when compared to the same month in the preceding year (December 2022),” a report by the NBS stated.

In the same report, NBS noted that the food inflation rate in December was 33.93 per cent on a year-on-year basis, 10.18 per cent points higher than the rate recorded in December 2022 (23.75 per cent).

The federal agency also stated that the rise in food inflation was caused by increases in prices of bread and cereals, oil and fat, potatoes, yam etc. 

“On a month-on-month basis, the Food inflation rate in December 2023 was 2.72 per cent. This was 0.30 per cent higher compared to the rate recorded in November 2023 (2.42 per cent),” NBS added in the report.

Bitter economic realities

Several students of Adekunle Ajasin University have bitter experiences to share on the economic hardship making lives difficult for them. They condemned the high inflation rate, noting that it is another devastating moment for the welfare of Nigerian students.

A 100-level student of the institution, Adesanya Fisayo, expressed dissatisfaction over the high cost of living, saying, “The inflation rate is affecting my allowance because the money given to me is not enough to meet my needs anymore and it’s not increasing.”

Fisayo urged the federal and state governments to create more opportunities for students so that they can earn while they learn. Similarly, Temilade Adeyeluwa, another student of the school, said her parents’ salaries have remained the same, yet inflation is biting hard. She said the economic condition has affected “my monthly allowance because there has been a decrease in the amount of money sent”. 

“To me, I think the best option for students to survive this current economic hardship is for them to be empowered or for them to be entrepreneurs,” said Temilade. “Fight and fend for yourself.”

Some other students of the university share similar experiences, asking government authorities to intervene and provide succour in this difficult period. For instance, Oluwarotimi Oluwatomisin, a 400-level student, said: “My stipends are not regular nowadays. The economy didn’t only affect my stipends, but it also affected what I used those stipends to purchase”. 

He cited the recent hike in the price of sachet water, noting how students now struggle to buy it for N500 per bag, which is over a 100 per cent increment. He believes the only way students can survive the harsh economic reality is to learn skills that can bring them some income.

Then, Khadijah Idris, a 300-level student of the school, thinks many traders are part of the problem, as they deliberately increase the price of their commodities for excessive gains. She urged the government to step forward and assist the masses by providing incentives and regulating the prices of goods and services in the market.

“Individuals should also be enlightened on the risk of holding and deliberately increasing the price of goods and services and its implications to individuals and the economy at large,” she added.

Any hope?

However, Bayo Fatukasi, a professor and lecturer at Adekunle Ajasin University, said the inflation rate affects everybody, including students of primary and tertiary institutions. The economic expert added what  Nigeria currently experiences is called “galloping Inflation”, which means that “what we buy at N10 today might be bought at N30 tomorrow”. 

“As long as the inflation is affecting us (parents) directly or indirectly, it will also affect some students that have not been able to pay their school fees,” he said, stressing that the economy of Nigeria is already in comatose. “The mistake many Nigerians are making is that they want to plant cassava and harvest it the same day which is not possible,” he added.

The professor also said that as an economist, he believes Nigerians need to change their behaviour to get out of the economic mess. The government should reduce the rate of unemployment by getting people engaged, encouraging people, and having functional industries and factories, he explained.

“We are not producing anything in Nigeria and we have to,” he also said.

The economic hardship heightened after President Bola Tinubu removed fuel subsidies and floated Nigeria’s currency. His policies have affected the prices of commodities in the market, causing intense hardship for Nigerians.

But Prof. Fatukasi said he hopes that all these policies put in place by the president are implemented without derailing.

“I am very optimistic that if these policies are followed analytically, it will affect everything positively in the end,” he said.

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