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In Lokoja, traders, students lament as fuel subsidy removal bites harder

The removal of subsidy on petrol has hit ordinary Nigerians harder than the government envisioned. Nigerians living in Lokoja, Kogi State recounts their experience.

During his inaugural speech on 29 May, President Bola Tinubu announced that “fuel subsidy is gone”. As a result of that announcement, small business owners in Lokoja, Kogi State, have seen their businesses shrink as they struggle to cope with the sharp increase in the price of petrol.

Some small business owners who spoke to these reporters lamented the negative toll the high cost of goods and services is having on their enterprises.

Sitting on a chair in front of his shop, Hassan Aruna, a cybercafe owner at the Federal University Lokoja (FUL), waits for customers, but they are not forthcoming.

“This cafe is my only means of feeding and providing for my family,” he said. He said he started losing customers after he increased the cost of making photocopies due to the hike in the price of petrol.

“I now make photocopies at N30, which is 50 per cent more than the previous price (N20). Even at that, I barely make up to a quarter of what I used to make in a day before the fuel subsidy was removed. This is really frustrating. I may close down this shop soon,” he lamented.

Gladys Ameh, a hairstylist, has been forced to increase the prices she charges for her services. Like Mr Aruna, despite hiking her fees her business is still regressing.

“Washing and relaxing of hair which was N1,000 before subsidy was removed, has faced a 50% increase in price and is now N1,500. Right now, I do not even make enough to fuel my generator. I barely make use of electrical hair equipment. I can only hope for a change soon,” Ms Ameh said.

She explained that she has lost more customers in the past week than she has in her six years of being a hairdresser.

Market women lament

Retailers in Lokoja are also bearing the brunt as a price hike has led to low patronage.

Rebecca Joel, who has been selling foodstuff for 30 years, explained how the high cost of transportation has led to an increase in the price of goods.

“It is getting harder for me to run my shop. I purchase most of my foodstuffs from Itobe and Kabba junction, Normally, a bus to Itobe from this market will only cost N200, it is now N700. When I’m returning with my goods, I pay as high as N1,500 instead of N500,” Mrs Joel said.

She explained how the hike in transportation costs led to a hike in foodstuff prices.

“To sustain myself, I have to spread the expenses on transportation on all my goods. A small bowl of garri sold for N100 before the removal of the fuel subsidy is now N300. People (customers) are buying in smaller quantities than they used to. This is seriously affecting my purchasing power,” she complained.

Helen Nmodu, a civil servant who also owns a shop, has something similar to say.

“Since the removal of the fuel subsidy, I barely make sales at the shop. There has been a downward turnout of customers compared to before. Most times, all I get in a day can only cover my transportation fare to my house and back to the shop the next morning. I can barely afford three square meals.” she lamented.

Yahaya Hassan, a barber, while lamenting his recent bitter experience, wants the government to return the subsidy on petrol.

“I have never experienced this kind of hardship in my ten years of being a barber. I wish the action of the government on subsidy could be undone. I now drink garri three times a day.”

Students affected; expert speaks

Since the removal of the subsidy, fuel prices have continued to rise from its initial N197 to N540 and now N617. Consequently, fares for public transportation have increased in several parts of the country.

Students of the FUL also bear the brunt of this increment. A ride on shuttle buses in the school, which cost N200 before, now cost N300, while coaster buses fares which cost N100 before, have become N200.

David John, who lives off-campus, said he has been forced to take drastic measures including missing some classes in order to cope.

“In a bid to save funds for feeding and other minor expenses, I have resorted to missing classes. This has affected my class attendance because I have to cut down on my transportation expenses,” the 100-level Computer Science student said.

Joy Ebe, an economist at the Kogi State University, says the impact of the removal of fuel subsidy may be too much for the economy to handle.

“The poverty rate in Nigeria is very high. Although, in the long run, it will benefit the economy by freeing up resources for other sectors like the agricultural, education, and health sector, however, its suddenness will be greatly felt, especially because no palliative has been seen to be put in place by the government to cushion the impact on citizens,” she said.

This story was produced by newly-trained student reporters under the Campus Reporter project of the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development.

The following students from the Federal University Lokoja and the Kogi State University authored the story:

1. Ocheje Winner

2. Ocheje Wonder

3. Olorunleke Oluwatosin

4. John Progress

5. Koyebi Adeola

6. Opeyemi Mary

7. Shelong Tapshak

8. Olajide Marvelous

9. Loveth Samuel

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