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Students lament rising food prices in Nigeria’s tertiary institutions

Abdulrasheed Akere from a middle-class family in Ilorin, Kwara State, a biology Education student of Usmanu Danfodiyo University (UDUS) in Sokoto, nearly lost a semester in June after spending half of his school fees (63, 000) on foodstuffs because of the recent price hike. 

Sharing his plight, Akere nearly burst into tears, lamenting how he was about to sell his phone to pay his 63,000 school fees before a friend lent him money. 

“Food prices rose incessantly this semester. Meanwhile, the funding from home did not increase with it. I became a Garri drinker because I had no choice. Even Garri is costly now. 

“Sadly, since I can not survive without food, I spent half of my school fees on foodstuff. When the management set a deadline, I had to incur a debt to pay the school fees. I informed my family, but they couldn’t help”, Mr Akere lamented.

“As a student schooling in a northern university, the long journey from home prevents me from traveling with many foodstuffs”, he concluded.

Data reveals an ugly trend in Nigeria’s food inflation

On Monday, May 29 2023, President Bola Tinubu announced the removal of fuel subsidy in Nigeria, leading to a percentage increase of at least 210%.

Data from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) announced that the Food Inflation indices on a year-on-year basis show a gradual increase of 4.4 per cent between July 2022 and July 2023. “On a year-on-year basis, the headline inflation rate was 4.44% points higher compared to the rate recorded in July 2022, which was 19.64,” the report stated. 

Nigeria’s food inflation (June 2022 – May 2023)

The June 2023 edition of the Selected Food Prices Watch showed that basic food staples such as rice, beans and yam tubers had experienced sharp year-on-year price hikes, making it nearly impossible for students from low-income backgrounds to afford a proper diet. The report states that “the average price of 1kg of Beef boneless stood at N2,653.02 in June 2023. This indicates a growth of 27.55% on a year-on-year basis from N2,079.93 recorded in June 2022 and a 5.26% rise monthly from N2,520.52 in the previous month.

Average price increase in basic food staples

“The average price of 1kg of Rice local (sold loose) rose by 32.17% on a year-on-year basis from N460.17 in June 2022 to N608.20 in June 2023. On a month-on-month basis, it increased by 9.55% from N555.18 in May 2023,” the report added.

The burden is further exacerbated by many students relying on limited financial resources, often provided by their families or through scholarships.

The rising food prices have led to increased stress levels among students. The constant worry about where their next meal will come from adds a layer of anxiety to an already challenging academic environment. The mental and emotional toll often hinders their ability to concentrate on their studies and engage effectively in their educational pursuits. 

According to a report released by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in April 2022 titled: ‘World Economic Outlook: War Sets Back the Global Recovery’, the ongoing war in Ukraine is expected to have lasting effects on commodity prices worldwide. “Beyond 2023, global growth is forecast to decline to about 3.3 per cent over the medium term,” the report established. 

The African Development Bank (AfDB) also noted that the Ukraine-Russian war has significantly caused food shortage and “a shortage of about 30 million tons of grains on the continent (Africa), along with a sharp increase in cost.”

“We barely eat two meals a day”, students lament 

Like Mr Akere, who complained that although food prices have increased, the allowance from home stayed the same, some other students can hardly afford to eat two square meals daily. 

Israel Onasanya, who wrote his final examination at Lagos State University in April, explained that he had N200 left during the exams. When he tried to purchase bread with it, the vendor told him it cost N300, a 50% increase.

“I returned to my study and wrote my exam without food that day because I didn’t have gas to cook any other food,” said Onasanya. “To think this bread used to be two hundred naira is more vexing.” 

Ojo Oluwapelumi, a 400-level History and International Relations student at Obafemi Awolowo University said the hike in the price of food on campus has been one of the main issues and challenges facing Nigerian students across the country. 

The 24-year-old lamented how vendors unnecessarily increase food prices in school communities because they perceive the students as well to do.

“The hike in the price of goods has been a norm in Nigeria’s tertiary institution system; those vendors believe that we have money although we do not work and always think we can bill them anyhow at home”, she wailed. 

Lamenting what she has gone through, Oladele Omowunmi Mary, an Adekunle Ajasin University (AAUA) student, said she once went two days without eating because food prices increased beyond what she could afford. 

Suggesting solutions, the final-year student said, “There are a few different things the government can do to regulate the prices of goods. One option is to use taxes or subsidies to encourage or discourage the production or sale of certain goods. The government could also regulate the supply of goods by limiting how much of a product can be produced or imported.” 

“Inflation has turned me into a sudden lover of garri”, the sad tale of a student on scholarship

The current increment in food prices is a sad tale for Mohammed Taoheed, a 200-level law student of UDUS who is sponsored to school on a scholarship by an indigene of  . He makes some money from his writing gigs and feeds himself with it. He has now resorted to drinking garri when the prices of foods increased exponentially. 

“I take to garri or going for days without anything, but this is a time that the ideas of writing more pitches come to me most”, Mohammed narrated his ordeal. 

Narrating his plight, the 200-level student of Law noted that a lack of price regulation and control of foods spells doom for less-privileged students. 

“It’s very devastating when you get to market today and discover that the price of a particular commodity has been accelerated from the last amount you bought it”. 

He pleaded with the school management to interfere by setting a price control committee for every retailer in the school. The government can help by providing us with monthly allowances to ease the hard times.

Escalating food prices pinch vendors’ pockets

Vendors have attested to food inflation being partly driven by factors including transportation costs, supply chain disruptions and rising global commodity prices. This inflationary trend has dealt a severe blow to the wallets of food vendors within and around Nigerian campuses. 

A vendor at the University of Lagos, popularly known as Iya Moria, who sells amala, rice, and other delicacies, said the rising ingredients costs have forced many campus dining facilities to reduce the quality and variety of meals. 

She said in Yoruba: “Our budgets have remained stagnant while food prices have soared. We are finding it challenging to maintain the quality of meals we provide to students. We have been compelled to reduce portion sizes and cut back on essential ingredients.” 

Parents bemoan the high rate of food prices

Mrs Owolabi Iyabo, a single mother of three and a farmer from Osun state, explained that she has three children in tertiary institutions across the country and she cannot afford to send them feeding allowance regularly due to the hardship in the country and the increased cost of food prices.

Life had not been kind to Mrs Owolabi. The once flourishing economy of the country had taken a sharp downturn, plunging many families into the depths of hardship. 

“Things have not been going well. My biggest concern is their daily sustenance, the simple yet essential act of putting food on the table. The ever-increasing food prices made it difficult for me to afford my children’s regular meals in school, and I urged the government to find lasting solutions to it”, she expressed sadly. 

“My daughter is in Offa Poly. One is in Ife, and the other is in Ilesha College of Education. They always lose weight when they return from school because the money I send them is insufficient to buy food that will sustain them,” she said. 

We have implemented measures to meet with the King and Market women to discuss the issueStudents’ Union Executive

The Students Union Welfare Director of Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, Omole Ariyo Adekunle, noted that the school’s executives have made plans to discuss with the Kind and market women to regulate the prices of foods for students. 

He said, ‘The Students Executives Council (SEC) members have discussed this, and we have put measures in place to meet the king and discuss the issue with him. 

‘Among the people that will be in the meetings are the market women and men so we can reason together and plead with them to regulate the price of food for us.’ 

Experts call for urgent solutions

Addressing the issue of food inflation and its impact on Nigerian students requires comprehensive and multi-faceted solutions, said Bolaji Aniero, a female Food Nutritionist. 

“The government, educational institutions, and non-profit organizations must work together to implement measures that alleviate the burden on students and promote their well-being,” said Ms Aniero. 

“Firstly, the government should prioritize policies that curb food inflation, including strategies to reduce transportation costs, enhance local agricultural production, and strengthen supply chain management. Such measures can help stabilize food prices and make essential items more affordable for students”, she concluded.

The detrimental impact of food inflation on Nigerian students extends beyond financial constraints and compromised nutrition. The inability to access adequate and nutritious meals takes a toll on students’ mental and physical well-being, affecting their academic performance. 

Dr Fatima Adeyemi, a nutrition expert, emphasizes the consequences: “Poor nutrition affects cognitive function, memory, and concentration. Students who do not receive sufficient nutrients are at a higher risk of experiencing fatigue, reduced productivity, and even mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.”

This story was funded by the Centre for Journalism Innovation and Development (CJID) under the Campus Reporter project.

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