June 13, 2024

For working-class Nigerians, surviving the monthly onslaught of inflation is tough. Before the International Labour Organisation’s new definition of unemployment, Nigeria’s unemployed constituted nearly 40% of the country’s labor force. 

Inflation in the country has been on an upward trend for 15 straight months, eating into people’s incomes and draining savings. It was at 31.70% in February.

The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said inflation stood at 40.01% in March 2024, up from 37.92% in February. 

The critical question, however, is: How are Nigeria’s unemployed coping with the country’s galloping inflation? \investigation across section of Lagos’ everyday people with the question. 

From the interviews, we gathered that a class of Nigerians has emerged. This class reaches out to old friends on social media platforms asking for financial favours to make ends meet.

A young university graduate, who  has presented his resume to 13 companies in search of employment to no avail. He said he survives by getting in contact with as many former classmates and acquaintances as possible, seeking financial assistance. 

“Not everyone responds positively, but many do. In the end, with N5000 from here and N2,000 from there, one can have a meal or two daily, although modest,” he said. 

Gbenga Johnson, 29, graduate of Biology, shed a similar experience. He said it is frustrating that he has become a beggar after putting in his best to study.

“I can’t remember how many companies I’ve dropped my CV in search of work to no avail. How can one feed? I still ask my parents for money to buy things such as clothes and shoes. I also ask friends whom I helped one way or another in the past.

“Many of them are generous enough to send N5,000 to my account from time to time. That’s how I survive. But I tell you, it’s not easy. My friends think they are doing me big favors with these little sums. Actually they are. But the costs of food is rising beyond these little sums daily. And for how long will friends continue to assist?” he wondered.

We observed another class of survivors called keypad warriors. A keypad warrior, according to a hardworking Nigerian, David Kilanko,  spends money on data as well as time.

According to David, this class of young men and ladies depend on social media influencers with huge following.

He said it’s a win-win relationship as social media influencers usually budget a percentage of the money they earn from the social media to their staunchest followers as an incentive to retain their followership.

“So, young people spend up to 18 hours a day following influencers with the hope of getting largesse when they are paid,” he said.

Another young man, Albert Usen, who said he has got gifts of more than N100,000 from following influencers, noted that influencers need followers just as the followers depend on them for largesse, for survival. “You scratch my back, I scratch yours,” he said.

We observed another growing class of people that have attached themselves to religious institutions where they get some stipends as church workers. Aside that, as shared by Sarah Pelam, 25, the church is the place where people are most likely to get alms from fellow worshipers, or  get links or recommendations to work in firms. 

In the same vein, Livinus Muokhudo, a resident of Lagos, and a staunch attendee of his village meetings, said he observes that there is an increase in the attendance and membership of his village meetings.  He observed that the meetings, which bring people together to solve each other’s problems, are rising in membership.   

On the flip side, many other young people have chosen the path of doing the bidding of big shots to make ends meet, Sarah Pelam further shed light. 

 Rich members of the Black community pay what is generally referred to as ‘black tax’. This is a financial burden borne by Black people who have achieved success in life and provide support for financially less secure members of a family, according to Investopedia, an online business dictionary.

Black tax has its origin in apartheid South Africa but has since grown across the world. Notable individuals who are paying Balck tax are Mo Salah and Sadio Mane, who are paying hundreds of school fees for students from families in lower rung of the ladder in Egypt and Senegal respectively. Apart from footballers, middle-class and upwardly mobile people make transfers to struggling members of their societies to make life easier for them. 

The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) is putting measures in place to rein in inflation. The   Acting Director, Banking Supervision of the CBN, Dr Adetona Adedeji, as saying that the apex bank prioritizes tackling inflation over taming high unemployment in Africa’s most populous nation. He said this on the second episode of the CBN podcast, which was uploaded on the bank’s YouTube page on Friday. 

” The ultimate objective is for us to combat inflation. This is exactly what the central bank is doing today. Whatever it takes to fight inflation, we are going to do that. It may have an impact in some areas.”

High inflation is eroding the incomes of Nigerians and deepening poverty across the nation. In combination with currency depreciation, food inflation (now over 40 percent) particularly has turned staple food into expensive delicacies, hurting several households.


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