The Isaac’s are a family of six comprising father, mother and four children. Ever since they got married 16 years ago, they spend every Christmas in their village in Vandeikya, Benue State, with their families back home.
This year will, however, be an exception as travelling for Christmas has been ruled out by the family as a result of prevailing economic reality.
Isaac Mnguor told 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE that after a review of the budget and what it will cost them to make the trip, he had decided that they will stay back in Abuja for Christmas this year.
According to him, the one-way cost of road transportation per head at the current rate, minus local movement to the park was about N13,000, meaning that for six of them to travel, they’ll be spending about N156,000, to and fro.
“You can see that on transportation alone, the bill is already huge and by the time you add all the food items and drinks for the celebration as well as gifts for family members, we will be talking of nothing less than N400,000 or half a million which I cannot afford.
“It was quite a painful decision for us as a family. My children particularly felt let down as it is usually an opportunity for them to meet their cousins, play and bond with them but we had to explain to them why making the trip at this time was not in our best interest as a family,” he said.
The scenario painted by Isaac mirrors the situation of many Nigerian families.
The Yuletide season is a time of love and sharing and characterised by a lot of shopping and travelling.
People usually travel back to their villages or some other holiday destination to unwind and recalibrate for the year.
This year, however, seems to be different as the economic situation is painting the picture of gloom.
Nigeria’s inflation has continued to rise over the past months, reaching a high of 27.33 per cent in October 2023. The rise in inflation has been attributed to the rice in prices of food stuff as food inflation rose to 1.52 per cent on a year-on-year basis, representing 7.80 percent points increase to the rate recorded in October 2022 (23.72 percent).
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the surge in year-on-year food inflation was driven by price increases in various categories, including bread and cereals, oil and fat, potatoes, yam and other tubers, fish, fruit, meat, vegetables, milk, cheese, and eggs.
The removal of fuel subsidy, which shot the price of petrol from N165/litre to N670/litre and attendant effect on cost of transportation and commodities has also been implicated in the gloom that has surrounded this year’s Yuletide.
A business woman, Miriam Yima, said the high cost of goods has affected sales and will ultimately impact how she celebrates this year’s Christmas.
“By this time, people should be shopping but we are yet to see the level of shopping associated with the season. I went to market and stocked up my shop in anticipation of sales but as it is now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to sell most of the items. But Christmas is still days away so I’m hopeful,” she stated.
It was the same story of lamentations for fashion designer, Cynthia Uma, who said unlike in the past when she had to stop receiving fabrics from customers in the last week of November to be able to meet deadlines, this year was different as she was even reminding her customers to bring their fabrics.
“Is it not when people are swamping you with work that you set deadlines? I didn’t set any deadline this year because people are not even making clothes as much. I called a few customers to remind them to bring in their fabrics but I didn’t get a lot of positive responses,” she added.
Checks by 21st CENTURY CHRONICLE in markets around Abuja shows that the cost of a 4litre gallon of vegetable oil ranges from N9,000 to N11,000 depending on the brand, cost of 25kg of local rice ranges from N24,000 to N30,000and the cost of 50kg local rice ranges from N48,000 to N60,000. For protein, a kilo of frozen chicken is N2800 to N3,300, and a kilo of live chicken is N3000 to N3,500 while one kilo of turkey is N6,000, one kilo of beef is N3,500, one kilo of frozen Titus fish is N3,200 and a crate of eggs is N2,800 to N3,000.
Checks on airlines showed that the cost of one-way air tickets to most places in the country, during the yuletide, starts from N90,000.
Apart from the high cost of goods and transportation, one other issue that is stopping many families from travelling for the yuletide is insecurity in various parts of the country.
A native of Imo State, based in Lagos, Ekene Emmanuel, said he was not travelling to the East for Christmas but attributed his decision to the high level of insecurity.
“If you consider the cost of ransom and the emotional trauma you, your family and friends will go through if you travel and get kidnapped, you’ll realise that it is not worth it,” he said.
Similarly, a business woman in Lagos State, Joy Obi, said her decision to spend Christmas in Lagos was borne out of fear of kidnapping.
“Things are quite difficult now but I would have still been able to go home to see my parents because I haven’t been home for over two years but I cannot, for fear of kidnapping. Even my parents have advised against it. I’ll rather wait then sneak in and visit them when the yuletide is over and the whole noise has died down,” she added.