FRIDAY Column by Engr. Abubakar A. Fari
It is tough, inflation is too much in Nigeria. There is no better way of saying it than what a poet sang in a stanza “There are no shoes on my foot-inflation”. The Oxford dictionary explains inflation as “a general rise in prices of services and goods in a particular country, resulting in a fall in the value of money”. Indeed “rise in prices of services and goods” and the “fall in the value of money” are apt in Nigeria. The twin evils are uncontrolled price gyrates. These are devastating scenarios that cause societal degeneration. People of my generation if they start recalling the good old days and we start narrating how it was when we were in the primary school till end of 1965 when Pounds, Shillings and Pence were the legal tender. In 1971, we were admitted at ABU Zaria before the change from Pounds to Naira. Till we graduated, prices of services and goods and Naira value were within tolerable limits. When we compare the situation today, na wa wo to say the least. Or one will lament if it is true regarding these unbelievable astronomical prices. Are we really in a sane nation at all? How many generations in between are we speaking?
Back in the good old days when we were at the primary school, one could not eat three Pence groundnuts at once. With 6 Pence we used to eat roasted or lamb meat and had belly full. Now one must eat N600:00 equivalents before he could see well after a devastating hunger. At ABU in 1971 we were charged 1 shilling for a bus ride from T/Wada to ABU Samaru. In July 1975 during my NYSC my first car a Fiat 124 sports bought by my parent for me, a one in town in Katsina and Jos, cost N4, 550:00 while after I had an accident in September 1975, again it was replaced with a 504 GL, then only SSG’s were riding as official cars at N5,500:00. During our NYSC in The then Benue-Plateau state, our allowance was only N150:00 with a bicycle allowance of the same amount N150:00. After the NYSC in August 1976, our generation could purchase a fairly used car for N2,500:00. A brand new VW Beatle was less.
We had the best of the world or so it would appear because to service your car, you will only need N10.0. One could buy a brand new set of plugs; a contact set; engine oil and pay for the service all at once. Now N10:00 fried groundnuts will not serve even my 3 years old grandchild. Within seconds he will have finished it. Now I have 17 of them and the eldest has written his JAMB. In 1977 my parent decided I should have a house since I wanted to stay in Kaduna. The plot 100 ft by 50ft was purchased at price of N2,500:00. A bag of cement was sold then at between N5.50 and N6.00 as against N2600:00 today! So for one bag of cement in 1977 with the same utility, it would amount to about 450 bags or 22 tons!!! I was offered a huge GRA plot at just N8000:00 and negotiable but since it stood at more than my 2 years salary I thought it was too expensive.
On inflation and with the Naira, in 1979 yours sincerely, was serving with the NNPC at the Kaduna Refinery. One of the foreign consultants engaged by the NNPC we jointly worked to oversee Chiyoda the Contractors used to blast the Naira for not holding much water. He would lament “what is a Naira other than 6 bloody eggs!” Now 1 egg costs N 40 on comparable bases with N40 in 1979 one would collect 240 eggs or 20 dozens. This gives at 2 and ½ dozens per crate would come to 8 crates. One asks with 1 Naira worth more than 1 US Dollar till 1985 what has gone wrong with the so called educated Nigerians.
It is clear that the number one enemy is inflation which Nigerians should collectively attack, yet corruption and bigotry would seem our choice to pursue as our national interest. One is challenged to ask what value has been added with all the degrees, PhDs in Economics, Business Administration that abound, of all the numerous accountants they say are chattered, the seasoned bankers and businessmen and what have you today, still the 1 US Dollar that was less than 1 Naira in the exchange market in 1985 requires Naira 362 to a US Dollar today. From a Naira that was stronger than the US Dollar in real terms to a Naira that has no value amounts to real terrorism and inhumanity against man by man. It is war and genocide on the poor Nigerians.
The Nigerian is so callous to his brothers and sisters such that whereever a commodity is linked to his survival, the price keeps changing and one has to pay through his nose. The Nigerian has made the US Dollar a blackmail commodity on his fellow citizens to enrich his reserve looted and transferred abroad. With few US Dollars, he will never mind if the Naira keeps degenerating while he counts his chickens abroad. Even the stock trading was made ridiculous and the regime of interests rates during the days of finance house were made such that monkey de work baboon de chop. The monkey de work baboon de chop mentality keeps inflation on the perpetual upward trend with no limits in view. The number of unproductive and extravagant petrol stations that do not show common sense are being built in any part of the country even in remote villages and locations that one will ask what is the economic sense.
So long as the cabals in the petroleum and FX markets are not controlled, the petrol pump price and the depreciation of the Naira/Dollar will remain. This requires patriotism and the fear of Allah/ God which are lacking in Nigeria. So long this remains, so long the kidnapping, corruption, communal clashes and societal degeneration will continue to devastate Nigeria and the killer inflation will worsen the commotions. IMF and World Bank models have never worked and will never work. If there is anyone to salvage Nigeria it is only Nigerians if they are able to understand their differences and live with them.