The prevailing economic hardship has stretched a greater number of Nigerians and those on the lower rung of the economic ladder; worst affected are the widows. In this piece, SAMUEL ABULUDE and OLAMIDE OJUOKAIYE examine the plight and sufferings of the widows and vulnerable in Lagos amidst the hope of palliatives.
Amaka Ifeajuna is a mother of four children who has just recovered from an accident that seriously affected her left leg and made her spend months at a bone healing centre in a suburb of Lagos. The 56-year-old retail business woman and widow, has had a torrid time shouldering the education of her children, two of whom are in higher institutions, the youngest in secondary school while the eldest has finished from the Federal Polytechnic, Oko and now at Nnewi undergoing apprenticeship.
She expressed her frustration to our correspondents, saying the last seven months have been harrowing even as the high cost of goods has made her to literally beg from relatives to care for the children. The widow who is beginning to gradually use her legs and just resuming her business as a retailer said, “Life has not been fair! I lost my husband eight years ago and it has been difficult.
After the accident I had in March, taking care of myself and four children has been traumatic and only God has been my backbone. I have begged from relations and church folks and still living below the bar of poverty because my livelihood has been halted. Widows are not getting the help that they should have at this period and I call on the government to come to the aid of widows and people whose petty businesses are distressed and struggling.”
This predicament speaks of the hard times faced by the vulnerable in society particularly the widows.
The present economic condition caused by high cost of living has indeed affected low-income class families, micro and small-scale businesses and the downtrodden in society. The current high cost of commodities has subjected them to making harder choices on how many times they feed in a day, what to buy and what not to buy, with the ever-increasing rate of expenses which seems never to cease.
A widow in her 70s, Mrs Tanimowo, said, “It has become difficult to survive based on the current economic realities of the country as I live on the goodwill of neighbours and especially the church that I worship as I have become frail and do not have the strength to hustle. I live at Aremu Lawal Ahmadiya Community along the Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway and about five widows have died in just a month due to health challenges, lack of proper healthcare and feeding. Some of us who are alive lack proper health care with varying degrees of health challenges and feeding being a problem as well. I presently battle with poor vision and the inability to stand for even a short time. Two of my teenage grandchildren have been of help though but my health care needs, among others, are increasing by the day.
Another widow, Mrs Aisha Yakubu disclosed that the economic hardship has increased her worries and made her to dig deep and seek how to care for her family of five.
“I had to borrow money to start a business and see how to pay back gradually knowing that the times are hard; things are becoming difficult day-by-day with paying of our children’s school fees getting tougher,” she said.
In a chat with a cleaner, Mrs Alheri, she disclosed that her N40,000 per month salary could barely afford their needs. She raised concerns on how the family plans to navigate the economic hard times.
“We as parents in total earn less than N100,000 per month, but we have been able to raise our two children by sending them to private schools. But the new rate of N48,000 against the N35,000 we used to pay in installments cannot be sustained at all.
“We have both considered registering them in public schools. We cannot sustain our family with what we earn paying for school fees, accommodation, clothing as well as other miscellaneous expenses. Our resolution is to take them to public school,” she stated.
A 57-year-old commercial driver, Toyeeb Akanmu, who plies the Oshodi-Berger route in Lagos said that the government needs to intervene and that no day passes without the drivers and passengers lamenting about how difficult it is for the common man to survive the economic challenges in the country. He added that the spike in inflation is sending more than a ripple of frustrations among Nigerians.
Efforts by FG to alleviate plights of the vulnerable
Though every stratum of society is affected by the high cost of living exacerbated by the removal of fuel subsidy, people at the lower class are the most affected. The federal government through intervention has released funds to state governments for the vulnerable. The distribution of various palliative items by the Lagos State government were targeted at 500,000 vulnerable residents, to cushion the effects of the subsidy removal.
Bulk food items like 50kg rice, 50kg garri and 100kg beans for groups and food boxes like 10kg rice, 5kg garri, and 5kg beans were released to individual vulnerable households including widows.
The Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, stated that the distribution of the food items to vulnerable households would be done through groups, institutions, non-governmental organisations, community development committees, people living with disabilities and the Social Protection Department in the Ministry of Economic Planning and Budget using the social register of vulnerable in the state.
Speaking on behalf of the beneficiaries during the flag-off of the palliative distribution, the vice chairman, People Living With Disabilities (PLWD), Mrs Josephine Omolola, commended the governor for the laudable programme.
An economist, Mrs Abiodun James, raised concerns on how to accurately gauge how the inflation rate may increase with the current revelation based on the government policies as adequate measures should have been put in place before the removal of fuel subsidy.
“As you might have heard, the Debt Management Office has said Nigeria’s total public debt hit N87.38 trillion at the end of the second quarter of 2023. This figure represents an increase of 75.29 percent (N37.53 trillion) compared to the N49.85 trillion recorded at the end of March 2023,” she stated.
While lauding the government initiative to fund 75 enterprises to the tune of 75 billion at nine percent per annum, she stressed that this move by the federal government is not far-reaching enough, as they lack the timelines for adequate implementation.