Surviving the Storm: Nigerian Business Struggles Amid Economic Reforms

Josephine Akiga's restaurant in Abuja faces tough times as economic reforms by President Bola Tinubu drive inflation and shrink customer spending. Fuel subsidy cuts and currency devaluations intended to spur growth have led to rising costs, worsened living conditions, and increased crime, hurting livelihoods across Nigeria.

Reuters | Updated: 30-05-2024 20:53 IST | Created: 30-05-2024 20:53 IST
Surviving the Storm: Nigerian Business Struggles Amid Economic Reforms
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Nigerian Josephine Akiga looks around her empty restaurant in Abuja, where a sole customer sits eating, longing for the days when the place was filled with people. Business has been so tough since President Bola Tinubu took office a year ago that she sometimes lets customers pay what they have for a meal just to keep business ticking along.

"When ... you have not sold anything since morning, it's better to have that money than to allow the person to go," said Akiga. "So you just ask the person to sit and then give him food for the money he has." Since taking office in May last year, Tinubu has implemented reforms including slashing fuel and electricity subsidies and devaluing the naira currency twice to try to increase investment and boost output. He says the policies are necessary to put Nigeria on a long-term growth path.

But the economy is growing well short of the 6% annual expansion targeted by Tinubu, while the reforms have driven inflation to a 28-year high, worsening a cost-of-living crisis. Analysts say economic hardship is also fuelling crime which in turn is hurting people's livelihoods.

Bismarck Rewane, a prominent economic analyst who was appointed to Tinubu's economic council in March, agreed with the need for economic reforms but said more attention should have been paid to their implementation. "The reforms came too quickly but there was no concrete plan to deal with the impact these reforms would have on the people," he said.

The end of the fuel subsidy, which for decades made petrol very cheap for Nigerians, has hit people particularly hard. Petrol is widely used in the country to power not only cars but also generators for small businesses and homes. Anthony Idowu, a 47-year-old bank employee, said the cost of filling his car had nearly quadrupled to 36,000 naira ($30) since the petrol subsidy was removed last year.

He now runs his petrol generator at home for only four hours a day to save money even if it means sleeping without a fan in the sweltering heat of Lagos, he said. VICIOUS CYCLE The government has also been criticised for not doing enough to sort out the country's security problem, which some people say is affecting their livelihoods. The government insists the security situation is improving, saying it has eliminated thousands of armed gang members and Islamist fighters.

Abdulrasheed Isa Gora, a 32-year-old petty trader and farmer in the Birnin Magaji area of northwest Zamfara state, said attacks by armed gangs were on the rise, making it difficult to farm or travel to other communities to sell his wares. Earlier this week, he and members of his community paid 50 million naira ($42,000) to free 18 family members and some residents who were kidnapped on March 10. Some 40 others remain missing, he said. "We are living by God's favour, not the government's," said Gora.

Nigeria has long struggled with insurgency and attacks by armed gangs who kidnap for ransom in the north, where poverty levels are higher. But data from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project showed the number of kidnappings doubled to 7,086 in Tinubu's first year in office.

Security analysts say economic hardship and the allure of ransom payments are driving mass abductions. "That could well be the case," said Information Minister Mohammed Idris, when contacted by Reuters.

"That is why the president is encouraging everyone not to pay ransom because when you pay ransom you are going to continue on this cycle of violence," he said. Back in the restaurant, it was economic uncertainty that was at the top of Akiga's worries.

From daily sales of 100,000 naira ($84) a year ago, she was hardly making 20,000 naira ($17) now and that was quickly used up buying more stock. "Any money you make you take it back to the market," she said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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