In Osogbo, Mrs. Serifat Mudashiru, a resilient 70-year-old pepper seller, finds herself engulfed in despair as the removal of fuel subsidy by President Bola Hammed Tinubu wreaks havoc on her livelihood. 

Despite her unwavering determination, she struggles to keep her business afloat amidst the relentless onslaught of economic challenges. 

With three decades of experience in the trade, she shares her story of triumphs and tribulations.

“We are grateful to God, may He not destroy our achievement,” Mrs. Mudashiru reflects somberly. 

“What we are selling is sustaining until the economy turns upside down, and things are very costly because our customers don’t have money to buy, and those who come, we beg them to buy. There is no gain at all.”

“Pepper may spoil sometimes, but this business is inherited, so we have no choice.”

Understanding the Impact: Fuel Subsidy Removal and Food Inflation

After assuming office on May 29, 2023, President Bola Hammed Tinubu announced the abolition of fuel subsidy, citing its absence in the 2023 budget he reviewed.

The removal of fuel subsidies in Nigeria has sparked widespread debate, with proponents advocating for increased efficiency in the petroleum sector and critics expressing concerns about its potential to exacerbate inflation and economic hardship. 

The federal government announced the removal of the petrol subsidy, deeming it essential for the nation’s sustainable future. According to Mohammed Idris, the Minister of Information and National Orientation, President Bola Tinubu redirected the funds previously allocated for the subsidy to vital sectors of the economy during a press conference in Abuja on Thursday. This decision underscores the government’s willingness to make tough choices for the overall benefit of the nation.

Concurrently, food inflation has soared, driven by factors such as supply chain disruptions, currency devaluation, and adverse weather conditions. These economic challenges have placed immense pressure on market women, who rely on affordable transportation and stable food prices to sustain their businesses.

The removal of fuel subsidies presents both challenges and opportunities. Following its elimination, fuel costs surged by 150-200%, reaching prices of N500 – N600 nationwide. This increase has made it challenging for small and medium-sized enterprises to access affordable power.

After the removal of fuel subsidies, different sectors in the country had lamented that the current development has affected their businesses and their daily activities.

The phrase “Fuel is gone” reverberates as a haunting reminder of the hardships endured by Nigerians after the removal of the fuel subsidy. 

Oil marketers swiftly adjusted their pump prices, catapulting the cost of petrol from an average of N195 to N280 per litre to an exorbitant range of N532.5 to N665.70 per litre. This abrupt hike plunged many Nigerians into further financial distress, eliciting widespread lamentation and suffering across the nation.

Navigating Rising Costs and Diminishing Profits

For market women like Mrs. Mudashiru, a seasoned pepper seller with decades of experience, navigating rising costs and diminishing profits has become increasingly challenging.

“The removal of fuel subsidies has led to higher transportation costs and increased the prices of essential goods. As a result, our profit margins have shrunk, making it difficult to sustain our businesses and support our families.” she lamented 

In an interview with the Harbinger, Mrs. Rasheed, a dedicated nylon seller, shared poignant insights into the profound impact of economic hardship on her business and livelihood. 

She spoke candidly about the challenges she faces amidst the prevailing economic turmoil, explaining the toll it has taken on her entrepreneurial endeavors.

“Surviving as a nylon seller in these trying times has become increasingly difficult,” Mrs. Rasheed lamented. 

“The economic downturn has severely affected the demand for my products, making it harder to sustain my business and provide for my family.” She expressed deep concern over the uncertainty that looms over her livelihood, emphasizing the urgent need for support and assistance to navigate these turbulent times.

Need for Support Amidst Economic Uncertainty

Mrs. Rasheed eloquently articulated the sentiments echoed by numerous market women, emphasizing the crucial need for government intervention to alleviate their plight. 

She passionately advocated for support to help them navigate the challenging economic landscape, stating, “We urgently need assistance from the government to weather this economic storm.” With their profits dwindling and expenses mounting, many market women find themselves grappling to make ends meet. 

Mrs. Rasheed stressed the importance of targeted support measures, emphasizing that they are essential for safeguarding the livelihoods of market women and ensuring the continued vitality of local economies. She reiterated the plea for government assistance, emphasizing its significance in sustaining the resilience of market women and empowering them to overcome the adversities they face.

While speaking, Mrs. Sherifat Mudashiru earnestly implored the government to extend a helping hand in any manner possible, stating, “We plead with the government to provide assistance in whatever form they can offer, as our livelihoods are at stake.”

Adapting to escalating prices and market volatility

Mrs. Olaoke, a seasoned nylon seller, lamented about the challenges she faces amidst escalating prices and market volatility. 

She discussed the struggles of adapting to the ever-changing economic landscape, shedding light on the hurdles she encounters in sustaining her business.

“The relentless rise in the cost of goods has posed significant challenges for us nylon sellers,” Mrs. Olaoke bemoaned. 

“We are constantly forced to recalibrate our prices to keep pace with market dynamics. However, despite our best efforts, our profit margins remain perilously slim, leaving us with little room for maneuver.”

With unwavering determination, Mrs. Olaoke emphasized the resilience and resourcefulness that characterize her entrepreneurial spirit. 

“As nylon sellers, we rely on our ingenuity and adaptability to weather the storms of economic uncertainty,” she stated. 

“We are committed to finding innovative solutions to navigate these turbulent times and ensure the sustainability of our businesses.”

However, Mrs. Olaoke also underscored the importance of external support in bolstering the resilience of small-scale entrepreneurs like herself. 

“While we strive to overcome these challenges independently, government intervention is crucial to provide the necessary assistance and support,” she asserted. 

“By implementing targeted measures to alleviate the burdens placed on businesses, the government can help us navigate these turbulent waters and emerge stronger in the face of adversity.”

Hope and resilience amidst adversity

Despite the challenges they face, market women like Mrs. Juliet remain hopeful and resilient, “While the road ahead may be difficult, we remain steadfast in our determination to overcome adversity. 

“We draw strength from our communities and our shared resilience as market women. With perseverance and collective action, we believe that better days lie ahead.”

Also, Orka Morein, the foodstuffs seller, emphasized the market’s grim situation, stating, “Profit used to be good, but now there’s hardly any gain.” 

She also highlighted the impact of rising prices, noting, “Semovita is now ₦1500, and consumers hearing that price will leave.”

Moreso, With her steadfast resolve and unwavering optimism, Mrs. Olaoke remains determined to persevere through the challenges ahead, confident in her ability to adapt and thrive in an ever-evolving economic landscape.

 

Experts React

Emmanuel Kilaso,  the Founder of Securecycle Initiatives, offers insights on how local businesses in Nigeria can adapt and flourish amidst challenges.

Kilaso underscores the potential for innovation and growth, advocating for the exploration of energy-efficient practices, supply chain optimization, and the adoption of digital platforms to expand market reach.

He stresses the importance of adaptation, stating, “Local businesses can thrive by embracing energy-efficient practices, optimizing supply chains, and leveraging digital platforms to broaden their market reach.”

Addressing the fuel subsidy issue, Kilaso suggests a pragmatic approach, advising businesses to procure fuel from NNPC, the sole provider offering lower prices nationwide.

Analyzing the broader economic landscape, Kilaso highlights the obstacles posed by increased operational costs, reduced consumer spending, and disruptions in supply chains, all of which challenge local businesses.

Advocating for governmental assistance, Kilaso proposes streamlined regulatory processes and initiatives facilitating access to affordable credit as essential interventions to support local businesses.

In proposing tangible measures to bolster business sustainability, he emphasized the importance of government support in purchasing products directly from farmers, thereby mitigating post-harvest losses and enhancing profitability for local businesses.

Boluwatife Adedokun is a passionate journalist, who writes to ameliorate societal ills. As a young journalist, she aims to have a society devoid of corruptions by righting the wrongs with the power of pen. Her enthusiasm towards speaking for the masses has engendered her publication in different national dailies and she wish to be more impactful through her stories.

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