Wednesday 12 June 2024

Worsening Recession in Nigeria

Photo by Tope A. Asokere on Pexels

By Ramatu Ada Ochekliye

On September 8, 2016, I wrote about the state of the economy under the former President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari. It started with my bold statement, ‘There is a recession in Nigeria’. Today, I am writing on the same topic as we navigate the economy under our current President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Eight years after the fact, there is still a recession in Nigeria. 

PS: Most of what I said in the original letter will not change. So, let us get into it.


I am not going to pretend that I understand all the dynamics of the current economic state of Nigeria nor am I going to explain economic terms. In truth, many Nigerians do not care about or understand what all of those words mean. I will however attempt to explain what this recession means for the average Nigerian.

As with the first piece, I detailed the story of Mama Success, a petty trader with barely any formal education. She is married to a mechanic and they have three children. She has always struggled daily to keep her family. She does this by selling whatever is in season: tomatoes, groundnuts, etc. Mama Success was shuttling between hawking cooked corn and boiled groundnuts when I wrote about her story. We spent time talking about the state of the economy and how it affected her and her family. I didn’t need her to tell me anything: she was gaunt, and there was so much sadness in her eyes. 

She used to buy corn for ₦50/tier before the recession. It had gone up to ₦220/tier in 2016. She talked about Garri – Nigeria’s ‘food for the poor’ as many people call it – and the price increase was shocking at that point. 

At that time, she also couldn’t send her son – Success – to school because she couldn’t raise the funds for it. A benefactor took up his education and sent him to one of the Unity Schools. Her joy was short-lived when barely two years in, the government proposed an increase of about 300% on school fees, asking that parents pay ₦75,000 from what used to be ₦20,000. The benefactor announced that he could no longer pay Success’ fees and wished them well in their endeavors. Mama Success worried about her children's education and wondered if they may end up like their father and her: illiterate, poor, unhappy.

Eight years later, I keep thinking about Mama Success and her children: and other families like them. Things have become progressively harder for Nigerians. The basics are now so expensive that middle and lower-class Nigerians are strained from earning so little and spending so much on necessities. 

As with eight years ago, I went to the market a couple of times and I left with my chest in pain every time. Here is a list of the price of a couple of things in the market.



2015 Price (₦) 

2016 Price (₦)

2024 Price (₦)


Vegetable Oil 





Palm Oil




















Seasoning (Maggi)















Peak Milk










Dudu Osun Bathing Soap









I used small measures to describe how hard things are. Most people are feeling the brunt of this recession. Every additional ₦10 (and in some cases, ₦1,000) is something someone in the lower class feels deeply. But the thing is, it is not just people in the lower class complaining. Nigerians categorized as ‘middle class’ are unhappy too. They might not feel the bite as much as people in the lower class, but they are feeling it: badly.

Millions of Nigerians do not have viable jobs. Companies are leaving Nigeria in droves. Even people who work for the government do so at a ₦30,000 minimum wage per month. This amount cannot buy the things I have listed above. This is coupled with the fact that some parastatals and state governments cannot even pay these salaries, as meager as they are. I do not even want to mention clothes and transportation because, in the light of other things, they seem trivial. What I will mention is that the price of transportation has tripled: at least. Anyone buying fuel, which went up from around ₦169/litre in 2015 to ₦690/litre today, knows that things are costly now because of how dependent necessities are.

Small and medium-scale businesses are downsizing. Salaries cannot be increased as the economic downturn continues to worsen. 

What does this all mean?

This means that even with the hike in the price of things, fewer and fewer people have the purchasing power to get necessities. As a result, the markets aren’t as full as they used to be. I spent time talking to market men and women, okada riders and bus drivers, petty traders, hawkers, masons, tailors, and small food vendors, and the general feeling amongst them was ‘The country is hard.’

That Nigerians are suffering because of the policies of this government, or the lack thereof, is no longer news. What is however surprising is the government’s callous dismissal of the suffering of Nigerians. Many proponents of this government sound like the ‘recession in Nigeria is exaggerated’. Exaggerated? Exaggerated?! I want them to tell people like Mama Success who haven’t had the chance to get out of multidimensional poverty. I want them to tell that to the okada rider who is worried about school fees for his children. I want them to tell that to the civil servant who is earning minimum wage and whose salary cannot buy a bag of rice today: the cheapest you can buy a bag of rice today is ₦75,000. I really want them to tell young Nigerians who are unemployed or who have recently been sacked that the recession is exaggerated.

The All Progressives Congress (APC), with the governing body led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, spend all their time ignoring these issues. They couldn’t ignore it anymore when the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) went on strike on June 3, 2024. But that is a story for another day. 

The government promised to fix everything and when Nigerians demand that they keep their promise, they tell us they are not magicians. Suddenly they are not magicians?! But they made promises that were nothing short of magic! I don’t understand why we are expected to accept less from a group of people who promised more. Sadly, this government that delighted in calling former President Goodluck Jonathan ‘clueless’ in 2015 is very much the same with the economy. The only difference between them is that Nigerians are suffering more with this administration. 

Again I need to reiterate. I am not a fan of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu: I have never been. That said, I want Nigeria to work because this is the only home I have. This is the only home most of us have. So even if I dislike President Tinubu, I want him to work! I need him to work! I need him to formulate policies that will revive this economy. 

There is a widening gap between the rich and poor: as if the gap wasn’t wide enough already. Soon enough, we may not have a middle class in this country, and the poor will have even worse straits than they do now. People would either be rich or poor. And since there are usually more poor people than the rich, the widening gap will create more disillusionment in society. The government needs to work. Leaders accept responsibility and run with it. 

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