The 2019 yuletide has come and gone and we are into the New Year. While many prepared for the harsh realities of the New Year in advance, others were caught pants down with school fees, house rents and other demands, even as many have lost their jobs, amidst other bills waiting to be settled. PAUL OKAH reports.
“After the reggae play the blues” is a popular Nigerian music by Harrysong and other hip hop stars, which tends to suggest that every action is followed by reaction or consequences, which is also particularly evident in the Nigerian situation; where many groan over the realities of the New Year, following expenses made during the yuletide.
Many Nigerians are presently trapped in different villages across the country, having spent more than two months’ salaries or their savings trying to please many people in the village during the yuletide.
Worse still, many civil servants with children are faced with the reality of having to pay school fees for their wards this term, having spent last month’s salary enjoying the yuletide in the village and meeting unbudgeted expenses.
Furthermore, many tenants are also struggling to raise money for the renewable of their apartments; having been carried away by many fanciful objects they did not budget for during the yuletide or trying to impress family members and friends during the Christmas.
Also, having spent more days than required in the village, many workers have come back from the village to meet sack letters from their bosses and have now joined the labour market in search of nonexistent white collar jobs.
House/ shop rents
Mr. Theophilus Adebayo hails from Ogun state, but resides in Utako in the FCT. He came into the city about three years ago and has been trying to find his feet in the cosmopolitan city working for different private organisations, while also on the lookout for a civil service job.
In a chat with Blueprint Weekend, he said he “now regrets overspending during the 2019 yuletide,” as he met a plethora of cases at home demanding financial attention and now has to look out for friends willing to lend him money to renew his accommodation especially as his landlord would not tolerate excuses.
He said, “You and I know how difficult it is to secure accommodation here in Abuja. Where I stay, I pay N350, 000 for a one bedroom flat. I know the stress I went through to secure the accommodation, especially with regard to agent fees and other things. It is even cheap at that price, considering the rent paid by others in different places.
“However, my greatest concern is renewing the accommodation this month. I travelled home during Christmas and met many family problems that I couldn’t say no to. My family members look up to me as I reside in Abuja, despite the fact that I am still trying to secure a permanent civil service job. I have worked with different companies since I arrived in this city three years ago.
“Right now, I am thinking of how to get loan from friends to make up my rent, which will expire in a week’s time. My landlord is not the type that will entertain excuses. He was even talking about renovating the apartment last month, which I understood to be an excuse to increase the house rent. Therefore, if I make excuses at this time, it would be asking for ejection and I wouldn’t like to lose the apartment. I am just confused at the moment.”
Similarly, a businessman in Jabi, Mr. Nnaemeka Onuigbo, said he has his shop rent to take care of this January, but that he has to think of stocking his shop apart from the huge amount of money he has to pay for his rent.
“The truth is that Christmas is worth it, especially as it affords us the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas in a family. I don’t regret travelling home for Christmas because I used the opportunity to achieve many things, which wouldn’t be possible if I spent the yuletide here in Abuja.
“Nevertheless, like many other people, I am faced with the challenge of renewing my shop rent. There is competition here to get a shop. I know many people going behind to meet the landlord to add money and take over this shop from me, but I will overcome. It is just about being in business for a few weeks and I will raise the money for my rent. It may look difficult right now because of the Christmas expenses, but things will pick up,” he said.
Many responsible parents are faced with the task of paying school fees for their children in different schools, which is coming at the backdrop of expenses made during the yuletide.
For Mrs. Aisha Musa, a teacher who resides in Gwarinpa, school fees is not an emergency as parents who have children in schools are supposed to use the holidays to provide money to pay for their wards’ school fees upon resumption of the academic session.
“Nothing puts me off more than to hear parents make excuses of their inability to afford school fees for their wards. I mean, every parent should know that the next thing upon resumption is for the payment of his/ her wards’ fees. There is nothing like emergency because we have several weeks to prepare for the next academic session.”
At the background of complaints of unemployment across the country, many workers have been sacked from their jobs; for overstaying in the village and companies have started recruiting new staff to replace less serious ones.
Also, having met with “more prosperous” friends during the yuletide, many people come back to the city with the determination to look for better paying jobs that will enable them save more to measure up to their mates.
In a chat with our reporter in Jahi, the CEO of sachet water company, Alhaji Bello Jafaru, who recently relieved two of his staff of their duties, said he does not operate a charity organisation “where people can behave anyhow.”
“I know what I went through to establish my pure water factory, including borrowing money from banks, so I will not allow unserious fellows to run down my business in the name of travelling home for Christmas. I pleaded with Emeka (one of the sacked staff) to stay and work and earn more money during this harmattan, but he refused.
“Despite earning less than N20, 000, he insisted he would travel home for Christmas. I even gave him five days off, but he spent more than two weeks at home. Who does that? He should go and look for another job because I don’t run a charity organisation where people can decide when to come to work and when not to. This is my own company and I will not allow lazy persons to run it down,” he said.
Blessing Ibiam said she ignored all entreaties by friends not to travel home for the yuletide because of her poorly paid job as a teacher in a private primary school in Dutse, Abuja.
“I earn N25, 000 teaching music in a private school here in Dutse. I am not a graduate, I use the money to look after myself and then save to further my studies. It is not as if the money is good, but you know how hard it is getting a job here in Abuja. Therefore, I do my best to make sure I retain the job, though the salary is not even steady.
“I shouldn’t have travelled home for Christmas, but I couldn’t help it. I didn’t travel home last Christmas and I missed my family, so I had to go home. My salary was gulped by transportation fare alone, so you can imagine how bleak the Christmas turned out to be. I had to rush back with only my transportation fare left in my account. Right now, I depend on my neighbours and friends to see me through until I receive my salary for January.”
Continuing, she said, “The month of January is usually difficult for civil servants and salaried workers. It looks like a double month for us workers. This is because, after the Christmas expenses, one has to wait till the end of the month to receive his salary. In my case, payment of salary by the school owner depends on timely payment by students of the school where I teach.
“In fact, it took many pleadings and visits to the proprietor for her to pay me the salary I used to travel home for Christmas. It is only God that will help people like me to overcome this tough January. We are not even in the middle of the month yet and things are this difficult, but I trust God for a miracle to get through the rest of the month.”
Stranded in the village
It is no longer news that many fun-seekers who travel home for the yuletide are usually stranded in the village as a result of overspending.
Expectedly, transportation companies are cashing into the exodus of many people travelling back from the village to resume their businesses or jobs in the city and would hike transportation fares to make commuters pay through their noses.
Just like operations during the Christmas, transportation fares back to the city from the village are usually reviewed upwards.
Selling off wares
Interestingly, many civil servants and workers being “held hostage” in the village by the high cost of transportation fares have started selling off their property to get enough money for transportation back to the city.
Making jest of those who usually overspen during the yuletide, a Lagos-based businessman, Obele Joseph, said he is ready to buy off the property of those stranded in the village to enable them to travel back to base.
“I am a businessman and I am in to make gains, not to pity anyone over his or her foolishness. Please, those yahoo yahoo guys who borrowed money to buy new cars to travel home for Christmas should please call me now if you want to sell them. I will buy them as Nigeria-use. Christmas is over now and the prices of the cars are bound to come down.
“Also, guys how many girls called you during December to know if you are coming back? Are they still calling you now? That should tell you something. People should just be careful with their finances. You can’t rush home to spend all your life savings in the name of Christmas and expect someone to pity you this New Year. Life doesn’t work out that way,” he said.
Businesses pick up slowly
As usual, businesses are slow in picking up this yuletide. Many businessmen and women usually spend quite a long time in the village, while many people cannot afford money to buy new things except basis necessities.
For a long time, businesses are usually closed down. Many traders use the excuse of factories being on break to hike prices of products until the end of January when things would gradually pick up.
A Nyanya trader, Mr. Matthew Toochukwu, said he usually cashes into the unavailability of products and absence of many to hike prices of his products and make money to recover expenses made during the yuletide.
“This is usually my best part of the year. Towards the end of the year, many people would sell off their products before going home for Christmas. Many of them would remain in the village and then return to see that some factories are closed and that prices of goods are still high.
“Therefore, I make sure I stock goods in my shop that would satisfy customer’s wants. Customers can pay any amount for products when they’re readily available. Therefore, when they go round the market and realise I am the only person that has a particular product, they will be forced to buy from me at my stipulated price. I didn’t even travel home for Christmas, but I sent my family home. Nevertheless, I will definitely recover the expenses I made from my customers,” he said.
Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, an economic expert and chairman, board of directors of Amaka Chiwuike-Uba Foundation (ACUF), Dr Chiwuike Uba, said it is irresponsible for people to spend their savings just to please others during Christmas.
He urged Nigerians to be conservative and always plan ahead of time in order not to end up regretting avoidable expenses, even as he said it may not be a bad idea for people to start planning for 2021 even in this New Year.
He said, “I am sure you are conversant with the quote; ‘those who fail to plan, plan to fail’ and do not forget that we are the product of our daily activities; in fact, our per second activities. With due respect and all sense of honesty, it depicts clear irresponsibility for any person to predicate the inability to meet predetermined regular and very important bills. Painfully, our people eat the lunch and dinner as part of breakfast and end up crying of starvation during dinner time.
“Clearly, surviving the pressures from January bills require planning and saving culture. There is no better time to start planning and saving for January 2021 expenses than now. Many people spent all they have and some even went borrowing to please family, friends and foes during the Christmas and New Year celebrations. That’s man’s inhumanity to himself and his family.
“Personally, I usually pay my children’s next terms school fees as soon as they close for the term in early December. I also shop for food for the house within that period. In so doing, I am drawn back to reality. Sometimes, you may have big money in your account and if you don’t factor your liabilities, you end up having bubble funds. Your balance sheet must always show your assets and liabilities.”