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Special report: Furious Nigerians protest against hunger and the exorbitant cost of living

8 February 2024
Reading time: 8 minutes

Angry and aggrieved Nigerians take to the streets in response to government’s claim that citizens enjoyed the lowest cost of living in Africa
As the naira continues to plummet, Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest against hunger and the ever-increasing price of food.
Protesters – mostly women and youths – in Minna, the capital of Niger State, gathered at the Kpakungu Roundabout, blocking traffic in all directions, on Monday morning, February 5, to express their grievances about the soaring cost of food.

Protesters also went on the march in Kano, in Kano State, on Monday, to voice their unhappiness.

The peaceful demonstrations took place a day after the country’s president, Bola Tinubu, claimed that Nigerians enjoyed the lowest cost of living in Africa despite the soaring inflation rate, the hike in the prices of goods and services, and the high cost of living.
In response to the protests, the federal government convened a meeting of the presidential committee on emergency food intervention on Tuesday in Abuja.

Mohammed Idris, the minister of information and national orientation, told journalists that the president was concerned about the accessibility and affordability of food items across the nation.

He said the meeting would continue until Thursday and that significant measures were being considered to ameliorate the deplorable situation.

“Some of these will involve unlocking the foods that are available in most of the storage facilities [National Food Reserves] around the country.

“The government is also talking to major millers and commodity traders to see what is available in their stores.
“… the president has directed that government needs to step up to stem this tide.

“Government will not fold its arms and see the way Nigerians are suffering in terms of the availability of these food items.

“By the time these meetings are concluded, we’ll be able to issue a definite statement on what the position of government is in this regard.”


Abdulmumin Garba, a resident of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno State, said the president’s statement was “unfair” because many Nigerians were living in poverty and were unable to provide “three square meals a day” for their families.

Bakura Mohammed said he did not know how the presidency could compare the situation in Nigeria with other African countries.

“It’s not the right time for the government to make such a statement. Nigerians are experiencing serious hardships.”

“Finding the solution to the challenges and hardships affecting the people is the only way out. Now is not the time for the government to compare Nigeria’s cost of living with other African countries. We are suffering a cost-of-living crisis,” said Abubakar Mohammed, a trader in and resident of Maiduguri.
Modu Abatcha said: “We have to turn to God to seek his forgiveness because what is happening goes beyond human explanation. Imagine an increase of ₦10,300 in 30 days for a 50kg bag of rice. And no one is saying anything? And the government says that Nigeria has a lowest cost of living in Africa instead of finding solutions to the current cost-of-living crisis that is affecting everyone.”

Alhaji Umar Fahad, also a resident of Maiduguri, said: “Perhaps the government has a legitimate reason for saying that Nigeria has a lowest cost of living in Africa in terms of accessing food items and other commodities in the market.
“If you go to other African countries, for example Chad or the Niger Republic, the costs of products and services are extremely expensive if you convert their currency into naira. If the federal government is trying to compare Nigeria’s cost of living with other African countries in terms of accessing goods and services in the market, then what it is saying is on the right track.”


Umar Mohammed Sanda, a public affairs analyst, said the exorbitant cost of living was being felt globally and not only in Nigeria. The ongoing Russia-Ukraine and the Israel-Hamas/Gaza wars were affecting the flow of goods in the global market and creating a worldwide recession.

“Nigerians have the right to stage peaceful demonstrations as enshrined in the Nigerian constitution but violent protests that will bring about unrest are totally prohibited because they will undermine national security and bring about disunity and a political crisis that will trigger vandalism of public property and government buildings or offices. Sponsored hoodlums have been known to hijack peaceful protests, resulting in a crackdown on protesters, killings and lawlessness.

He said the federal government needed to put in place all necessary measures to address the escalating cost-of-living crisis.

He advised law-abiding citizens to refrain from violent protests.


When the government removed the fuel subsidy in July last year, prices of commodities, including food, skyrocketed.

Tinubu declared a state of emergency and ordered that food items and other necessary palliatives be distributed to cushion the hardships people were experiencing.

However, most Nigerians said the interventions had no significant impact.
Adam Ali Adam, a resident of Maiduguri, said the government had not made proper arrangements in the distribution of food and other palliatives. This meant many of the people who really needed it did not receive help.

Fatima Modu, also a resident of Maiduguri, agreed saying not all Nigerians benefited. She claimed that the process had been politicised and was not transparent.

However, she was optimistic that this time around the federal government would adopt appropriate arrangements for the distribution of food.

Sanda said the federal government needed to establish a committee comprising civil society organisations (CSOs), traditional rulers, including the heads of wards and villages, as well as women and youth groups, who were capable of handling the distribution processes and would ensure the interventions reached the right people.

He said there were about 200 million people in Nigeria so it was imperative that the government took appropriate measures to ensure the distribution processes were transparent. If not, he said, the people who needed the interventions most would not benefit.
He praised Tinubu for ordering the presidential committee to step up to stem the worsening food security crisis by releasing National Food Reserves to boost availability.

The government was doing the right thing by working closely with major millers and commodity traders to ease food prices, he said.


Yusuf Inuwa, the chairman of the Borno State chapter of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), told RNI that the soaring cost of living was affecting all Nigerians, particularly poor, indigent and low-income earners.

The NLC was calling for an incremental hike in salaries as part of the measures to cushion the hardship experienced by workers across the country.
The crisis had been brought to the attention of Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of Borno State.

“The NLC has demanded that Zulum address the plight of workers by providing non-interest loans, food items and other necessary interventions or palliatives that will sustain workers through the hardships caused by the removal of the fuel subsidy.

“We are engaging with the state government to fulfil some of our demands such as implementing a ₦30,000 minimum wage for local government workers, granting wage awards and implementing promotion benefits.”

He said the NLC was not only concerned about salaries but also about the plight of workers, particularly at this “extremely difficult time” when the prices of all goods had skyrocketed.
“The NLC is committed to ensuring that the government takes the right steps to address the challenges faced by Nigerians.”

Bulama Abiso, chairman of the Borno State branch of the Network for Civil Society Organisations, said women and youths in Minna in Niger State and in Kano in Kano State, had taken to the streets to protest against hunger and the soaring cost of living.

“If the government does not want such protests to spread to other parts of country it must take all the necessary measures to address the cost-of-living crisis. It is worse in Borno State because citizens have to deal with hugely inflated prices as well as insecurity.”

Abiso urged the government to put in place proactive measures before distributing food and other palliatives to ensure the right people benefited from the intervention.

The distribution should be carefully monitored and managed by either the federal or state governments for the betterment of all Nigerians, he said.


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