Impact of fuel subsidy removal: changing lifestyles and economic struggles for women in Nigeria



Since President Tinubu's announcement of fuel subsidy removal in his May 29th, 2023 inauguration speech, which subsequently raised fuel prices from N189/litre to N617/litre, Nigerians have been grappling with the challenges of an increasingly high cost of living.

While the Nigerian government has implemented various palliative measures, including additional allowances for workers and food distribution to support vulnerable families, many Nigerians are still struggling to adapt to this new reality.

One noticeable change is the shifting lifestyle among women, particularly those in educational institutions. Off-campus students are now bringing homemade food to school, a practice uncommon before the fuel subsidy removal. The cost of food on campus has surged, making it difficult for students to afford meals.

"I can't concentrate on morning classes if I'm hungry, and food on campus is expensive. That's why my friends and I started bringing food from home," explained Fatima Idris, a student at Borno State University.

Prices of food on campus now often exceed N500.

"I bring food with me to ensure I don't go hungry at school. The majority of my money is allocated to transportation, leaving me with insufficient funds for food," added Aisha Ali Abubakar, another student at the University of Maiduguri.

Women outside of educational institutions have also been affected. Traditional displays of affection at weddings, like wearing new clothes or matching fabric designs known as "Anko," have become less common due to financial constraints. The economic situation has made it challenging for some to afford these customs.

"Asma'u Sani Abdullahi, a resident of Maiduguri, remarked, 'Anko is no longer within reach due to the current economic situation. I'm not the type to ask my boyfriend for Anko money, and my brothers used to assist, but not anymore."

Aisha Ali Abubakar, a student from Maiduguri, also added, "I used to save a portion of my daily transportation allowance for Anko, but now the N500 I receive daily for transport isn't even enough for my commuting expenses. Anko has become a secondary concern."

Food vendors and tailors struggle with dwindling patronage

This shift in women's lifestyles, as this report has uncovered, is significantly affecting various businesses, including tailoring, restaurants, and joints.

Zainab Yakubu, an orphan who sells fried yam at Borno State University, has expressed her concerns about a noticeable decline in patronage. She revealed that students used to make up a significant portion of her customer base, but they have become increasingly scarce.

"I'm running this business to support myself and my children, but the market has become tough," Mrs. Yakubu lamented, noting that she is now selling only half of what she used to before the subsidy removal.

Maryam Adamu, a trader at Borno State University, shared a similar sentiment: "After losing my husband, I started selling soft drinks at this school, and the business was thriving. But now, students don't have the money to spend anymore."

Ladidi Ibrahim, a food vendor, explained that she has had to reduce the quantity of food she supplies to Borno State University by more than 50%.

"Previously, we were making a good income, but now there's a lack of money as students primarily focus on covering transportation costs," Ladidi expressed. "Nonetheless, I continue because, no matter how challenging it is, it still helps me."

Tailors are also bemoaning a decline in customer numbers.

Al-Kasim Umar, a tailor based in Maiduguri, expressed his concern, saying, "In the past, I used to have a steady stream of clothing orders every week. However, now it's become increasingly rare for me to receive orders. Ladies used to commission outfits for both the primary wedding day and the subsequent day, sometimes even for dinner events."

Abubakar Ahmad, another tailor in Maiduguri, chimed in, "Patronage has seen a significant drop of over fifty percent when compared to 2022. This trend applies even to traditional clothing; we are witnessing a steady decrease in demand as time passes."

The removal of fuel subsidy has not only impacted the daily lives of women but has also created economic challenges for businesses, ranging from tailors to restaurants and food vendors. The ripple effects of this policy change are being felt throughout Nigerian society, particularly by women, who have had to adjust their lifestyles and face new financial pressures.

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