Nigerians have kicked against the huge amounts of money spent on feeding President Muhammadu Buhari and state governors despite the recession the country is facing.
Many Nigerians lamented that while they could no longer feed thrice daily due to unpaid salaries and hike in food prices, the country’s leaders appeared not to be feeling the heat.
In the 2016 budget, funds running into billions of naira were budgeted for feeding and entertainment for the Presidency and the state governors.
For instance, figures obtained by one of our correspondents in the 2016 Appropriation Act showed that the sum of N103.47m was budgeted for foodstuff and catering materials in the Presidential Villa.
Most of the states did not indicate how much would be spent on feeding in their budgets but in Ondo State, the sum of N103.2m was budgeted for feeding and entertainment of the state governor in 2016 while the sum of N1.4bn was proposed for entertainment and hospitality for the governor of Cross River.
It was learnt that Benue State earmarked about N1.96bn in its 2016 budget for the feeding of the governor and entertainment of his guests. Abia and Nasarawa states budgeted N350m and N156m respectively for the same purposes.
Reacting to the feeding allowances made for the President and governors in the 2016 budget which runs into billions of naira, the General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said such a provision was unacceptable considering the austerity Nigerians are contending with.
He said, “Feeding allowance for the President and the governors is unacceptable. We need to make structural changes and reduce the cost of governance. Why do we need to feed a governor who gets salary monthly?”
Also condemning the feeding allowance for governors in an interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, the Executive Chairman of the Coalition against Corrupt Leaders, Debo Adeniran, said it was Nigerians that deserved feeding allowances and not the governors or the president.
He said, “Feeding allowance for the President and governors is purely exploitation and an undeserved largesse. It is Nigerians that actually deserve feeding allowance, especially with the hardship in the country.”
Breadwinners across Nigeria, including civil servants, private sector workers, artisans and traders, who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH correspondents in different parts of the country, said they could hardly eat one or two meals per day.
They also said both the quality and quantity of the food they managed to put on the table had drastically reduced, while most families expressed fears that their children could suffer terrible malnutrition if the situation remained unchecked.
Those who spoke with our correspondents attributed the latest development to increment in the prices of food items and ingredients in the market, coupled with the drastic reduction of their income.
They noted with great concern that the prices of yam, cassava flour, plantain, garri, cocoyam, sweet potatoes, maize, millet, and guinea corn, which they used to prepare their meals, was beyond their reach.
Many Nigerians in the South-West said they had resorted to drinking garri, while those in the northern part said they boiled unripe corn for their children to eat.
SUNDAY PUNCH correspondents in Oyo, Niger, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ekiti, Delta, Rivers, Bauchi, Enugu, Kaduna, Ogun, Kwara, Osun, Benue, Katsina, Ondo and Edo states, gave similar reports on the hardship.
Residents who spoke to our correspondent in Ondo State said they could no longer afford a balanced diet.
A local government staff member, Mrs. Deborah Ajayi, said her family has started eating twice a day due to the current economic situation in the country.
She said, “The state government owes us six months salaries. I am a widow with four children; it has not been easy for us. We now eat once or twice a day, unlike before.”
Also, an auto mechanic, Mr. Wasiu Oguntola, said, “At times, I drink only garri once a day. I find it difficult to feed my family properly now.”
A trader, Mrs. Mariam Agbeye, said, “Prices of food and other consumables are rising every day. We cannot afford what we want again but what we see. In my family now, we only eat twice, whether we are satisfied or not. May God deliver us.”
In Katsina State, a vulcaniser, Bello Batagarawa, who operates at Faqachi quarters of the state capital, said he had to engage in farming to enable him to feed his family of two wives and five children, two times daily.
A civil servant, Ango Hamisu, also said, “I used to give each of my three children N100 whenever I dropped them at school. But now, we only prepare corn for them to eat during their break period, while we prepare any affordable food for dinner.”
The Chairman of the National Conscience Party in the state, Mr. Abdulmumin Sheu Sanni, said the average family man could no longer afford quality meals twice daily.
“This has led to high incidence of crime, people can no longer feed,” he said.
Many residents of Benue State, who spoke with our correspondent, said they could only eat ‘eba’ once daily accompanied with any type of soup with or without meat.
A civil servant with the Bureau of Establishments, Mrs. Grace Ajoh, told SUNDAY PUNCH that her family could no longer afford rice, beans, semovita or beverages again but had to manage with akpu, amala and eba, once a day.
A recharge card seller at the gate of Government House, Makurdi, Mr. Favour Obong, said, “I can’t afford a proper meal more than once again in my house.”
Similarly, a primary school teacher in Makurdi, who identified himself as Joseph, narrated how his seven-month-old child was almost starved to death on Friday just because he could not provide N20 for his wife to buy akamu for the baby.
The teacher said, “That morning, my wife woke me and said our child was hungry and could not sleep throughout the night. So, with faith, I started trekking. I became tired at a point. It was at that point that the state secretary of the NLC gave me N100.”
An electrician in Osun State, Mr. Niyi Adewale, who lives at Okinni town, said his children and wife now eat “one heavy meal in a day.”
He said, “I don’t know what we would have been eating if not for the yams and maize in my small farm. Things have not been easy for us.”
A civil servant, who works in one of the newly created local council development authorities, also told our correspondent that getting food was the biggest problem facing his family.
Residents of Kwara State said they now eat either fufu or eba once a day, especially in the afternoon.
Some of them said since fish and beef had become expensive, they ate meals without them, adding that those who had farms had resorted to using mainly vegetables from their farms to prepare their soups.
The respondent included the Kwara State Secretary, Nigerian Union of Local Government Employees, Mr. Abayomi Afolabi; a social commentator, Mr. Olaolu Kasum; an artisan, Mr. Kehinde Mustapha; a businesswoman, Mrs. Mulikat Balogun, and some civil servants who spoke on condition of anonymity.
A trader in Abeokuta, Bashiru Atanda, said he skipped dinner.
He said, “I only eat twice a day, that is breakfast and lunch. I skip my dinner. This is because I can no longer afford three meals a day. The sales are no longer booming as before.”
A civil servant, who did not want his name in print, also said, “I have a family of six. Before President Buhari ascended to power, we normally cooked eight cups of rice each time we wanted to eat rice, but now we have reduced the quantity to six cups.”
In Kaduna, a traditional title holder in Kachia, Ibrahim Bayero, said his family could rarely feed these days.
Asked how many times he fed his family daily, he said, “It is not stable. Sometimes, we eat once in a day. God has his way of doing things, sometimes, we eat three times daily.”
Also, the Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party Integrity Group, Rilwanu Abdullahi, said over 80 per cent of the residents were living in squalour, and that they could hardly feed.
Spokesperson for the Christian Association of Nigeria in the North, Rev. John Hayab, said, “We are calling on the government to devise measures to cushion the effects of hunger and suffering among Nigerians.”
Residents who spoke to our correspondent in Enugu, said they could no longer afford three meals daily for their families and blamed the development on the economic situation in the country.
SUNDAY PUNCH learnt that, in the absence of regular meals, ‘okpa’, a type of bean cake, was being used by most families to augment their feeding.
A taxi driver, Amobi, said his family ate a proper meal once a day, which was usually at night.
He said, “I leave the house early in the morning, and my wife stays home with the kids. We take okpa during the day until evening when we have a normal meal like garri or fufu.”
In Bauchi, an Assistant Director at level 14 of the state Ministry of Youth and Sports, who identified himself as Musa, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he could barely give his family three times daily owing to the economic hardship.
He said, “As an Assistant Director, I used to feed my family meals three times a day but I can hardly give them food once a day because the government owed me two months’ salaries. I can only manage to give my two wives and 10 children food with support from family and friends.”
A woman, who identified herself as Mrs. Mary, told one of our correspondents how her family changed from three meals daily to two meals due to the cost of food stuff.
Mary, who sells roasted corn, lamented that the N100 rice she bought as lunch for her three-year-old, John, was not enough for him.
Similar findings by our correspondents in the Delta State towns of Warri, Effurun, Asaba and Sapele, revealed that most households could no longer afford three meals per day.
A carpenter, Jude Odum, who lives in Effurun, said what his family ate depended on what he had in his pocket. According to him, his family eat twice or once, depending on the available resources.
Many civil servants have returned to farming to cushion the effect of the harsh economy in the country and to feed their families.
A worker with the state government, Mr. Ojo Daniel, told our correspondent that it had been difficult to feed his family three times a day. He said he and some of his friends had returned to farming.
This was the same case in Oyo State, where many residents said their income could no longer put food on the table of their families more than once or twice daily.
Some workers in the public and private sectors, as well as traders, have cut down their family’s food rations to two square meals per day.
A civil servant, Mrs. Ikwo Cobham, said she was compelled to stop buying beef as a result of the situation.
Another worker, Etim Jacob, said he relocated his wife and children from Calabar to his village in the northern part of the state because he could no longer feed them.
Some of the civil servants, artisans, and traders, who spoke with SUNDAY PUNCH in Akwa Ibom, said they could not afford three square meals a day due to the harsh economic conditions.
Those who said they could afford two square meals per day stated that they did not have a choice from different types of meals as the same meals were served in the morning and evening.
Most families in Niger State cannot afford three square meals every day, according to the investigations conducted by one of correspondents who went round some major towns in the state.
For instance, a civil servant, Mrs. Kate Bolaji, said her family could not provide three square meals daily for her children because the take-home pay was not enough.