Meal For Learning (2): Market Prices Stiffen Cooking Process, Alternative For Students

For Twentyten Daily, Abdulsemiu Monsuroh highlighted how Nigerian students are finding it difficult to adjust to the increasing food prices despite having income from their sponsors (parents/guardians).

For Kabirat Arowona, a part two undergraduate of Pasture and Range Management at the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta(FUNAAB), cooking with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) has become a nightmare. 

Like several other Nigerian students, Kabirat has resorted to rationing food consumption and augmenting the allowance she receives monthly with the money she makes from working as a makeup artist and as a trained engagement coordinator. She sometimes works as an usher or server in events.

“Before the persistent increase in prices of foodstuffs and cooking gas, I cooked three times a day. Let us say I eat three times daily but now, I have reduced cooking drastically. 

“Ever since I refilled my cylinder for N800 per kg instead of the N450 that it was before, I vowed that I would not be refilling my gas until my school resumes another semester. I now cook with a hotplate, and cook with my gas only when the electricity is not available. I know I cannot afford to cook with Gas, not even in this present situation so I cook with gas only when it is important”, she said.

For Kabirat, the exorbitant prices of foodstuffs at the Osiele market, which is the  closest market to FUNAAB, means she  has to patronize the much farther Adatan market. 

Kabirat confirmed her suspicions that market women that sell in student areas inflate prices of foodstuffs when she priced 5 litres of palm oil in Osiele market and was told it was ₦4000. 

“A trader at Adatan gave me ₦3500 price a day earlier but I could not buy it because I was not with cash. The woman that sells the palm oil at Osiele  told me that ₦4000 was the cost that morning and I had to buy 2½ litres from her. I went to Adatan market two days later and I still found the price of palm oil at ₦3500, they (market women) inflated the price because most of their customers are students and they believe that students are rich”, she complained cynically.

The inflated prices have affected her monthly allowance which is not fixed. Kabirat now spends more than her normal semester budget of ₦30,000 on foodstuffs  and she  does not get enough satisfaction compared to the pre covid era. 

A doctor friend, she said, drops a pack of food for her in her hostel from time to time. She eats whatever he drops without considering cooking.

“And sometimes, when I hear of people’s death, I embrace the mantra ‘Enjoy your life’ so I take out of my money to drink malt and every other thing that would be of good benefit to my body” Kabirat said.

The situation is the same for Ogunlaja Hafeezah, a part three  student of Crop Protection at the same school as Kabirat. Cooking and eating were easier when she resumed her 100 level. Hafeezah would stock up foodstuffs from home and only supplement the exhausted ones around the 8th to 9th week of resumption. 

She said ” I can remember buying 2 cups of beans for 50 naira and 1 kongo for 250 naira. The price of rice was a bit higher so I bought more beans than rice. If I buy 200 naira worth of potatoes alongside beans, I would eat two to three meals comfortably but these days the prices have increased drastically so I can’t afford to buy beans without talking about cooking them. Unlike Kabirat, Hafeezah patronizes Osiele market but she stopped when she could no longer afford the exorbitant price of foodstuffs. 

When she was in part one, Hafeezah would cook dinner everyday and then take cereal or biscuits before leaving for class in the morning, she would go back to her hostel in the afternoon to cook and eat to her satisfaction before leaving again for evening lectures. The opposite is the case now as Hafeezah barely cooks.

She said “Things are really tough, I prefer to buy cooked food now instead of cooking. I rely on noodles, cereals, biscuits and sometimes pap. I do not cook rice, beans and the likes any longer. The vegetable oil and palm oil I brought to school from home is just there.” 

A paint rubber of rice is now sold at ₦2,200 at the Osiele market, Hafeezah would rather buy noodles or cornflakes and milk as they would last her better than rice. 

“These days, I buy sausage rolls and a drink when I get to school in the morning and when I am  going back to my hostel in the afternoon or evening, I stop by the Student Union block to buy ₦150 beans inside ₦50 takeaway packs, sometimes with meat, sometimes without meat. I would then buy ₦120 bread and that’s all for the day.

“There is nothing I can do, my minimum monthly allowance of  ₦7000 has not increased since my 200 level days. Students are suffering seriously, I can relate because I do not eat what I want any longer. The last time I ate fish or meat was when I was at home. I dare not buy them in school, eggs and crayfish are all I eat now, even a piece of egg is ₦100”, she lamented.

Hafeezah stays at the Oluwo Alabata area around her school and unlike kabirat, she cooks with a kerosene stove instead of gas. A litre of kerosene, she said, was sold for ₦200 when she was in 100level, it now sells for ₦450.

“₦250 naira increment in kerosene price and allowance is not increasing, Junking heavily is the way out and whenever I feel like balling, I go to madam Spicy to eat rice and then buy ₦100 Ice cream”, she said. 

“I am losing my sanity,” Hafeezah bemoaned.

“The increase is affecting me and my studies. I have to buy manuals, lecture notes, pay dues, buy seeds for planting etc and there is no foodstuffs to fall back on. I am postponing reading for some courses till the exam come around, which is unlike me. Assimilation is impossible on a hungry stomach and there’s no money on the ground”, she said. 

Inflation in Nigeria

The National Bureau of Statistics in its Consumer Price Index reported that Nigeria’s inflation rate fell to 15.99 percent in October.

There has been a consistent fall since the highest record of 18.17  percent in March 2021.

The report, which measures inflation, saw an increase of 1.76 percent when compared to the record in October 2020 (14.23 percent).

However it is a 0.17 percent rate lower than the figure recorded in September 2021 (16.63).

Also, the Headline index increased by 0.98 percent in October but the increase was a 0.17 percent rate lower than the rate recorded in September 2021 (1.15 per cent).

The consistent drop in inflation had, however, not reflected, yet, in the prices of foodstuffs in the market. While Nigerians still battle to adjust with the increase, students in various tertiary schools are faced with rationing their meals daily alongside trying to study in school.

‘The struggle is everywhere’

Qozeem Mujeeb, a part two student of English Language and Literature at the University of Ibadan and a part time creative writer described inflation as “an ill wind that blows no one any good, even the richest man, would be affected”.

When Mujeeb resumed school on the 20th of February 2021, he filled a kg of cooking gas at the rate of ₦400 at Amure Shopping Complex, Agbowo, a kg of cooking gas is now filled at the rate of ₦800  which amounts to twice the initial price in a matter of months.

Mujeeb would cook twice a day (morning and night) when he could still afford the prices of  foodstuffs at the closest market to his school, the Bódìjà market. He has reduced the amount of food he consumes since the persistent increase in the prices of foodstuffs and cooking gas.

“Monthly, the amount of money I collect from home falls within the range of N10, 000 to N20,000 and I still exhausted my earnings on food and provisions. At 100 level, I would cook and eat as if we were producing food products in my family. But now, there is a limit to the food I buy, cook and eat. I feel sad rather than happy when I am sent a food allowance because the inflated prices on cooking gas and foodstuffs will eat up the money,  leaving no dime for other necessities, infact, it won’t even allow me to buy clothes” he said. 

It is mentally draining for Mujeeb when he goes to the market only to discover that the prices of foodstuffs increase on a daily basis. 

“I would rather save myself from arguing with those women at the market on why the prices of food products have gone so astronomically high and buy food to eat especially in the mornings. Bread is the common food I feed on mostly”, he added.

Mujeeb had to forgo some study materials and body care products when the costs of foodstuffs became huge and unaffordable.

He said, “I can remember that at the beginning of this semester, I had to buy some textbooks. But, the fact that  the costs of foodstuffs are becoming so huge and unaffordable and it is when one is fed well that  one can read and study, I had to forgo books for food.

“I used body care products quite often before we resumed this session—those were the times stuff has not become so expensive as this.  Since we’ve resumed in February, I can remember that I have bought body care products just twice or thereabouts, this is because my allowance and earnings are allotted basically on food alone. The packet of indomie I bought at the rate of N2,300 at the end of October was sold at the beginning of November at N2,600. I don’t even know how much it will be now, perhaps N2,900” Mujeeb concluded.

A comedian and  part two student of English Language at the Lagos State University, Erioluwa Adura does not have a different story despite that he is writing his first semester examination. When he first gained admission, he  usually got an allowance from home. As time progressed, Erioliwa started working and his allowance from home, he said, became less frequent to nothing at all.

“I do not buy food stuff. I bring food stuff from home most times. My foodstuff, on average,lasts for two months because  I stay alone”, he said.

Normally, Erioluwa cooks twice a day (morning and evening),”Recently, I no longer get foodstuffs from home. I’ve been cooking only once in a while and I drink more garri now. At the moment, I don’t even have gas. To substitute,I would borrow a neighbour’s hot plate but  I still can’t cook frequently because of the increased price of foodstuffs” says Erioluwa.

Aside from the exorbitant prices of foodstuffs, the persistent increase in the price of LPG cooking gas has deterred Erioluwa from cooking and eating good food. “Currently, a kg of cooking gas in my area goes for #800. When I first got to this area, I usually filled a kg of gas  for 350/400. Drastically, the price has risen to what we are nursing today. The surprising thing about the bizarre price of cooking gas is that no one saw it coming. I personally thought the price would curtail soon as the whole hike started around September/October.

Erioluwa shops and fill his gas at Ayepe Market,located at Ayepe Bus Stop, PPL Area, Ojo, as it is  closer to where he resides compared with other bigger food markets like the Iyana-Iba market, Akesan market, Igando ultra modern market etc which are located around LASU,Ojo campus. 

The consistent drop in inflation does not reflect in prices of foodstuffs and cooking gas rather the prices are on the high. This has affected the study pattern, eating pattern, allowance and nutritional well-being of average Nigeria students across federal and state institutions. Eating sparily and junking heavily has become the way out even when these students are studying for examinations.

  • This is a three part series report produced to highlight the struggles of how students in Nigerian tertiary institutions are dealing with the increasing food prices despite the consistent drop in inflation

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