Chigozie Uzoma, 39, seats on a white plastic chair at the extreme left end of a 10ft wide store housing bags of rice, garri, and cartons of tin tomato arranged in piles.
He assesses his stores with keen interest, dishing out instructions to his assistant - a young man of about 25 who he calls ‘boy’ – to attend to customers who trickle in with varying demands.
Juliet, Chigozie’s wife, is seen at the store opposite, measuring moulds of garri - one of Nigeria’s staple foods - to buyers. She would add a tip to each customer, like to say, please come again.
“You see”, Chigozie turns and says, “by this time last two years, I had two times more the number of people buying things from my store now. We made a lot of sales then. But since last year things started getting costly and people reduced the quantity of things they bought, while others stopped buying. They said it is recession. Up till now, we are still waiting for the recession to be over so that things will get better.”
Chigozie is one of many traders at Relieve market in Owerri, Southeast Nigeria and in other parts of the country who are yet to come to terms with the news that Nigeria is out of recession. For him, he is still awaiting Nigeria’s exit from recession not knowing that the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on September, 5, announced that Nigeria has escaped from the clutches of recession.
The NBS noted that in the second quarter of 2017, the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 0.55% (year-on-year) in real terms, indicating the emergence of the economy from recession after five consecutive quarters of contraction since Q1 2016.
The stat office further revealed that the growth is 2.04% higher than the rate recorded in the corresponding quarter of 2016 (–1.49%) and higher by 1.46% points from rate recorded in the preceding quarter, (revised to –0.91% from –0.52%).
Quarter on quarter, real GDP growth was 3.23%. During the quarter, aggregate GDP stood at N26,986,005.20million in nominal terms, compared to N23,547,466.91 million in Q2 2016, resulting in a Nominal GDP growth of 14.60%.
Reality Different from Statistics
Thirty days after the Nigeria’s economy exited recession, Chigozie revealed that there has been no reduction in the prices of food stuffs, especially the staple food he traded in.
“Like the price of rice, it has not reduced, rather it is getting worse. In July, we bought a bag of rice at about 18700 Naira (52$), but since August, it has been at about 19800 Naira (55$). This is the same bag of rice we bought at 7500 Naira (21$) and sold at about 8500 Naira (23$) before things changed drastically when they said we have gone into recession”.
Moreover, Mrs Ikwuo Nsikan, the director of an elementary school, Basic Children Academy in Owerri thinks the unexpected announcement of Nigeria’s exit from recession is politically motivated. She said the announcement is a coy to water the ground for campaigns ahead of the Nigerian 2019 general elections.
“You know”, she starts, as the contours of her face become more established, “the elections are almost here, so the politicians are looking for ways to lie to us that things are getting better, so that we vote for them again in 2019”.
“There is still hardship. Things are still expensive”
“Before now, we used to have a good number of pupils coming for registration, but since last year up till now, the number has reduced.” However, Mrs Nsikan’s assertion could not be independently verified.
Few days after the news hit the airwaves, Nigeria’s former vice President, Atiku Abubakar told the government not to celebrate yet as Nigerians have not started feeling the impact of the said exit from recession. He said the recession really ends when all Nigerians can eat three square meals a day. His views resonate with the vast majority of Nigerians who hold the same belief.
An economic analyst and Columnist with Nigeria’s Vanguard Newspaper, Dr. Dele Sobowale, on his column described the statistics released by NBS as deceptive, questioning the credibility and integrity of NBS. He said, the fact that NBS is a parastatal in the ministry of budget and national planning and is subject to the influence of the minister should be a reason for greater scrutiny of the statistics.
Dr. Sobowale made a shocking revelation on the statistics. He alleged there was discrepancy in the figures the body released in the first quarter report and the recently released second quarter report.
The body had declared that “the GDP recorded a growth rate of 0.55 per cent in the second quarter as against the -0.91 revised rate recorded in the first quarter of this year.”
But he caught the goof and stated that “the NBS declared GDP decline of 0.52 per cent for Q1 in May; turns around in September and tells us that it was actually -0.91. Whenever any organisation presents two different estimates for the same variable, the first thing experienced financial analysts do is to challenge the presenter to explain why the difference and which, if any of the figures can be relied upon… How are we sure that the +0.55 per cent announced for Q2 will not again be reviewed downwards and we would all have been sold a dummy? In other words, should we continue to have trust in NBS after this disclosure of grave error committed in rendering the Q1 estimates? Personally, it is doubtful.”
In tandem with the provision of the Nigerian constitution (section 14, sub-section 2b) which mandates the government to see to the welfare of the citizens, the onus is on the All Progressives Congress, APC, led federal government to do the needful and put the country back on the track of progress and exit the suffering masses, really, from recession.