The Great Devaluation Debate

Penny Wisdom

By Emeka Uzoatu

Today all Ben’s been called are names – from his first step out of his hovel to arrival at his point of enterprise. 

     It started with the first character he had met en route. Actually he would have indeed walked into her had she not stopped midstep. Though Ben had apologized profusely because he was evidently absent minded, the burqusome dame would have none of it. In fact, she had progressed to call him a few untoward names. As though he had intentionally wanted to tap some current from her bosom surreptitiously.

     Ben took it all like he should – like the man he had become. However, the faux pas served to highlight the high points of his unending dilemma. Most recently, it always had him in a near trance. Short of talking to himself, he now found himself almost always lost in thought.

     All the more so this particular morning. He had come home yesterday to another unprecedented bill demanding immediate payment. This one from another just promulgated agency of his state government sought a levy for an ongoing re-numeration of all the houses in all the streets in his town.

     Just the week before, the price of premium motor spirit (PMS) aka petrol had been reviewed upwards. According to the federal government body in charge, the price of the commodity has undergone total deregulation. Unlike what they had battled during their predecessor’s interregnum, no subsidies was now payable by the government.

Finance Minister Zainab Ahmed

     Hot on the heels of that, the amount payable for units of electricity chargeable by the local distribution corporation had also been raised. Though no subsidies were removed here, the extant explanation added up to another rigmarole. One had no option than pay.

     But more than the expected dents these price and tariff changes would inflict his already-overstretched pocket, what led to his absentmindedness that time around was the permutations possible from the expected address changes at bay.

     Why, because ever since he had unilaterally arrived at some cost-cutting measures about the earlier hikes. The car, for instance, was no longer to be exercised at random. Unless he had company, he now went by public transport. As uncomfortable as it was, he knew it was a price he had to pay to break even at month and year end.

     But the one that still hung open-ended in an upended balance remained the electricity tariff. Unlike his neighbours that already had prepayment meters, there was virtually nothing he could do about the malady. His hands, as it were, tied up behind his back.

     Like them with pay-as-you-go meters, he could have easily resorted to energy-saving bulbs and the like. Also, he wouldn’t have given a damn about switching off outdoor lights. But not when the end of the month saw the receipt of an estimated bill very independent from whatsoever power you conserved or consumed.

     Yet all these were farther from his mind as the Cape is from Cairo as he almost barged into that girl. A curvy damsel at her prime, he really wouldn’t have minded a consensual hug from her. Anyway…

Food costs on the rise.

     Pericoped, though, all that could have been read from his mind then remains the pending move by his state government. True the world economy has been recessed by Covid19, he did not see why it should affect his correspondences. The truth, spoken or muted, is that the street number he lives at dates back to creation. It reminded him of the recent craze by some new-wave religionists for changing their individual and communal names for whatever reason(s).

     Before him, his father had lived on the property. Prominent like all pre-Civil-War rich men, the street number of his house had meshed with his title: Papa Number 88. Yes, there was no other elder in the house but him. So now he’ll suddenly become Papa Number 65 like the new arrangement implies!

     Wonders, they say, can never end. So because the government needs money to finance its projects, the people have to be taxed to their bones. At a glance, to live in an average Nigerian town, a bloke has to pay all some of the following ‘taxes’: security, environment, income, land, store, maintenance, radio, tv, …

     Yet, unknown to Ben, more trouble lay ahead. No sooner, he got to the intersection where he’ll board a keke NAPEP. At first shadow, it turned out that the fare had been hiked by fifty percent.

     “Why now?” he asked the overactive road-transport worker in charge

Exchange rate pressure aiding inflation.

     “Are you the only one who didn’t hear of the increase in the price of petrol?”

     “But the increase is barely past five percent.”

     “Baby mathematician. You sabi so much still de enter keke? Jew man!”

     But Ben had had enough for a day. He promptly paid up, took his seat and crossed himself. Silently, he wondered what the effect of the Naira crash at the foreign exchange market would translate to in the price of his own goods.

Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom.