Nigerians Facing Cost of Living Crisis in the UK

LONDON – Whether studying or working, Nigerians living in the UK are facing an unprecedented cost of living crisis, as inflation, energy prices, and rent bills soar to record levels.

The UK inflation rate was 4 percent in December 2023, up from 3.9 percent in the previous month, and the highest since 1981. Between September 2022 and March 2023, the UK experienced seven months of double-digit inflation, which peaked at 11.1 percent in October 2022.

The government, led by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, has embarked on extensive monetary policy tightening that has helped to halve the inflation rate from 11 percent in 2022 to 4 percent in December 2023. However, this has also meant a slowdown in the rate of economic growth, as businesses reduce investments and consumers cut down on spending.

In addition, the UK is facing an energy crisis, as wholesale gas prices have surged by more than 400 percent in the past year, due to a combination of factors such as low supply, high demand, and geopolitical tensions. This has led to the collapse of several smaller energy suppliers, and forced the government to intervene to cap the prices for consumers.

However, the cap is still expected to rise by 54 percent in April, adding £600 to the average annual bill. The government has also announced a £400 discount on electricity bills for all households in the winter, as well as a £650 cost of living payment for low-income families4

Despite these measures, many Nigerians living in the UK are struggling to cope with the rising costs, especially those who are renting their own homes. A health worker who wants to be identified as Omoyemi said that her rent for a two-bedroom terraced house in Kent has increased from £900-1000 to £1200 (about 2 million naira monthly) in the past year.

“Food and groceries have increased too, though it is still affordable, but the increase is significant,” Omoyemi said. She added that the rent bill does not include power, water and council tax bills, describing the condition as “disturbing”.

According to Shelter, a housing charity organisation in the UK, more than three million people in England who work and rent their own homes do not have enough savings to pay their rent for a month if they lose their job. “The cost of living crisis is pushing renters to breaking point, and the government is sitting back while rents spiral out of control,” Shelter said.

While some Nigerians are seeking cost-saving means, such as reusing tea bags, taking shorter showers, or working more hours, others are considering returning to their home country, where the cost of living is relatively lower. Opeyemi David, a student in London, said that he is planning to “japa” (a slang term for leaving) after he finishes his studies:

“I don’t think I can survive here for long. The cost of living is too high, and the opportunities are not as good as they used to be. I would rather go back to Nigeria and start something there,” he said.

However, going back to Nigeria is not an easy option either, as the country is also facing its own economic challenges, such as high inflation, food crisis, exchange rate fluctuations, and insecurity . Some Nigerians who have returned from the UK have expressed regret, saying that they miss the quality of life, social services, and infrastructure that they enjoyed in the UK.

The cost of living crisis is not only affecting the UK, but also other European countries, such as Ireland, Germany, and France, where the governments have taken various steps to ease the impact of rising prices, such as energy credits, tax cuts, and public transport subsidies.

However, these measures may not be enough to address the underlying causes of the crisis, such as the global supply chain disruptions, the transition to green energy, and the recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. As the crisis continues to unfold, Nigerians in the UK and elsewhere will have to make tough choices about their future.

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