The Impact of Subsidy Removal on Everyday Life: The Emergence of ‘ABEG’ Bargaining

In the not-so-distant past, access to clean water was a given in major cities, urban areas, and local towns across Nigeria. The government provided it for free, ensuring that citizens had this basic necessity. Fast forward to today, and a significant portion of the population now procures their own potable water. In major cities, those connected to the water board are met with bills. It’s safe to say that the era of water subsidies is a thing of the past – some might argue it’s been gone for a while.

As we explore the consequences of subsidy removal and the gradual shift toward a ‘hands-off governance style’ by the ruling class, let’s begin by revisiting the earliest energy source for cooking: firewood. For generations, our ancestors relied on firewood for cooking. It’s a tradition that dates back as far as oral history can recount. The unique taste of food cooked on firewood stands as a testament to this age-old practice, exemplified by the beloved Nigerian Party Jollof rice, which many insist tastes better when cooked over an open flame.

In recent times, mounting environmental concerns and their detrimental effects have prompted a transition in energy sources. Many urban residents had previously switched to kerosene stoves, driven by convenience and social considerations. Subsequently, there was a concerted effort to promote the use of cooking gas, fueled by climate change concerns and further incentivized by the removal of kerosene subsidies and increased exploration of Nigeria’s gas reserves. Consequently, kerosene has become far more expensive than cooking gas, though gas is by no means a budget-friendly option.

Initially, cooking gas appeared to be a cleaner and more cost-effective choice for culinary purposes. Students, households, and professional chefs enthusiastically embraced it. However, the removal of fuel (petrol) subsidies reshaped the energy landscape. Cooking gas quickly became the alternative for various applications, leading to rising gas prices. Just a few months ago, it was priced at six hundred naira per kilogram; today, it fluctuates between eight hundred and one thousand naira per kilogram. This sharp increase has far-reaching effects, contributing to higher transportation costs, elevated cooking expenses, and consequently, soaring prices of food items.

When you engage in negotiations with a seller or a public transport driver, Standard English is no longer the language of choice. Instead, the common local expression of “ABEG, HELP, NA FOR THIS PRICE” becomes your conversational currency, accompanied by a friendly smile. It now feels like the most prudent approach, given that aggressive bargaining might weigh on your conscience or, worse, lead to being ignored or insulted. “Abeg” has truly become an indispensable phrase in such situations, hasn’t it?

Ugwuoke Ifeoma

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