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Nigeria Holidays Not Always Merry

Nigeria currency, the naira - money - cash - bank notes - Africa
Nigeria currency, the naira - money - cash - bank notes - Africa

The year-end holiday season has given many Nigerians cause to ponder their country's deep security problems and worsening economy as the clock ticks to presidential elections two months away.

Insecurity is endemic in Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy and most populous country.

Armed gangs known as bandits are ravaging the central and northwest regions of the country, jihadist groups are active in the northeast and the southeast has been rocked by separatist unrest.

According to the World Bank, 87 percent of rural roads are in poor condition.

The gunmen take advantage of this to attack travellers and kidnap them, especially near forests which are used as hideouts.

Travelers who thought the train was safe were stunned when in March this year a train travelling from the capital Abuja to the northwestern city of Kaduna with 970 people onboard was attacked by gunmen, who kidnapped scores of VIP passengers.

Seyi Anne Moses, 44, hails from the central Nigerian state of Kogi but lives with her three children in Lagos, the country's economic capital.

"I have decided again that I won't travel home this year due to the insecurity, the murders, the kidnappings and the rapes," she said.

"When I see the pictures of wounded or killed people in the social media, I become afraid. Most roads are not safe."

Just as prominent in people's minds is the shrinking standard of living. Inflation is running at more than 21 percent -- the worst since 2005.

For the third year in a row, John Ishaya, 33, will not return to his father and brother living in the northeast.

A driver, he earns the equivalent of just $105 a month. With prices soaring, his meager salary no longer allows him to take the road -- let alone fly.

"The value of the currency collapsed, income has receded, businesses are closing and unemployment and underemployment represents more than half of the workforce," Effiong said.

"Flights have almost doubled," he said.

"Even by Nigerian standards, I would not be surprised if this one is not a very Merry Christmas," Effiong added.

Along with India, Nigeria has the highest number of people living in extreme poverty in the world.

According to the latest official figures, 63 percent of Nigerians -- 133 million people -- suffer from "multidimensional poverty," a metric which includes child mortality, access to electricity and clean water.

Sandra Akusu, from the southeastern state of Benue where her parents live, will remain alone in Lagos at the end of the year.

The 19-year-old earns $85 a month.

"I did not plan for anything this year and my birthday is on the 25th, imagine!" she said. "The way the things are right now, it is so hard."