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Nigeria

Party paupers: Nigeria’s financial crisis puts the brakes on ‘Detty December’ celebrations

Author: Ope Adetayo in Lagos Source: The Guardian
December 23, 2023 at 06:45
In previous years, music events during the Christmas season have drawn big crowds. Photograph: Temilade Adelaja/Reuters
In previous years, music events during the Christmas season have drawn big crowds. Photograph: Temilade Adelaja/Reuters

Lagos loves to wine, dine and dance in the month leading up to Christmas, but soaring prices and rampant inflation mean would-be revellers are staying home

A normal December for Nigerian student Ibukun Ometesho involves a seemingly endless roll of music concerts and dinners out with friends. This year, however, she is hosting friends at home because she can’t afford to party.

Ometesho wanted to attend the Palmwine music festival in Lagos, but a student ticket costs 21,100 naira (£20) – double what she paid last year, and three times more than in 2021. “I saw the prices and I was shocked. It just does not make sense,” she says.

She checked the cost of other events being held this month, and the prices were the same – or more. She gave up.

Each December, Lagos, Nigeria’s cultural powerhouse and home of the global music phenomenon Afrobeats, becomes a month-long party city. Local revellers are joined by members of the Nigerian diaspora for what has been called “Detty December” – a corruption of the word “dirty” – which can generate billions of naira for the local economy.

Nigerian singer-songwriters Asake and Davido are among the artists performing in Lagos this year, but the festivities have been hobbled for some by raging inflation. Some events have been cancelled, including the much anticipated Afro Nation festival. The website doesn’t give a reason for the cancellation, but there were grumblings about high ticket prices.
 

 
The economy has forced me to re-evaluate what is important. I can stay in my house and play the music on speaker
Zia Yusuf, music fan

Nigeria has experienced years of economic difficulties, but now a crisis is under way. After taking office in May, President Bola Tinubu launched financial reforms including scrapping the decades-long petrol subsidy, leading to fuel prices rising overnight from 186 naira a litre to 750. He also floated the naira, sparking a new crisis. Inflation in November was a record 28.2%.

Transportation costs have risen, concert tickets have tripled and drinks in some places have more than doubled this month. Omotesho says a taxi on the ride-hailing app Bolt from her home on the mainland to the wealthy Lagos Island, where most of the festivities are held, costs more than 10,000 naira (£9.60). Last year, before the removal of the oil subsidy, a similar trip cost 4,000 naira.

“There is a lot of difference between what Detty December is this year versus the past few years,” says Olumide Adediji, owner of one of Lagos’s most popular restaurants, Sixty By Chef Lu. Customers used to pay a small cover charge, but this year Adediji says he’s waiving the fee and adding cheaper food and drink options on the menu in the hope of attracting more customers. “Even at our place, we have to cut down on fixed prices.”

Zia Yusuf, who works with tech startups in Lagos, is staying away from the raves after failing to find affordable tickets to shows she has attended in the past. “The economy has forced me to re-evaluate what is important when it comes to music. I can stay in my house and play the music on speaker. All these [shows] compared to my earning power does not make much sense,” she says. Like Omotesho, she has opted for smaller, cheaper gatherings with friends.
 

Burna Boy, one of Nigeria’s biggest stars, was due to perform at Afro Nation, but the festival was cancelled. Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images
Burna Boy, one of Nigeria’s biggest stars, was due to perform at Afro Nation, but the festival was cancelled. Photograph: Gallo Images/Getty Images


According to Chinoso Ihikire, a club party organiser and music journalist, the market is now focused on the Nigerian diaspora, nicknamed IJGBs (I Just Got Back), who inject scarce foreign currency into the economy and are able to afford tickets.

However, without locals matching their spending capability, the famed Lagos entertainment scene will suffer, says Ihikire. “It is very discouraging because we will not get to make a lasting impression on the [local] audience. If they would not fill our venues in December, what makes you think they would want to do that in the coming months?” he says.
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