How COVID-19 Is Affecting The Economic Fortunes of Nigerians

By Eniola Awokoya

The depth of a mother’s love for her children came to the fore recently when the story of Mama Saheed, a petty trader residing at Agbore, in Abeokuta, Ogun state of Nigeria, emerged on social media. Mama Saheed had stated categorically that she was willing and ready to sleep with anyone for the paltry sum of N500, so that she would be able to feed her starving children. She had been unable to carry out her petty trading, proceeds of which she had been using to sustain herself and her children, due to the Sit-at-Home order from the federal government.

Her story elicited so much pity, empathy and compassion from members of the public and even the Ogun state government, who all came to her rescue and the goodwill was also extended to her neighbours. Mama Saheed is just one out of millions of Nigerians who are being badly hit by the Coronavirus pandemic currently wreaking havoc across the globe.

Before the pandemic, Nigeria had been struggling with growing and stabilizing her economy, diversifying from a mono economy solely based on oil revenue to a massive agriculture based economy, necessitated because of the global crash in oil prices and the attendant negative effect on the nation’s economy.

As a result of dwindling oil prices and limited fiscal balance, the International Monetary Fund IMF, had revised the 2020 projected growth rate for Nigeria from 2.5 percent to 2 percent in February of 2020, before Nigeria recorded its first Coronavirus case. 

Meanwhile, the country’s debt service-to-revenue ratio is estimated to be at 60 percent and may most likely become worse because of the paralysed economy and the most recent decline in oil price in the global market.

Unfortunately, this negative precedent will contribute significantly to the devastating effect of COVID-19 on the Nigerian economy and make it quite difficult for the government to manage the attendant crisis.

All over social media, we are daily inundated with photos and videos of people crying out for food, families complaining of hunger, people stubbornly and angrily defying the stay-at-home order simply because an estimated 60% Nigerian households, are dependent on daily income and the lockdown directive by President Muhammdu Buhari, which came into effect in Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory on 21st March 2020, has halted their daily work and income and this has brought untold hardship to their households.

The three states, especially Lagos, had been the worst hit by the novel virus, with the first confirmed case announced on 27 February, in Lagos State. The index case was an Italian citizen who works in Nigeria and returned on 25 February from Milan, Italy through the Murtala Mohammed International Airport, Lagos. He was later transferred to Lagos State biosecurity facilities for isolation and testing after falling ill on 26 February.

Between the first confirmed case on 27th February and April 26, there has been a consistent rise in the infection and death rate despite the lockdown and sit-at-home measures taken by the government to ensure the dreaded virus is contained.

By the 26th of April, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, the federal government agency in charge of handling the health crisis and headed by Dr. Chikwe Ihekweazu, announced ninety one new cases: forty three in Lagos State, eight in Sokoto State, six in Taraba State, five in Kaduna State, five in Gombe State, Ondo, Edo, Oyo, FCT, Rivers and Bauchi States had three while Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Ebonyi and Kebbi states had one each and Osun state had two.

A total of 64 new cases from five states was also recorded the following day April 27, 2020. Out of the 64 cases, Lagos had 34, Borno state had 11, Gombe had 2, FCT had 15 and Taraba state had also recorded 2 new cases.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that the figures will be going down anytime soon, because by the following day, the NCDC announced another 195 new cases, which is so far the highest number for a single day.

With these staggering figures which keep rising plus a total of 40 deaths recorded nationwide officially so far, there seems not to be an end in sight to the lockdown and sit-at-home order, because the federal government is determined to reduce to the barest minimum, if not out rightly eliminate the virus from the country.

As the nation’s economic activities prepare to resume, following President Muhammadu Buhari’s announcement of gradual ease of lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun state from May 4,  there is no doubt that the economic fortunes of many Nigerians have depreciated drastically in the past weeks and the chances of coming back strong is even slimmer because, entrepreneurs and startups are suffering globally due to this rising economic uncertainty. 

Besides, the United Nations has stated that alongside other tragic consequences of coronavirus, the slowdown in the global economy will cost the world around $1 trillion within the year.    Considering the not so encouraging changes that has occurred globally and in Nigeria within such a short time, the expectation is that the government, business leaders, stakeholders in the world of digital technology and relevant authorities must focus on assisting emerging startups and entrepreneurs in getting back on track.

Nigerians need to feel the impact of the multiple billions of Naira donated to the federal government by individuals and corporate bodies, in order to ease the stress and devastation of the lockdown on the citizens most especially the vulnerable members of the society.

There are speculations that the impending recession may be the worst we have ever experienced in 30 years and could last until 2021 even after the lockdown is lifted.

Recall that the Managing Director of the IMF Kristalina Georgieva had said in a statement earlier in the year that “Nigeria’s economy is being threatened by the twin shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic and the associated sharp fall in international oil prices.”

The Nigerian government must be intentional and conscientious in repositioning the economic fortunes of Nigeria strategically, so that the economy can come out of the looming recession and the post pandemic devastation can be overcome within a minimal period of time.

This is very important because prior to the pandemic, Nigeria’s economy was hinged on a very tight rope, now made tighter by the unprecedented crash in oil prices; rise in exchange rate and the COVID-19 global health crisis.

President Muhammadu Buhari and the Economic Advisory Team led by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo must make extensive consultations and come up with a workable and actionable economic revamp plan, that will bring a respite to the bus driver, mechanic, market woman, student, civil servants, small business owners, the diverse citizens and masses who voted them into power and entrusted governance into their hands.

Every Nigerian Matters Pre, During and Post Covid-19 Pandemic.

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