In the just concluded week, President Muhammadu Buhari, on Thursday, met with the Presidential Committee on the Impact of the Coronavirus on Nigeria’s Economy and directed the Ministry of Finance and National Planning to ensure payment of salaries, protection of critical infrastructures like roads and rails, use local inputs in order to retain value within the economy, and take measures that protect the poor and the vulnerable.
In a related development, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on Thursday, stated that the country was faced with “an enormous challenge that no government in the history of Nigeria had ever faced”. This, he said at the inaugural meeting of the Economic Sustainability Committee set up by President Buhari earlier on Monday to design and respond to the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and crashing oil prices. Prof. Osinbajo warned Nigerians about the current dire economic situation while stressed the need for the Nigerian government to “redesign our economic planning and change our thinking” in a way that will “take advantage of the challenges of these times and convert those challenges to opportunities.” The Vice President, therefore, tasked members of the Committee to craft a bold and radical plan that leverages mass participation of citizens to improve their productivity while stimulating employment in such areas as mass housing projects, agricultural production and MSMEs among other things.
Meanwhile, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) requested the suspension of deductions from their allocations and restructuring of debt service payments to the Federal Government and Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to enable them to safeguard their liquidity level in the face of COVID-19. We commend efforts by major stakeholders so far and call on the Federal Government and legislature to commence/speed up the process of restructuring the economy and devolve more powers to the States so that they are better equipped to harness economic resources that will lift the productivity and living standards of citizens while investing more in the security of lives and property. Given that the COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of the country, it is imperative that government stands ready and nimble enough to deal with insecurity in whatever form they surface; whether human terrorism, food insecurity, biological warfare, or cyber-attacks.
Meanwhile, social distancing in Nigeria, while having its merits – such slowing the spread of the pandemic and the development of the digital economy (as more business employees now work remotely from their homes) – poses yet another security risk as a major proportion of citizens who live on daily wage may become restless if they are unable to provide for their families.
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