Abuja (Precise Post) – “For residents of satellite and commuter towns and communities around Lagos and Abuja whose livelihoods will surely be affected by some of these restrictive measures, we shall deploy relief materials to ease their pains in the coming weeks, were the words of President Muhammadu Buhari while announcing the 14-day-lockdown, which commenced on Tuesday, in a broadcast last Sunday.
“Although schools are closed, I have instructed the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development to work with State Governments in developing a strategy on how to sustain the school feeding program during this period without compromising our social distancing policies.
“The Minister will be contacting the affected States and agree on detailed next steps.
“Furthermore, I have directed that a three-month repayment moratorium for all TraderMoni, MarketMoni and FarmerMoni loans be implemented with immediate effect.
“I have also directed that a similar moratorium be given to all Federal Government funded loans issued by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Nigeria Export Import Bank.
“For on-lending facilities using capital from international and multilateral development partners, I have directed our development financial institutions to engage these development partners and negotiate concessions to ease the pains of the borrowers.
“For the most vulnerable in our society, I have directed that the conditional cash transfers for the next two months be paid immediately. Our Internally displaced persons will also receive two months of food rations in the coming weeks.
“We also call on all Nigerians to take personal responsibility to support those who are vulnerable within their communities, helping them with whatever they may need”.
Director-General, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, Dr. Muda Yusuf, said there is a major problem with the appropriateness of the palliatives announced by the President, adding that the School Feeding Programme, for instance, is not relevant when all schools are closed already.
He said: “The segment of the vulnerable that should be targeted at this time is the urban poor, many of them in the slums of Lagos especially, and other states currently on lockdown.
“This was the understanding of the palliatives that were contemplated in the wake of the pandemic and eventual lockdown.
“The pre-COVID-19 pandemic palliatives should be markedly different from what should happen at this time.
“There is a need for a comprehensive review of social intervention programmes to bring it in alignment with the current social crisis resulting from the Coronavirus pandemic.
“The context has changed. Therefore the intervention model should change as well.”
Many vulnerable people not captured—MAN
Also speaking, Chairman, Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Apapa branch, Engr. Frank Onyebu, commended the President for the measures taken so far.
However, Onyebu expressed dismay that the vulnerable people in the country have not been captured.
Specifically, he berated government for using TraderMoni as one of the palliative measures to cushion the effect of COVID-19.
He said: “I must, however, say that majority of the vulnerable members of the society have not been captured in government’s plan.
“It is wrong to use TraderMoni and School Feeding programmes as platforms for the palliatives.
“It is clear that these programmes, despite their good intentions, never went beyond a certain insignificant percentage of the intended beneficiaries.
“Government must, therefore, device means of reaching out to majority of the people.”
Continuing, he said: “One way of doing this is to go through the local community leaders, churches, mosques, and all such organisations with direct link to vulnerable members of the society.
“This way, we can be sure that majority of intended beneficiaries are captured.
“In the longer term, government should fashion out an all-encompassing social programme to cater to the needs of the vulnerable amongst us even beyond the current crisis.
“Government can borrow a leaf from advanced countries where such social programmes have been in practice for generations.
“I must say that it is important that this issue is given careful consideration because of the security implications of having a very large population of unemployed people, especially young people.
“I do not want to imagine what a large population of hungry, unemployed youths can do if pushed to the limit.
“There is a saying that a hungry man is an angry man.”
FG should look at other directions —NASME
Similarly, President and Chairman of Council, Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprise (NASME), Prince Orimadegun Agboade, noted that TraderMoni, conditional transfers and School Feeding schemes were programmes designed by government to address identified pains that different groups of people go through.
“For instance, TraderMoni was for micro businesses operating informally, conditional transfers for internally displaced people while the School Feeding Programme is to attract pupils to school, especially those with a high probability of dropping out of schools.
“In the light of this, government’s plan to use the same programmes/schemes to serve the purpose of cushioning the effects of lockdown is not appropriate. “Using the same schemes will not be able to capture all those who truly need support this time around.
“In the same way, one can state that the percentage of Nigerians captured by TraderMoni and conditional transfers to the vulnerable is so small.
“It is less than 15 percent of Nigerians that need support. We should not forget that the whole population is affected by lockdown.
“How then will the school meal reach pupils, if the same scheme is to be used now?
“The good news is that the Chairman of the Presidential Committee informed Nigerians that the President has approved release of 70MT of grains from National Reserve with Lagos and Ogun states as well as FCT as first beneficiaries.’’
Design policies that will help private sector — NACCIMA
National President, NACCIMA, Hajia Saratu Iya Aliyu, on her part, said: “We look forward to a more comprehensive package that will include fiscal policies that will help resuscitate businesses in the private sector after this crisis.
“We are also calling on state governments to work closely with our members to design policies and programmes that will help the private sector in their states taking into consideration their specific circumstances.”
Small businesses will lose N62bn —ASBON
Also speaking, the President, Association of Small Business Owners of Nigeria (ASBON), Dr. Femi Egbesola, said: “A lockdown will make business owners in the informal sector lose their businesses and source of livelihood.
“I can tell you that quite a number of these businesses will die with this lockdown.
“For those who live on a daily/weekly income, the lockdown portends hunger.
“Yet to some others, the stay-at-home will force them to dip their hands into their meagre working capital and savings.
“Of course, you can’t have stipends with you and watch your family die of hunger.
“The long term effects of this lockdown will haunt us when Covid-19 pandemic is over.
“Now that the nation’s earnings are dwindling, government should support micro and small businesses. They are the engine of our economy.”