Without sounding apocalyptic, the picture of post Covid-19 Nigeria is grim. 

As the global economic impact of the pandemic takes its toll on all facets of societies, Nigeria must brace up for the challenge.

The crash of major stocks around the globe, the partial shutdown of businesses, the major lockdown of cities, and some countries, these are what the pandemic had bequeathed the world. 

Infact, price of crude has hit an all time low, the last seen was some 18 years ago. As such, global economic recession is imminent, reminiscent of the Great Depression of the 1930s. 

The impact is threefold, economic, social and political. The  three are innately related, as, whatever affects one, has a profound or multiplier effect on the other. Livelihoods globally had been altered, politics of many nations  would greatly be impaired depending on the dexterity and, how proactive a leader was in handling the pandemic. 

In the US, President Trump is facing an endless backlash from the Democrats, some groups and section of the Media. In Nigeria however, the opposition, alongside some CSOs are critical of government's handling of the pandemic.

Talking about Nigeria, the government's complacent in handling the crisis is glaring as it is irritating, obviously from swinging into action a little bit late.

Without engaging in blame game, 

government's slow response to critical issues is legendary, and has been touted as  reactionary, than proactive. 

For instance, with the outbreak in November, of the deadly virus in Wuhan, and Hubei Province and later, Italy,  there were calls amongst Nigerians both home and in diaspora for border shutdown, alongside intense and rigorous screening at airports and other points of entry in the country. The hue and cry fell on deaf ears, showing insensitivity and disconnect between  government and the governed.

 

The brazen display of shallowness by government and the elite was, in the middle of such pandemic, lawmakers traveled for personal and official engagements. The President's Chief of Staff also travelled to Germany, thereby leaving the borders and airports open, exposing the country to the deadly virus.

In a nutshell, the leadership in Nigeria failed us, woefully. They had two months to prepare, well ahead. Had they Shut the borders when the index case was discovered, probably the situation would have been different. The government had gained notoriety for being reactionary. Getting the President address  the nation was a herculean task. State governors to make policy pronouncements and take center stage in curbing the virus in their respective states. 

When Mr President did finally address Nigerians, weeks after many were affected, its was sparse and uninspiring, leaving a vast majority of Nigerians especially those affected by the 14 days lockdown, in Ogun FCT and Lagos.

In the speech, government made some ambitious plans to cushion the crushing economic effect of the virus. Though commendable, the plan still remain cosmetic, because the entire package must be visible, feasible and implementable. The vast majority of low income earners, and, the most vulnerable had expected a package not less, in form of cash transfers.

Prior to the speech, rumours were rife that the government would pay every Nigerian with an active account and BVN a sum of N30,000. These were not misplaced gossips, rather a clear expectations of the masses whom are groaning under an unprecedented lockdown.

Government cannot afford to fail the citizens yet again. The best time to plan effectively for a post Covid-19 is now.

Economically stable and developed countries had  laid out a stimulus package preparatory for an imminent post Covid-19 recession. The US Congress had approved a $2trn historic stimulus package, The UK and other European countries  readily have a roadmap for economic growth and stability in the post Covid-19. While in quarantine, Boris Johnson performs his duty, as Prime Minister effectively.

President Buhari must be alive to his responsibilities. In Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has been involved actively in the distribution of relief materials,  food and non food items to his citizens. In neighboring Niger, President Muhammadu Yusufu had promised to pay utility bills (light and water) for upto three months to his citizens. In Uganda, President Yoweri Museveni directed all landlords in the country to waive rental payment for about 3 months. These gestures are quite noble and inspiring, and smirks of purposeful leadership.

The CBN's N3trn intervention package seems ambitious, the directive to commercial banks for the reduction of interest rate to small scale entrepreneur deserve some thumps up. But the three months monatarium repayment window for Trader moni, Market moni and Farmer moni, alongside other federal government funded program is preposterous. The action would have little or no financial impact on the beneficiaries as the fund had been liquidated in other essential areas like food items.

The most elaborate and impactful intervention from government should come in a way of unconditional cash transfer. Using platforms like, NIMC, BVN, SIM Registration and in partnership with National Bureau of Statistics, at least government would have a near perfect data of Nigerians.

Next is the use of place of worship. Religious leaders in mosques and churches, as well as community leaders has to play a central role in distribution of whatever intervention the government had.

Enter the donors

The tremendous display of  solidarity and patriotism from the business community and private sector is phenomenal. The Dangotes, Otedolas and Adenugas of corporate Nigeria led the pack, thereby raking in billions for interventions. Minsters and lawmakers followed suit by providing half of their salaries and, forfeiting two months salaries respectively.

Worthy of note is, an average Nigerian is obviously more concerned with the socio-economic impact of Covid-19 than the pandemic itself. Statistics according to NCDC,  as at 01-04-2020, there are about 139 cases of infections with 2 deaths, although with 5000 untraced persons who had had contact with infected persons.

But social distancing, keeping indoors, and maintaining hygiene is key in preventing the spread of the virus,  staying at home requires financial support and interventions. The question is, can the hungry remain indoors?

Government must not rest on its oars, and must be proactive, because, the economic impact of the pandemic could disrupt livelihood and intergroup relations.

The billions donated, the two months  lawmakers salaries and the slashed ministers salaries, the UN/WHO intervention funds must be made public in an effective and transparent manner.

So far, no one has the exact figure of both the salaries of lawmakers and ministers. The total funds must be made known and, an individual with impeccable character and  integrity be made to chair the committee, which must have some civil society organisations as members.

Afterwards, a template be drafted with a various forms and categories of interventions. Thus, 

-Building state-of-the-art hospital in all of the geopolitical zones.

-Providing cash transfers to identified vulnerable persons.

-Giving startups to aspiring entrepreneurs

-Support SMEs whose businesses had been affected by the turn down.

Religion, ethnicity, political leaning and region should not form the basis for receiving such interventions.

Time is of the essence, and, ticking. The US is making frantic efforts to have its economy reopened before Easter. In the same vein, it had made provision for the disbursement of $1200 to all its citizens in a bid soften the effect on the economy as a result of the pandemic.

For Nigeria, the time to implement these  measures is now. Expert across the country had spoken, adhering to these calls could save the nation another catastrophe, worse than the Coronavirus. 

Mr President must come out of his self-imposed shell to take center stage in the fight against the pandemic and the after shock, at least, he owes Nigerians that.

We are at war, only that, our commanders seems to downplay the enormity of the stakes.

Its not about APC, PDP, CUPP APGA etc, we are in a dire situation, only preventable by purposeful leadership, and, the fear of God Almighty.

Abdullahi D Mohammed is with the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

He writes from Kano.

[email protected]


 

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