Every government is saddled with the responsibility of protecting the lives of its citizens within and outside its territorial borders. As the covid19 virus continues to wreck havoc worldwide, responsible governments are putting in place measures to ameliorate the suffering of its citizens.
In addition to timely response and the provision of critical medical supplies, it is expedient that the welfare of survivors and our Medical practitioners in the frontline be of utmost importance.
We are at war with this deadly enemy, as in conventional war situations, the borders are closed, states are shut down, people are asked to stay at home in order to contain the spread of the virus. These measures are preparing the stage for another deadly virus, hunger. Many Nigerians depend on their daily income to feed, in the absence of palliative measures, many of our citizens will starve. As this hunger pangs become unbearable, we may begin to see people openly flaunting the order to stay at home, this may result in a breakdown of law and order.
As of the end of 2019, Nigeria holds the position of the richest country in Africa, with a GDP of almost $600B USD. Like it’s rich contemporaries in the west, the Government must immediately put together a welfare package which will put money directly into the accounts of the over 38.5 BVN verified accounts.
The propensity of our past and present administrations to appropriate huge portions of our common wealth to cater for the lofty lifestyles of our politicians and government officials is a clear indication that with the application of conscience and a people oriented mindset, we can afford to do this.
One may argue that with a population of almost 200M, 38.5M is grossly inadequate to ensure an even spread of the welfare package and may not capture the extremely poor Nigerians who need it the most.
The strong extended family support system in place in Nigeria gives every working adult at least 4 extra dependants, excluding their nuclear families. If you do the maths, you will realise that over 150M will benefit directly and indirectly. This will also nudge those who have shown complacency to the BVN verification exercise to get verified.
As a result of the Covid19 lockdown, many of our SMEs will bear the brunt of the almost inevitable partial or total collapse of our economy. Unable to service or repay their loans, many of these companies will shut down and millions of direct and indirect jobs will be lost.
A stimulus package to help our SMEs stay afloat should immediately be considered. The Central bank of Nigeria must as a matter of urgency work with the commercial banks to design a comprehensive and realistic bailout package for companies who need help, this should also include a reduction of interest rates, moratorium for new and existing loans/overdrafts to help corporate Nigeria stay afloat.