AS Nigeria enters the most critical week in its fight against the Coronavirus, COVID-19 pandemic, we are compelled to draw attention to what we see as the most critical decisions that have to be made, even though nearly belated: the need to redefine the battle lines.
The country is actually facing a twin pandemic; the COVID-19 crises and the Coronanomic crises, the latter being the battle to recover the economy from the life-support machine and by extension the vast majority of its citizens from hunger-induced death. Therefore the battle line should be double-sided.
In announcing the extension of the lockdown on states of Lagos, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, previous week, President Muhammadu Buhari scarcely paid attention to the latter crisis especially in terms of update on the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and the government’s responses. He devoted over 95 per cent of the speech on Coronavirus healthcare battlefront.
While we acknowledge the supreme importance of life attached to the need to win the Coronavirus war from the healthcare battlefront we note that it is actually a matter of choice between two forms of death; either by Coronavirus or hunger.
Hunger-induced death has become intertwined with Nigeria’s dysfunctional healthcare system which has shut out over 85 per cent of its citizens from standard healthcare services.
The first impact of COVID-19 on Nigeria was economic when the mainstay of the nation’s revenue, oil export, suffered from the global slump caused by the COVID-19. The 2020 budget is now on life support even after a massive expenditure cut.
We, therefore, believe that equally aggressive measures should be taken to address a devastating economic crisis that has already taken root in the country.
While we support the current efforts of the governments at the national and sub-national levels in the healthcare battlefront, we call on them to begin some real measures to stem job losses arising from company shut-downs and business failures.
They should ramp up agricultural activities now that the farming season is afoot, provide incentives to local manufacturing of all items required in the healthcare sector especially relating to anti-coronavirus, and grant tax incentives to companies that retained staff and expanded employment.
Efforts should be made to facilitate moratoria on interest rates on commercial borrowings and move away from rhetoric to real action in the regime’s economic diversification agenda.
As the country copied Western economies in ordering lockdowns, a similar copy of their models of palliatives which come in forms of industrial incentives, stimulus packages and general quantitative easing should also be adopted.
We welcome our business, commercial and industry sector workers back to the beat. Please let us continue cooperating with the authorities and get COVID-19 out of the way soonest.