COVID-19: OPS warns FG against imposing second lockdown

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As the federal government mulls over a second lockdown following the citizens’ alleged non-compliance with the safety protocols introduced to combat the spread of COVID-19, the organised private sector has warned against the intended action.

It would be recalled that the chairman of the presidential task force on COVID-19 and secretary to the government of the federation, Mr.  PTF, Mr. Boss Mustapha, at the daily briefing of the task force in Abuja on Monday, January 18 had threatened that a second lockdown was inevitable except Nigerians complied with the protocols released by the government to curb the spread of the infection.

He urged the citizens to do their utmost by ensuring strict compliance with the non-pharmaceutical interventions already put in place.

“Let me remind you that the pandemic is raging and all tiers of government and citizens must keep their hands on deck.

“We are in a difficult situation in which a balance must continue to be struck between lives and livelihood.

“We are considering all options while hoping that broad cooperation will be received.

“We must do everything possible to avoid a second lockdown in Nigeria.”

However, as laudable as the advice to citizens not to toy with the COVID-19 safety protocols sounds, economic watchers said a second lockdown would do the economy no good.

They expressed concerns about job losses, economic stagnation and social costs.

They advised that what the country is required to do at this time is to firmly articulated risk management framework on the spread of COVID-19.

The director general of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Mr. Ayo Olukanni said in an interview that the implications of a second lockdown would be too grave for the economy.

He stated that prospects for economic recovery are high while a lockdown will slow down the recovery.

“It should be avoided by all means. Government and the citizens should be mobilised for full and effective use of the various guidelines on COVID-19 protocols,” he told ThisDay.

For his part, the director general of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Mr. Timothy Olawale, said another lockdown would lower productivity in the economy and deepen the recession.

Like his NACCIMA counterpart, he expressed concern that the fragile economy might be unable to withstand the effects of another nationwide lockdown.

“A second lockdown will cripple the economy of the nation even more as there is no stimulus assistance programme put in place by the government for the people. So, more jobs will be lost, businesses will shut down, schools will not be in session, depression will be at its peak.

“Additionally, productivity will remain well below pre-recession levels in all facets of the economy. We are also concerned that a lockdown may not only be ineffective as it may be difficult to enforce but will also punctuate the expected economic recovery.”

He added that the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed the lives of thousands of people as a result of its economic impact, especially the toll the initial lockdown had taken on the economy.

Also an economist and Associate Professor at the Lagos Business School, Dr. Bongo Adi, said the implications of a second lockdown would be dire.

“Unfortunately, we are between the devil and the deep blue sea and however we look at it, it is a very difficult one for us right now because people are dying.

“Given the situation of the economy right now, we cannot afford another lockdown. This is an economy that is still seating on the edge. Recession is there, production output is low, unemployment is very high and beyond all these, we have an inflation that is running out of place,” he said.

He warned that if a new lockdown is imposed, it will have a drastic implication on the economy.

According to him, people will suffer and die while COVID-19, on the other hand, will also be killing people.

Similarly, the director general of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf, outlined the implications of another lockdown, saying it would overwhelm the country’s capacity to manage its huge social and economic consequences given the prevailing economic and social conditions threatening businesses.

He said Nigeria’s economy comprises more than 50 per cent informal businesses that depend on daily earnings in contrast to advanced countries where a larger proportion of their citizens are salaried workers.

“I think that what is important is to look at the whole system and come up with a risk management framework that targets specific activities in the society that poses a high level of risk in respect of the spread of COVID-19 pandemic disease like wedding ceremonies, parties and funerals among others.

“A very good risk management framework is what we need rather than a complete lockdown that is likely to achieve nothing. We have done it in the past and I did not think that we achieved much,” he added.

Also, the director general of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said a second lockdown will have a telling effect on the national economy in general and the manufacturing sector in particular.

He said inasmuch as he understood the concern of the PTF, the impact of the lockdown, both on the nation’s economy and the people, should better be avoided.

“The strategic choice is to do all in our powers to avoid the looming outbreak. The government should scrupulously enforce the observance of the health and social protocols to mitigate the spread.

“I doubt if we have the needed arrangements support for the populace or the so-called palliatives in the event of a complete lockdown. And I believe the government should be doing all in its power to avoid it. I hope we succeed at it,” he added.

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