COVID 19: A quake taking Nigeria into unknown territory

By Eloke-Young Splendor

It’s exactly 7.30 in the morning in the very busy city of Lagos. Laying on my bed and hearing the chattering noise of neighbors who stand idle on their balcony seems so  strange here, I could almost swear it was a dream. Then I recalled the world had placed everyone on a mandatory lockdown.
It is no news that Nigeria has in the past five weeks been dripping with tears in every sector as the strange plague fastens its deadly claws on the citizens of the country.

As viruses know no borders so does the spread of evil skip with long legs, racing faster than the speed of light. The impact of COVID 19 pandemic continues to create rapid tragic hazards on the economic development of Nigeria, new vocabularies have found its way through the lips of citizens as they are either practicing social distancing, self-isolation or quarantine of which all bring to mind the well known ‘stay at home' mantra.

Only those who had transited 6ft on or before the 27 February, 2020 when this merciless plague broke through all boundaries into Nigeria, seem to be saved from the unheard chaos inflicted on the economic, social, educational and cultural development of the nation.

                                                 Eloke-Young Splendor

I bet Nigeria has never experienced as much rest as it has seen in the past five weeks, as restriction of movement orders heaped immense pressure on the people with social life glorified as the latest taboo.  Who would have thought that a country as religious as Nigeria will be able to place on hold her numerous religious activities. In the bid to enforce social distancing, activities in places of worship have been restricted as many are sent home only to rely on the platforms provided by technology as they partake in religious meetings in the comfort of their homes. 
All that is currently heard in the nation is ‘shut down and lock down’ with lots of workers pushed into unplanned joblessness and forced to stay at home. This situation has simultaneously led to a slow down or even total halt in production as many businesses have been forced to close shop. It is suddenly a reality that most Nigerians have currently become either unemployed or partially unemployed.  The shutdown of offices and non-essential businesses has greatly reduced productive effort and output, as scarcity of essentially daily commodities such as food has not ceased to be on a high side this season.

The global supply chain has been deeply disrupted as China, the second largest economy in the world, is a major supplier of inputs for manufacturing companies around the world, Nigeria inclusive.

The disease has affected every sector of the economy, thereby leading to the closure of schools and greatly affecting the academic plan of all students and institutions of learning in the country. Many who parent little kids and teenagers are left wailing and stressed out since they ultimately have to raise their voices every single day in order to ensure the safety and cultured behavior of their excessively joyful kids who were sent on an early Easter break, with resumption of schools looking nowhere in sight.

The sudden paralysis in almost every endeavour has unleashed a collective deep wailing among Nigerians.
Even though the word ‘hunger’ was not entirely strange in the country's socio-political lexicon, its application was far fetched. But in the new world order imposed by Covid 19, it has become an everyday and routine word used with little distinction in class or creed. The stock of foods and consumables have run low in the markets and the few available ones are being sold at cut throat prices. No Nigerian is oblivious of the fact that the poverty issue in the country has just been tripled as hunger paves its way into many Nigerian homes.

To the average Nigerian, the spectre of 2016 when the country had a deepest and longest recession is writ large again as the invincible killer continues to wreak havoc beyond public health. Back then, 27 states owed workers' salaries and pensioners entitlements for many months with some owing up to 36 months. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has already warned of the inevitability of another and even more debilitating recession.
Even though the price of crude oil has bottomed out from the record low of $18 per barrel to just over $30 after oil producers struck a deal to global oil production by 10 million barrels per day, experts have projected that the various tiers of government in Nigeria may be start defaulting in meeting even recurrent expenditures. Already, the N30,000 minimum wage which came into effect less than six months ago is under threat with some states threatening to revert to the previous N18,000.

I will not fail to mention the restriction on international flights which has strongly affected most businesses from manufacturers to small business entrepreneurs who rely on foreign imports to augment their value chain.
The economic outlook in the medium term is quite depressing and in the absence of a discernible strategy to wean Nigeria from the vagaries and uncertainties associated with international crude oil trade, the economy may be on a roller coaster ride into uncharted territories.

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