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Private Sector Warns Of Mass Hunger, Economic Crisis Over Fresh Lockdown

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The Manufacturers’ Association of Nigeria, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry and prominent economists on Monday assessed the country’s economic situation and concluded that another COVID-19 lockdown would unleash hunger and malnutrition on Nigerians.

The groups stated this in separate interviews with The PUNCH while reacting to a statement by the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Dr Sani Aliyu, who on Sunday said the Federal Government was considering all options, including lockdown, to battle the second wave of COVID-19.

Aliyu, who lamented rising COVID-19 cases in the country, said the virus infected 6,000 people in the last one week, while 33 died of the disease during the same period.

According to him, Nigerians can avoid another lockdown if they adhere to COVID-19 preventive measures, including wearing of face masks and hand washing.

Recall that the Federal Government first imposed lockdown on Lagos and Ogun states as well as the Federal Capital Territory on April 27, 2020 following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country. The lockdown, which started with the first phase in April ended with the third phase in July.

However, the PTF on December 17 said the country had entered COVID-19 second wave of the virus with a surge in the infection and deaths resulting from it.

As of December 4, 2020, the country had recorded 68,627 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 1,179 deaths.

But on Sunday, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control announced that the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country was 90,080 with 1,311 deaths.

Although the PTF coordinator on Sunday said government was considering all options, including lockdown, the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, at a press conference in Lagos on Monday, said government was concerned about increasing COVID-19 cases.

He, however, said government had not said it would impose a fresh lockdown to battle the second wave of the virus.

New COVID-19 strain more difficult to handle, says FG

The minister said, “On the issue of lockdown, I don’t think there is any time when the Federal Government has said it is going to have a second lockdown. However, the Federal Government is very unhappy that Nigerians are not adhering to the basic COVID-19 protocols of wearing face masks, of practising social distancing, of washing hands, of ensuring that they do gather in large numbers.

“If we do not do these, the surge will continue and with the new strain of COVID-19 which is becoming much more difficult to handle than the old strain, the Federal Government will continue to insist and encourage Nigerians to please obey the COVID-19 protocols.

We are aware of economic implications of second lockdown – FG

“The Federal Government is aware of the economic and social implications of a second lockdown but we want to call on Nigerians to help us, help themselves and help the economy, by adhering strictly to the COVID-19 protocols.”

The Director-General of MAN, Mr Segun Ajayi-Kadir, in an interview with one of our correspondents, said another lockdown would lead to hunger and malnutrition among Nigerians.

According to him, a fresh lockdown in the country will be counterproductive and worsen food crisis.

He stated, “I think the new wave of the COVID-19 infection is actually quite worrisome. While one must recognise that we need to be healthy to be able to work, there is the need to keep the economy afloat, and this consideration should mean that we need to be circumspective in terms of what the long-term plans are to deal with the virus.”

He said manufacturers had been discussing among themselves what could be the possible impact of another lockdown.

Ajayi-Kadir said, “Their take is that manufacturers will commit to ensuring stricter adherence to the COVID-19 protocols, and that it would be counter-productive to lock down the economy for the second time, especially because most people believe that COVID-19 is majorly responsible for the recession that the county has entered into.

“So, we may not be able to easily recover from another round of lockdown. I think the position government should adopt is that we should recommit to even ensuring stricter implementation and enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols such that industries are not locked down and they are able to continue to produce and make their products available in the market.

“The food crisis that will emerge from another lockdown could be better imagined.”

The MAN DG noted that the disruption caused by the COVID-19 lockdown and insecurity had limited food production and movement of food across the country.

He stated, “So, if we have another lockdown, the impact on the citizens in terms of hunger and malnutrition even for children could be too much for the economy to bear. Government may think of more ingenious ways to abate the spread and still keep the economy running.”

Another lockdown ’ll deepen recession, destroy businesses – Abuja Chamber of commerce

On its part, the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry advised the Federal Government against locking down the economy regardless of the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the chamber, another lockdown will deepen the economic recession across the country and destroy businesses.

The President of the ACCI, Al-Mujtaba Abubakar, in an interview with The PUNCH, said the chamber was aware of the second wave of COVID-19 and had followed with keen interest efforts of the PTF to curtail the new outbreak.

Abubakar stated, “We, however, strongly appeal to the government not to embark on another lockdown. An economy in recession cannot in anyway withstand another lockdown.
“A second lockdown will deepen recession and further destroy businesses that are just recovering from the lockdown.

“Our suggestion to government, which is also generally shared by the organised private sector, is for the government at all levels to enforce the COVID-19 safety protocols.”

It said the real sector was involved in productive activities that could guarantee growth, employment, supply of consumer goods and inflow of foreign exchange.

Abubakar stated, “We recommend full implementation of the approved COVID-19 guidelines/protocols for small and medium enterprises and the manufacturing sector, while allowing production to go on seamlessly to bring the economy back to the path of recovery as fast as possible.”

The ACCI president stated that the government should allow manufacturing operations to continue. He said firms had built up stock and adopted international measures designed to work under the current environment.

About Israel Ariya

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