James Emejo in Abuja
United Nations Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator, Mr. Edward Kallon, has expressed optimism that Nigeria would come out stronger from the current economic situation occasioned by the outbreak and spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Kallon said the country only needed to pursue economic diversification more vigorously in the post-COVID-19 era.
Specifically, he said the power sector should be fixed to enhance the capacity of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) to thrive and create jobs.
He added that the government should also implement generous tax cuts for private sector firms willing to continue paying their employees despite the lull in business activities.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with THISDAY, Kallon said though the prevailing economic situation is dire not only in Nigeria but across the world, the situation with the country became “very serious because of its reliance on crude oil, the prices of which has hit rock bottom because of the pandemic.”
However, the UN resident coordinator said given the country’s proven record for resilience over the years, it is no doubt it would be able to weather the storm and emerge stronger from the pandemic.
Kallon also advised the federal government to scale up social protection and safety programmes targeting the most vulnerable and the urban poor affected by COVID-19 in order to effectively manage humanitarian situations going forward.
He stressed the need to scale up economic stimulus packages for key sectors of the economy, particularly the agriculture sector, which is currently experiencing both demand and supply-side shocks.
Also, assessing the country’s humanitarian situation, the UN chief said the North-eastern states of Borno, Adamawa and Yobe remained among the most acute crises in the world.
According to him, “With the COVID-19 pandemic, the UN is extremely concerned about the situation of the most vulnerable people in the country, including the 7.9 million affected by the humanitarian crisis in the North-east region.”
He noted that there had been resurgence in violent attacks while the civilians continue to bear the brunt of the crisis as well as aid workers who have become a direct target, claiming the lives of 12 UN staff in 2019.
Kallon added that in spite of the security challenges in the North-east region, the humanitarian community was able to reach 5.2 million people with life-saving assistance in 2019, including 2.4 million people who received food assistance every month.
He said: “Aid workers save the lives of more than 650 malnourished children every day in 2019. In 2020, aid organisations stand resolute to continue our engagement towards the most vulnerable people in Nigeria, in coordination with Nigerian authorities.”
Among other things, Kallon said the UN is addressing the violent conflicts and attendant insecurity as development challenges in the country.