OPS: Second Lockdown will Inhibit Economic Recovery

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•FG alleges conspiracy against COVID-19 vaccines

By Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja, Nume Ekeghe and Dike Onwuamaeze in Lagos

Economic analysts and representatives of the organised private sector (OPS) have warned against a second lockdown in the country, expressing concerns about possible job losses even as the added that efforts at stimulating economic activities to facilitate an earnest recovery from recession would be hampered.

They warned that any total lockdown of the economy will lead to huge economic and social costs that the country will not be able to manage, adding that what is needed right now is a firmly articulated risk management framework on the spread of COVID-19.

This is coming as the federal government has alleged that there is a groundswell of scepticism and conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 vaccines due to arrive in the country latest by February.

The Chairman of the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on COVID-19 and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, had on Monday warned of another lockdown if Nigerians continued to disregard non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) introduced to combat the spread of COVID-19.

But the Director-General of the Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Ambassador Ayo Olukanni, told THISDAY 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 said.

Similarly, 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.

Olawale also expressed concern that the fragile economy might be unable to withstand the effects of another nationwide lockdown.

He said: “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.

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.

The Director-General of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Muda Yusuf, also highlighted the implications of another lockdown, which he said 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 explained.

Head of Research, United Capital, Mr. Wale Olusi, stated that the country cannot afford another lockdown.

“The impact is going to be much more grievous than the virus itself in terms of loss of life and economic deprivation. A lot of people depend on daily economic activities to put food on their table. If you lock them down and you don’t pay them, people would start fuming again.

“The last time there was social unrest all over the place and people are going to be worse than the previous lockdown. Yes COVID-19 is real; yes, the numbers are going up, but I am not sure the best way to handle it is another lockdown.

“What we need to do is lock down people who are old and people who have underlining diseases,” he said.

He added that a second lockdown will impact inflation, lead to more job losses and also, ground economic activities.

The Director-General of the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Mr. Segun Ajayi-Kadir, said a second lockdown will portend a serious negative implications for the national economy in general and the manufacturing sector in particular.

Ajayi-Kadir stated that 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.

He said: “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 said MAN is committed to ensuring strict compliance by its personnel and in its businesses.
“We are even raising the standards and putting in more measures to ensure full and complete compliance,” he added.

FG Alleges Conspiracy Theories against COVID-19 Vaccines

Meanwhile, the federal government has alleged that there is a groundswell of scepticism and conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 vaccines due to arrive in the country latest by February.

The Executive Director of National Primary Healthcare Development Agency (NPHCDA), Dr. Faisal Shuaib, said yesterday in Abuja when he led journalists on a tour of the agency’s National Strategic Cold Chain Store that the agency has begun an aggressive community engagement and consultation to educate the grassroots and also share the right information about the vaccines.

Shuaib stated that in spite of the scepticism in some quarters, the government is focused on protecting and inoculating Nigerians.

“We are mindful that we have a lot of work to overcome vaccine hesitancy that we are already seeing the misinformation, the conspiracy theories around the COVID-19 vaccines and we do not take for granted that all Nigerians understand the principles around vaccines production.

“We have to do the hard work. It is not enough to offer the vaccine to Nigerians; we have to do the hard work of sharing information and educating Nigerians about the vaccines; how they are produced, the fact that they are safe and all of the measures,” he explained.

He noted that all those concerns that were being raised are not just out of mischief.

According to him, the agency is going to be working with traditional leaders to educate them and as the gatekeepers of the communities, they understand how to communicate.

“We are reaching out to religious, community-based organisations, even political leaders because they are the representatives of the people,” he stated.

While debunking the concern that the NPHCDA lacks the storage capacity for the vaccines, he acknowledged that administering the vaccines on Nigerians would be a herculean task.

He said the country has the capacity to store up to 400,000 doses of the expected COVID-19 vaccines.

Shuaib assured Nigerians that the 100,000 doses of the expected Pfizer vaccines will not be administered on any Nigerian without the certification from National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC).

“No vaccines will be administered to any Nigerian without NAFDAC certifying it. I want to reiterate that the responsibility of making that decision to vaccinate Nigerians is of the government. It is a sacred trust that we do not take for granted. We are going to be doing it very diligently,” Shuaib said.
He also spoke on plans to start local production of COVID-19 vaccines.