• Thursday, February 29, 2024
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COVID-19: Economy can’t afford another lock-down, says OPS

Timothy Olawale

The organised private sector (OPS) says re-imposition of lockdown in Nigeria’s economic nerve centre of Lagos, will cut the economy deeper and instantly trigger mass layoffs of workers by employers who are barely struggling to keep businesses afloat amid continuing partial restrictions on their operations.

Timothy Olawale, Director-General of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), spoke with BusinessDay on Friday amid speculations that the Lagos State government may be considering imposition of a fresh lockdown due to the continuing spike in the number of COVID-19 infections in the state.

As of June 18, 2020, Lagos still topped the chart of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, recording 280 new infections which pushed its total confirmed cases to 7,896 with 1,382 recoveries and 108 deaths. Bed spaces at the various isolation centres in the state are now posing a challenge to the government as the figure continues to spike.

The state governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu recently hinted that the government would not hesitate to re-lock the state if the situation calls for it.

But the organised business community believes that a fresh lockdown would deeply hurt the economy.

“One can understand why the government could be thinking of re-locking Lagos. People have been generally careless about the guidelines and protocols to stay safe. The facemasks are not being worn as expected, social and physical distancing is not being observed. As a result, the state has continued to record increased infections and deaths from COVID-19 and the government may want to have a rethink.

“But it would be a serious setback for the economy. As we speak, businesses are struggling because of the limitations they still face,” said Olawale.

The DG added that some factories have been unable to run their normal shifts as result of the 10pm to 4am curfew in addition to the difficulty they encounter transporting their products because of the inter-state movement restrictions. “Even though the government allows exemptions, but the security personnel have turned our highways into venture; they don’t allow products to move on the highways without collecting money,” said Olawale.

The NECA DG warned that the reposition of a lockdown amid the difficulties would trigger mass layoffs by employers who have only managed to hold their staff with the hope things would improve soon.

Olawale argued that rather than re-imposing a lockdown, the government should enforce the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols to limit the spread of the disease.

“Enforcement of the guidelines and protocols has been very weak. What we would advise the government to do now is enforcement and not re-imposition of a lockdown because that would have dire consequences for the national economy,” Olawale argued.