Members of the organised private sector (OPS) have asked for a review of some of the guidelines on the gradual easing of the Covid-19 lockdown in Lagos, as businesses and offices set for reopening from Monday, May 4.
At a meeting on Thursday between officials of the state government and representatives of the business community, the OPS urged the government to reconsider the 9am to 3pm earlier announced by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu for offices to open for business.
In the meeting were Rabiu Olowo, commissioner for finance; Sam Egube, commissioner for economic planning and budget, and Lola Akande, commissioner for commerce and industry. On the side of the business community were Timothy Olawale and Muda Yusuf, directors-general of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) and Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) respectively, as well as Segun Ajayi-Kadir, acting director-general of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN).
The OPS requested the government to be more specific regarding the guidelines, to prevent ambiguity and observed that 9am to 3pm working hour was operationally inadequate. The group stressed the need to factor in night shifts, which the government team acceded to, and promised to revert on the expansion review of 9am-3.00pm window.
On social distancing in the workplace, the OPS said the guideline should focus on social distancing in the factory rather than specify the number of employees in a factory.
Commenting also on inter-state restriction, the OPS reminded the government that a chunk of employees in Lagos reside in Ogun State, and appealed to the state government to facilitate ease of commuting between both states.
The same request was made in respect of movement of consumables and inputs for production by companies and dispatch of finished goods to other states.
On the hospitality and construction industries, it was observed that both industries should be allowed to operate within the guidelines established by the government rather than being completely shut out of business.
The hospitality industry should be allowed to receive guests and use room service as alternative to shut down restaurants and bars, while construction companies should be allowed to commence operations, the OPS demanded.
They also argued that the alternative working days proposed by the government was not practicable, hence a review of the 9.00am – 3.00pm arrangement and concession of night shifts would be a good start.
They suggested that staff working night shifts could work longer hours to cover duties until day shift workers arrive to take over. They could be compensated with overtime payments.
The meeting generally agreed on the imperative of the social distancing and other safety protocols and the need for businesses to be creative and innovative in operating within the guidelines even as reviews will be done regularly.
The meeting also agreed that businesses carry out a risk assessment to enable them take proper decisions in this trying period.
The government team, however, assured that the requests regarding the hospitality and construction industries would be tabled at the Government’s War-Room for review, as hotels were seen as public places.
The state team also said that the government would explore the possibility of facilitating ease of passage for employees working in Lagos but residing in Ogun, but observed that issuance of permits could be abused and create other challenges.
They assured that pay as you go (PAYG) relief would be considered for employees. They also said that the peculiarities of street shops would be reviewed in view of the announced curfew.
The government team promised that all suggestions received would be tabled at the War-Room and factored into other guidelines that would be released subsequently, but that in the meantime, the subsisting guidelines already announced by Governor Sanwo-Olu on Wednesday, April 29, should suffice.
A follow-up meeting would be convened to review operational issues and challenges faced by businesses.