COVID-19: Avert doomsday, dons urge govts
By Fatima Muraina, Adekola Afolabi and Mary Agidi
As nations of the world continue to battle coronavirus pandemic, Nigerian governments have been advised to buckle up for a likely tougher and gloomy economy, which could culminate in problem of payment of workers’ salaries or downsizing of the workforce if certain steps are not taken.
Giving this indication are two university professors, Felix Olurankinse, a Professor of Accounting and Budgeting from Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko (AAUA), and Peter Aborisade, Professor of English and Communication, at the Federal University of Technology, Akure, FUTA, while speaking with The Hope in separate exclusive interviews.
While expressing their regret that the country is being confronted with an imminent harsh economic crisis as a result of COVID-19, noted that it is avoidable if urgent steps are taken.
Stating his position on the aftermath of COVID-19, Prof. Olurankinse explained that with business activities paralysed, when almost all states in the country are locked down, workers unable to go to work and even banking system regimented, there is danger of recession ahead.
The expert, while analysing the economic implications of the deadly coronavirus scourge on the country at large, observed that if care is not taken, in a couple of months government would be faced with problem of payment of salaries which might also lead to downsizing of workers.
He called on government at all levels to cut down their expenditure and engage in prudent management of their lean resources to be able to cope with the consequences of COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the global community.
Olurankinse noted that crude oil, the major source of revenue for the country is no longer profitable in the world market, leading to prices crash globally.
He stressed that to cushion the socio-economic effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the citizens, government at all levels should encourage farmers and everybody either educated or uneducated to go into farming.
He added that government should make soft loans available to farmers and provide agricultural inputs at affordable prices, while the ongoing palliatives to the poor and vulnerable citizens should also be increased.
He posited that, “Everybody should go back to farming because it is the only thing that can cushion the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On his part, Prof. Aborisade, while also expressing his reservation on the likely post-coronavirus recession said the economic diversification of President Muhammadu Buhari is trying to achieve, should have started about 50 years ago.
Analysing some plausible grave outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic on Nigerians, Aborisade affirmed that the nation never had an economy, as the major source of revenue was determined by global situation.
He noted that with the spread of COVID-19, he foresee huge loss of good hands in the country.
According to him, Nigeria never prepared for a pandemic hence, the reason Nigerians should expect tough time ahead as the situation had really affected so many sectors of the economy.
He stated that, the mining and agricultural sectors, which could have been the alternative had been affected by the physical distancing directive, noting that if other parts of the country could be lucky to have early and enough rainfall like the Southwest, then, the level of hunger would be lessened for those who could farm for sustenance.
He predicted an increase in banditry due to hunger, saying one of the after-effects of COVID-19 pandemic is reduction in workforce, which some organisations were already contemplating, thereby, increasing unemployment in the society.
“The state of insecurity in Nigeria is going to be aggravated on the account of the economy not doing well. There are very bad times ahead, it is going to be cloudy, unfortunately. But Nigeria, by resilience, will survive, though will bear the scar of the effect of COVID-19,” he said.
Also lending their voices were Fessy Olabode and Dr. Olutoki Steven as they urged the government not think of reducing its staff strength, which they said may be detrimental.
Olabode advised that the state can set up a committee to carry out staff auditing to see where there are overlapping of duties and transfer such to where they are relevant to contribute their quotas to the GDP of the economy.
He called for urgent need to reduce cost and to increase revenue by covering and bringing more people into the tax net.
He advised that everybody should be made to pay development levy of about N1,000, while staff in the private schools and tertiary institutions should get their tax deducted remitted to Government on monthly basis.
Dr. Olutoki who is the Registrar of Institute of Economics of Nigeria, urged government to consider readjustment of salaries and emoluments of workers rather than retrenching outrightly.
While saying government should move away from lip service budgeting to actual production, Steven said the best way to get out of the post-pandemic economic crisis is what he called crowned production of agricultural produce.
This, he noted could be achieved through resuscitation of the farm settlement centers, by engaging the traditional rulers.
Speaking on the development, the State Commissioner for Budget and Planning, Mr Emmanuel Igbasan, assured that the state will re-prioritise its policies to meet the rising challenges.
He noted that the state government will look into ways of empowering the people and to block leakages in government.