VICE president Professor Yemi Osinbajo has warned that nearly 40m Nigerians might lose their jobs this year as a result of the economic fallout from the shutdown introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
So far, Nigeria has had 14,554 cases of coronavirus, of which there have been 387 casualties and although the figures have been relatively low, the government took decisive action to combat the spread of the virus. An economic shutdown that involved the closing of businesses, markets and the imposition of a travel ban, created severe hardship across Nigeria.
Apart from this, global demand for Nigeria’s crude oil all but ceased, leaving the country with millions of barrels of petroleum it could not sell. Given that about 905% of federal government revenue comes from the receipt of crude oil, Nigeria has been unable to fund her 2020 budget, forcing the government to approach the World Bank and International Monetary Fund for loans.
To ameliorate the effects of the shutdown, the federal government set up an Economic Sustainability Committee (EAC) chaired by Professor Osinbajo. Earlier this week, it submitted its report, which included an action plan, highlighting the grim picture to President Muhammadu Buhari.
According to Professor Osinbajo, the picture would only be so grim if the government failed to take necessary pre-emptive measures. In the report, it was projected that Nigeria’s gross domestic product (GDP) might fall by as much as between -4.40% and -8.91% during the course of 2020.
Professor Osinbajo’s resuscitation plan, called Bouncing Back: The Nigerian Economic Sustainability Plan, outlined a range of multi-sectoral remedies to take care of massive jobs creation through the agricultural and construction sectors, as well as lending support to the informal and small scale business sectors. It pointed out that the lockdowns and social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of Covid-19 have had a severe negative impact on farms and factories, as well as on trade, transport and tourism.
Professor Osinbajo said: “Unemployment may rise to 33.6% or about 39.4m people by the end of 2020 if we fail to take prompt pre-emptive measures. Millions more will fall into extreme poverty before the pandemic ends and GDP may fall to between minus 4.40% and minus 8.91%, depending on the length of the lockdown period and the strength of our economic response.”
He said his committee had designed responses to the threat, adding that the thrust would be to localise production and consumption. Highlights of the plan included the mass cultivation of between 20,000 and 100,000 hectares of new farmlands in each state, the provision of around 300,000 housing units annually and the connection of more than 5m off-national grid homes to solar power.
“We decided on a strategy hinged on Mr. President’s mantra to produce what we eat and consume what we produce. In other words, to create millions of new jobs, we need to focus on encouraging local production, local services, local innovation, and emphasise the use of local materials.
“Nigeria and Nigerians can produce our food, build our houses and construct our roads, using local materials in all cases. If we must import, it must be to support local production, so we have therefore recommended that we must carry out mass programmes that create jobs and utilise local materials,” Professor Osinbajo added.
His plans include an extensive public works and road construction programme, focusing on both major and rural roads and using locally available materials like limestone, cement and granite. It also involves a mass housing programme to deliver up to 300,000 homes annually, engaging young professionals and artisans who form themselves into small and medium scale businesses within the construction industry, using indigenous labour and materials.
In addition, the plan involves the installation of solar home systems, targeting 5m households, serving about 25m individual Nigerians who are currently not connected to the national grid. Other facets of the plan include the facilitation of Broadband connectivity across the country and the creation of a wide variety of technology and information and communication technology jobs.