COVID-19: Guard against job losses, ex-lawmaker tells Govt

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Daniel Igali, former member of the Bayelsa House of Assembly on Wednesday advised governments at all levels to guard against mass job losses arising from the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world.

Igali told our correspondent in a telephone interview in Ibadan that the rate of unemployment would  “certainly rise” once COVID-19 was eradicated in the country.

“I think the federal and state governments are currently in the mode of ensuring that spread of COVID-19 is restricted and eventually stifled and made impotent so we do not have more new cases.

“ To that end, the interstate travel bans, stay-at-home order and enforcement of social distancing and wearing of masks is commendable.

“ However, as we look beyond the total clampdown and forward to gradual re opening, we have to take stock of the big elephant in the room.

“ Job losses in the economy with record number of unemployment and this has to be the focus right now,” he said.

Igali, who is also the president, Nigeria Wrestling Federation, said that stimulus packages from the federal, state and local governments have to be introduced.

“These strict palliatives should be geared towards maintaining the already existing jobs. After a three month lock-down, understandably, there will be a lot of layoffs.

“ In some cases, in addition to downsizing as we have seen from some banks, less established businesses will also fold up.

“To that end, the various law making organs in the three tiers of government need to work on approving stimulus packages in the form of soft loans and grants to bail out feeble and less established businesses.

“We know that small and medium scale businesses employ 80 per cent of our total workforce.

“It’s, therefore, of urgent importance that we draw up strict guidelines on eligible businesses to curtail the loss of jobs.

“Ensuring that we reduce to the minimum job losses in a country of very high unemployment has to be our priority right now.

“If in normal budget cycles, we have budget performance in the 50 per cent range, no one is deluded that the budget performance this year will record about 20-30 per cent.

“ As long as we are able to maintain jobs this year, it would be termed a success.

“Palliatives in the form of grains, noodles, rice, garri and the likes have apparently been shared by national, state and local governments across board.

“Billions, if not trillions of Naira worth. However, schools, both public and private, barber shops, salons, eateries, hotels, private clinics and hospitals, gymnasiums, pool houses, clubs etc. have been closed.

“Collectively losing trillions of naira and likely throwing tens of millions into the unemployment market.

“Landlords, eateries, hotels and similar business concerns evidently have mortgage liabilities and could also subsequently fold.

“What plans, palliatives do we have in the form of soft loans or grants for these businesses as is observed in other climes? he asked