Fri. Sep 25th, 2020

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BUSINESS May Day signals joblessness for Nigerians as coronavirus hits harder

May Day also known as Workers’ Day is marked on the 1st day of the month all over the world. But not much to celebrate this year 2020 amid the coronavirus crisis. That gloom pervades most countries is no news and the situation isn’t looking good.

Apparently, to douse tension, the Nigeruan government said it will ensure that people retain their employment. But it would only be wishful thinking to say citizens, especially in the private sector, will not be hit by the effect of the ravaging disease. However, you choose to call it, “job losses” or “mass sack”, one will happen.

But the fact is that it’s already happening. In the last days of April during interactions, some workers in private establishments told DAILY POST that May 1 signals their unemployment. They forwarded e-mails, memo, recorded calls with colleagues and text messages to buttress their complaints.

It was gathered that companies handled April salaries of staff in three ways. The first category paid in full; the second paid half while the third did not pay at all. Do you blame them? Many companies recorded zero or a meagre income and thus, cannot fulfill obligations to staff. It’s as simple as the word.

A 25-year old lady, who finished, her mandatory National Youth Service in 2019, said: “My company has placed me on unpaid leave. I have been living off my savings and it’s almost out. Plus I usually send money to family. During the lockdown, I attended an online wig business class. It’s a good handwork to learn and I can use it as side hustle.”

Although hers was “unpaid leave”, meaning she remains a staff and could be recalled after the COVID-19 crisis, some others have been sacked outrightly. Letters have been dispatched to workers via email or logistics company. We are looking at a problem where some will consider suicide; depression will set in; those in debt will sell properties; marriages will crash; companies will struggle big time.

It is not a prank, Nigeria is in a big mess and the sooner the populace and authorities admit, the better. The federal government is broke too. Just this week, on the country’s request, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved US$3.4 billion (N1.3 trillion) emergency financial assistance for the fight against coronavirus. The Executive Board’s approval was under the Rapid Financing Instrument (RFI).

The IMF confirmed that the near-term economic impact of COVID-19 will be severe, while already high downside risks have increased. It noted that even before the COVID-19 outbreak, Nigeria’s economy was facing headwinds from rising external vulnerabilities and falling per capita GDP levels. Don’t forget the IMF recently alerted that Nigeria will go into recession,the worst in there decades

Also, to prove there is fire on the mountain, the Minister of Finance, Zainab Ahmed, announced that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the implementation of scrap and merge of federal government parastatals, commissions and agencies.

A former Head of Civil Service, Stephen Oransaye headed a committee set up by former President Goodluck Jonathan to identify civil service inadequacies.

They recommended that the government should focus on empowering the MDAs “to do more for less.”

Africa’s most populous nation is in a dire situation and for those who still do not appreciate the magnitude, here is a reason to. In the United States, 30 million Americans have filed unemployment claims. First-time claims benefits reached 3.8 million in the week ending April 25, after factoring in seasonal adjustments, the US Department of Labor said.

The world power has approximately 330 million population; 30 million people shows nearly 10 percent of the population are now jobless. Comparing Nigeria with 200 million, it is safe to say that nearly 10 percent or 20 million citizens are at risk. And we must bear in mind we have other problems such as unemployment, insecurity, insurgency, humanitarian crisis, high rate of poverty, infrastructure deficit, among others.

The assurance by the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige, in his May Day message that the government would look at the four-pillar plan of policy responses to the pandemic, as laid out by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), is commendable but it should do more than lip-service.

The admission that “sustainability of the enterprise has become a subject of concern” and that “the worries precipitated by the COVID-19 crisis are further compounded by worries of maintaining a source of livelihood”, point to the fears that all is not well.

But the minister said that all relevant factors to the nation’s workforce would be identified, analysed and solidified to ensure job retention. He stated that the government would not encourage employers to disengage any member of their staff without the prerequisite social dialogue and clearance from the ministry.

The sweet words are good and Nigeria is not known to prepare for disasters. Let’s hope and pray.

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