Organised Private Sector, OPS; Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, counterpart, have agreed that there is need for guided relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown.
They said guided relaxation was the only way to save the economy from imminent collapse.
OPS said while businesses remain passive and unproductive with attendant mass losses of revenue, overhead costs remained.
This is just as Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and its United Labour Congress of Nigeria, ULC, counterpart, insist that the earlier the nation does a strategic relaxing of the lockdown the better for the country and its citizens.
OPS, speaking through Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, in a statement contended that while the government should take decisive steps to protect lives, efforts should also be made to keep productive activities going to avoid looming job losses.
In a statement by its Director-General, Dr Timothy Olawale, NECA said: “The truth is that five weeks of economic and business shutdown has overstretched the limits and businesses are beginning to buckle under the weight of the burden it is carrying without a corresponding productivity from workers and necessary support from government.
“This is the reality today. Balancing the protection of lives with economic interests should ordinarily not be difficult. While protection of life should take precedence, the need to protect the economic foundation of the nation cannot be discounted as the economy will ultimately sustains life.
“While the government takes decisive steps to protect lives, efforts should also be made to keep productive activities going.
“Without delicately balancing the scale, the consequential negative effects of the pandemic will not only include unimaginable loss of lives, massive job losses and heightened insecurity, it might also lead to unnecessary social revolt.
“While a lot has been said on the intervention of the Federal Government and various coordinated efforts of other stakeholders, more decisive action on stimulus to businesses need to be taken. The announced stimulus, to a large extent has not addressed the critical needs of businesses that will guarantee sustainability and protection of jobs.
“Much more can still be done now, not belatedly, to save jobs in Nigeria. More direct intervention such as direct wage or income support, wage subsidies, tax credits or tax deferrals, short-term work schemes, moratoriums on loan payments and the establishment of a coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, where government pays up to 60% of private sector salaries until June, as long as workers are not laid off, as done in other climes i.e. UK, France, and Denmark, etc would reduce the negative impact on businesses and slow the rate of job loss.
While it is desirable for the lockdown to be relaxed and not totally removed, it is important to state that a mismanagement of the lockdown relaxation process might spell doom for the gains already achieved.
“It is worthy of note that the main objective of the lockdown was to contain and curtail the spread of the virus. While the recent upsurge in number of confirmed cases might be attributed to increased spread of the virus and also increased testing capacity of the Nation, the need to manage the socio-economic impact of current lockdown cannot be over-emphasised.
“With a large population of the country in the informal sector and many surviving on daily wages, the continued total lockdown has the tendency to further cripple businesses, hasten the rate of job loss, and increase the level of poverty with consequential effect of increased insecurity.
“A relaxed lockdown with legislated State and National Guidelines to prevent the spread of the virus will go a long way in maintaining the gains of the past few weeks. The guidelines should include compulsory use of sanitisers, free protective gears by government (face mask, hand gloves (where necessary), maintenance of social distancing, increased education and awareness (posters, etc), total banning of religious, political and social gatherings, limited number of passengers in public and private transportation and strict enforcement of same, amongst others.
“It will also be imperative for government at all levels to be more strategic and transparent in the administration of social welfare and palliatives distribution among the most vulnerable.
“While the risks of total relaxing too soon, are very real, gradual relaxation could be considered under these stringent pre-conditions as done in Ghana, Germany and some other countries, albeit, with a high sense of alertness.”
Nigeria can’t continue endless lockdown— NLC
Speaking, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, said: “NLC is on the same page with NECA because there is no time frame for the virus to end, especially since there is no known cure medically.
“We have said that we have to strike a balance. We cannot continue a perpetual lockdown, otherwise the economy will suffer and employment crisis will worsened. We are in a country where about 70 percent of the economic activities are driven by the informal sector and small and medium scale operators who survive on daily activities.
“We cannot continue to lock them down at home without providing for them. The International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC, has warned that 80 percent of jobs may be affected globally by the COVID-19 pandemic.