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OPS, NLC Call For Guided Relaxation Of Lockdown To Save Economy

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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.

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Banks’ CEOs Hold Emergency Meeting Over BDCs’ Forex Ban 

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Bank Chief Executive Officers on Thursday, held an emergency meeting on how to ensure compliance with the new forex directive of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

After the meeting, they spoke during a webinar organised to give an update on the banks’ preparedness to be the main channel of forex distribution, following the recent discontinuity of forex supply to the BDC operators by the CBN.

The executives assured the public that banks would make forex available to customers in accordance with the CBN’s directives.

After the last Monetary Policy Committee meeting, the Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, had ordered all Deposit Money Banks to set up teller points at designated branches across the country to fulfil legitimate FX request for personal travel allowance, business travel allowance, tuition fees, medical payments and SMEs transactions, among others.

Speaking at the webinar, the Group Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, Access Bank Plc, Herbert Wigwe, said, “The banking industry as a whole was willing and ready to carry out this function. The banks have very strict compliance measures, in terms of verification and making sure that people who do apply are eligible.

“All Nigerian banks will be able to meet these requirements. If you look at all the branches nationwide, you will know that the banks have more than enough capacity to do this.”

He said if the banks saw any compliance issues, or people attempting to do things cunning, they would be reported to the CBN because the banks would ensure full compliance with the order.

The Group Chief Executive Officer, Guaranty Trust Holding Company Plc, Mr Segun Agbaje, while speaking on the capacity of the banks to meet the customers demand, said, “It is not only the CBN that has the ability to fund the market; the banks also have the resources to meet the demand, and we have agreed collectively that it will start immediately.”

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NERC: Over 1m Electricity Consumers Have Received Prepaid Meters

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Labour Warns FG Against Electricity Tariff Hike 

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The Nigeria Labour Congress faulted plans to allegedly sell the Transmission Company of Nigeria, saying it will lead to an increase in electricity tariff.

The NLC President, Mr Ayuba Wabba, said this in a statement titled, “This Kite will not Fly’’ on Friday.

Wabba explained that instead of allegedly planning to sell the transmission company, FG should focus on improving the electricity supply.

He described the attempt to hand over the TCN to a few ‘privileged’ Nigerians as self-serving, obtuse, odious, morally reprehensible and criminal.

The NLC president said, “The TCN is a strategic economic asset of immense national security implications. This is because the TCN traverses all nooks and crannies of Nigeria.

“It will be wrong that our country will be deliberately exposed to an avoidable vulnerability and thus, provide an opportunity to others to restrain the Nigerian state.

“We apprehend that the planned sale of the TCN is only an attempt to further confound the people and concurrently raise electricity tariff. Unfortunately, this time around, Nigerians have had enough.

“The government cannot promise improved power supply to consumers by the planned sale of TCN. The under-the-table scheming as transparent privatisation cannot pass muster.

“It is an unsavoury narrative for our country, that even the privatised assets, which have survived the rapacity of the new owners, have been turned into unrealisable collaterals for unpayable loans.

“This constitutes a bone stuck in the throat of financial institutions and sundry creditors.”

Wabba explained that the plan would “fundamentally weaken the security of the nation and above all, deprive the people of their age-old investments in the commanding heights of the Nigerian economy”.

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