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How to save the economy from COVID-19 blows

THE COVID-19 pandemic hit the world unexpectedly. While the advanced economies were rattled and are frantically searching for a solution after thousands of lives have been lost, the underdeveloped economies are yet to wake up from their slumber in terms of confronting the deadly virus and its adverse effect.The effects of the pandemic on the economy and all other areas of human endeavour were devastating because of the poor health system and the country’s mono-economy that has been operational for many years. The situation has led to the unprecedented disruption of food chains, reduction in crude oil price and total lockdown of all economic activities.

According to analysts, the adverse effects on critical sectors such as oil and gas, airlines, manufacturing and consumer markets were largely due to the mono-economy which the country has operated for many years until lately when agriculture is being considered as an alternative to oil in terms of revenue earning and food security.

Perhaps, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) had the premonition of this calamity a few years back when it gave agriculture a pep in its intervention programmes.

Anchor Borrower Scheme became handy and the saving grace for farmers. The scheme, which was launched by Buhari in 2015, was designed to empower farmers to ensure food security.

According to the Director, Corporate Affairs of the CBN, Mr. Isaac Okoroafor, over 2.5 million farmers have benefited from the scheme in about 17 agricultural commodities.

Savouring the economic gains of these intervention programmes, the issue of border closure crept in, a policy that did not go down well with some of our neighbouring countries and was heavily criticised.

However, shedding more lights on the closure of the border, the CBN Governor Godwin Emefiele pointed out that “we are not saying that the borders should be closed in perpetuity, but that before the borders are re-opened, there must be concrete engagements with countries that are involved in using their ports and countries as landing ports for bringing in goods meant for local consumption, it is understandable,”

He further explained that before the closure of the border, the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria has nothing less than 25,000 metric tons of milled rice which they cannot sell due to saturation of the market with imported rice from the Republic of Benin, adding that just after a week of the closure of the border, all the rice were sold.

The CBN boss emphatically said the closure of the border has brought a good tiding to the Nigerian economy.

“So, on what the benefits of the border closure on the economy of Nigeria are, I just used two products – poultry and rice. The benefit is that it has helped to create jobs for our people, it has helped to bring the integrated rice milling in the country back into the business and they are making money.

Though the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected the economy and the lockdown not only collapsed a lot of businesses but also opened a window of hunger for artisans who majorly depended on daily hustling for their survival, a situation that has invalidated earlier gains before the pandemic.

Speaking to The Nation on the ability of the country to quickly return to its economic hub that has encouraged a paradigm shift from oil and gas to agriculture and agro-allied ventures, Mr. Mike Osagie, an economist, noted that though the pandemic took the country by surprise, the agricultural programmes embarked upon by the Federal Government a few years ago had made food available, otherwise the country would have been worse hit.

Osagie further explained that a lot of lessons has been learnt during the lockdown which could encourage the government to put on their thinking cap and address all the critical area such as health facilities, adding that it should focus more on agriculture and let the farmers be the centre of focus to ensure food sufficiency and creation of more jobs.

According to him, post-COVID-19 should be a new Nigeria where massive diversification in agriculture is made necessary.

”Since the CBN got it right due to some of its intervention programmes for farmers, manufacturers and small-scale enterprises. This will go a long way in restoring all the economic losses during the lockdown.

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