By AYOOLA OLAOLUWA
Investors, business owners and the nation’s economic managers have become nervous as Nigeria brace for another round of economic pain with infections and deaths spiking again from a second wave of Covid19 pandemic which berthed in the country in February, Business Hallmark findings can reveal.
Nigeria’s economy, it would be recalled, officially slipped into the worst recession in forty years in November, owing largely to the negative impacts of the disease, as well as the lockdown and restrictions put in place by government to combat the spread.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 3.62 percent year-on-year in real terms in the third quarter of 2020. The economy shrank by 6.1 percent in Q2, indicating that two consecutive quarters of negative were recorded in 2020.
“Cumulative GDP for the first 9 months of 2020, therefore, stood at -2.48 percent,” the NBS had stated in a report, while attributing the contraction to slow oil production and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anxiety is especially high because the continued spread of the disease could necessitate a possible lockdown of the nation, and the prospect that the economy will suffer, with many businesses shutting down and more Nigerians falling below the poverty line.
Since November, there has been a surge in reported cases of Covid19. On Thursday, December 10, 2020, Nigeria recorded its highest number of daily infections of Coronavirus in six months with 675 new cases. The highest remains the 745 cases recorded on June 19.
On Saturday, October 12, the Nigerian Centre for Diseases (NCDC), confirmed 617 new cases and 4 deaths in the country.
The latest figure beats the 601 cases reported on August 23, which until Saturday night was the second highest recorded on a single day in the country.
The 617 new cases are reported from 15 states- Lagos (225), FCT (181), Kaduna (125), Adamawa (25), Nasarawa (20), Kano (12), Rivers (8), Edo (4), Ekiti (4), Bayelsa (3), Ogun (3), Plateau (3), Akwa Ibom (2), Delta (1) and Sokoto (1).
While the nation is still reeling from the effects of the first wave of the pandemic which peaked in August, a second wave of Covid19 has hit the country, with economic experts predicting a second wave economic slump will follow.
“The Nigerian economy is already in a recession, and a reentry into a second wave of Coronavirus will worsen the situation.
“Already, manufacturers are finding it difficult to source the necessary raw materials and machinery needed for production as more countries are closing borders and restricting movements to their countries.
“This will surely affects the nation’s economy. For example, the Dangote Refinery, which supposed to commence operations this December could not start production as some equipment and personnel needed were trapped in their country of origin.
”The date for starting productions was moved to 2021. The resurgence of the disease will surely slow down the refinery project. Thankfully, they have found a vaccine. I hope it will go a long way in bringing stability to the system”, declared Dr. Dele Badmus, a petroleum engineer with OSOT Engineering based in Lagos.
Already, the surge has started having visible effects on governance, economic and socio-political activities, with many scheduled functions postponed or totally cancelled.
For instance, the ongoing 2020 Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Annual Conference in Abuja was abruptly cancelled when a participant, Major-General Olu Irefin, fell ill during the conference and was taken to the hospital on the evening of Tuesday, December 8.
The Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, was forced to announce the cancellation of the annual conference on Thursday, when medical tests confirmed General Irefin tested positive for COVID19.
The army also mandated all the participants to immediately proceed on self-isolation, in line with the federal government’s protocol on COVID-19, and to prevent any further spread of the disease.
However, Gen. Irefin, who was the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 6 Division, Port Harcourt in Rivers State, died in the hospital while receiving treatment.
The incident also forced Buratai to announce the reduction of the number of guests at the wedding of his son which took place on Friday.
“The Chief of Army Staff, on behalf of his family, feels honoured to sincerely appreciate, thank and welcome all dignitaries and invited guests to his son’s wedding slated for Friday, December 11.
“However, due to the resurgence of the pandemic in the FCT, Buratai will be unable to personally attend to, receive, or meet you at the event. All inconveniences are hereby regretted please,” Army spokesperson, Sagir Musa, had said in a statement.
General Iretin was not the only high profile figure plagued by the deadly disease during the course of last week. Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Friday tested positive for coronavirus.
It was confirmed on Friday that the governor was infected with the virus and has gone into isolation following contact with persons infected with the infection.
“Mr. Governor is receiving treatment and is being closely monitored at home by the very experienced State COVID-19 clinical team from IDH Yaba.
“He is doing well on treatment and rest and we are confident that he will recover quickly and clear the virus. We are seeing slightly increasing number of COVID-19 positive cases in clusters in Lagos and all residents and visitors should strictly adhere to the prescribed advisories of safe distancing, mask-wearing, good hand and respiratory hygiene and avoidance of unnecessary or large gatherings,” a statement by the commissioner for health, Professor Akin Abayomi had warned.
Likewise, Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, has again gone into isolation after an immediate family member and senior officials of the State Government tested positive for COVID-19. The Kaduna governor had earlier in the year tested positive for the virus.
El-Rufai, who said he had been notified of more positive COVID-19 test results of persons close to him, said he is currently in self-isolation and hope to be tested by Sunday. The result of his test was still being awaited as at the time of going the press.
BH reliably gathered that some top government officials, particularly those in the health ministry are pushing for another lockdown of the nation to halt the spread of the disease.
Those pushing for another sets of restrictions are said to have the support of powerful government officials like the Minister of Health, Dr Ehanire, SGF, Boss Musthapha and Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufsi, who has warned that the state would declare another round of restrictions and lockdown if the disease do not abate.
The Kaduna State government had at the weekend warned that it may impose another lockdown if the numbers of COVID19 confirmed cases continues to rise in the state.
The state Commissioner of Health, Dr. Amina Mohammed-Baloni, gave the warning at a press conference on Saturday.
‘’In absolute and relative terms, Kaduna State is now recording high infection figures reminiscent of the first wave of Covid-19 spread in April, May and June 2020.
“The lowering of the infection rate following the first wave encouraged the government to approve the recommendation of the State Covid-19 Task Force for a significant reopening of the state.
“However, we are saddened to report that the conditions that compelled the 75-day lockdown of the state are now being replicated”, the commissioner stated.
She argued that the government had expected some increase in infections after the reopening of schools, markets, places of worship, and recreational centres.
”The Ministry of Health as the lead agency for implementing Covid-19 containment measures will be availing the State Covid-19 Taskforce of all the relevant data to monitor and access the rate of voluntary compliance.
“If the rate of spread retains or exceeds the current pace, then we will have no option to recommend the temporary closure of public spaces, including schools, markets, offices and places of worship”, she warned.
However, it was learnt that proponents of another lockdown like El-Rufai are facing stiff opposition from anti-lockdown agents like Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele, the finance minister and many others who have prevailed on the president, at least for now, not to accede to the request to shut down the nation.
“They are having their way, at least for now. Let’s hope the scourge will not get out of hand like it did earlier in the year. If it does, and more lives are lost, their arguments to keep the borders open may no longer be tenable. Already, state some governors are demanding that people from Lagos, Abuja and states with high rate of infections should be barred from entering their states.
“Fear is setting in. What happens in the next one or two weeks would determine what action to take”, said a director in the presidency who did not want his identity revealed.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has placed health workers on the alert over the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government at the weekend ordered the reopening of some isolation centres closed during the waning days of the first wave of the pandemic.
“While we strive for the best, we must prepare for a possible second wave which we must ensure, does not get to be worse than what we have seen so far, judging from what we observe in other countries.
“The US, UK and other countries are going through very difficult times, and we do sympathize with them.
“To prepare ourselves, I have directed that all Isolation and Treatment Centres, which were hitherto closed due to reduced patient load, to be prepared for reopening and the staff complement put on alert.
“The increase in infections stems certainly from rising community transmission to a large extent, but also to a less extent from travelers entering Nigeria, among whom we have recorded 87 positive cases arriving to the country, as against 59 in the previous week.
“This number can increase as the volume of travelers rises, especially as people return home for the Christmas and New Year holidays.
“To ensure that we further contain imported cases, Port health officers at Points of entry have been directed to be vigilant and diligent in screening travelers arriving Nigeria, especially from high burden countries”, said Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire.
While many analysts predict that the wave of Covid19 will not be as severe as the one witnessed between March and August, they nonetheless agreed that the economy will become more distressed.