Plan to deal with impact of pandemic on poor Nigerians, small businesses in the offing

Talks about President’s new Economic Sustainability Committee

As governments and stakeholders harness resources to contain the spread of Coronavirus and tackle its fallouts, confronting the pandemic is an all Nigeria effort that requires the cooperation of all, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.

Prof. Osinbajo, stated this on Monday in Abuja while responding to questions at a Google Hangout organized by the HACK COVID-19 Call Centre, where young Nigerian technology innovators talked about the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and wellbeing of Nigerians.

Joining the VP at the online event, besides a number of technology innovators from across the country was the Director-General of the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Dr Chikwe Ihekweazu.

According to him, “We must see this as a joint effort, everyone is involved in this, it really is an all-Nigeria effort and I am happy that everyone is responding.”

Asked about how the Buhari administration intends to grapple with the consequences of the restriction of movements in parts of the country and support vulnerable Nigerians, the Vice President said the President has actually just established the Economic Sustainability Committee, “which he has asked me to chair.”

The Committee is to take care of the economic challenges and fallouts of the pandemic and the attendant movement restrictions in the FCT, Lagos and Ogun States. He said the new Committee will also develop further palliatives, and a sustainability plan to reposition the economy and grow the non-oil sector.

Speaking on the readiness of government to tackle the fallouts of the pandemic, the Vice President restated the palliatives mentioned in the President’s speech on Sunday and added in particular how the Buhari administration’s Social Investment Programmes would be scaled up.

“First of all we must admit that there is very little precedent for what we are doing today, this is not the sort of situation that anyone necessarily prepares for. But fortunately for us, we have, in the past few years, designed a social investment programme that tries to address some of these types of concerns.

“Part of the work of the Economic Sustainability Committee that has been constituted is to look at some of the concerns that affect the poor, especially in the context of what has already been done and the data that we already have on informal workers and informal traders and how to implement some strategy that will be able to alleviate the sufferings of the poor (and the informal workforce) at this time. And how to integrate some of the data that we have in other respects.

“So, we have data of the poorest of the poor, with the assistance of the World Bank, we have developed what is called the National Social Register where we mapped out, in practically all Local Government Areas in Nigeria, those who are considered the most vulnerable. Already, some of them get conditional cash transfers but, again, compared to the numbers, it is not large enough. But now we have an opportunity of doing much more in terms of giving the poor and vulnerable some kind of assistance.

“The N-power is one of our schemes where we provide opportunities for young Nigerians who have no jobs at the moment. Again the President has asked that we take a look at that and see how we can enhance that and do more. This provides yet another opportunity to widen the scope and provide more.

“One of the critical things is the fact that the whole Home Grown School Feeding Programme also has a large number of cooks; there are over 100,000 men and women scattered across the local government areas in this country who cook for these children.

“So, at the moment, they may well be out of work, so part of what we are also looking at is for them to continue to earn a living even with the current closing down of schools. They are also obviously endangered.

Office of the Vice President