People & Money

Covid-19 Lockdown: It’s Time Business Leaders Spoke Up!

By Onuwa Lucky Joseph

Despite the misgivings of many Nigerians who think that the Federal Government cannot be trusted with the CACOVID Funds that corporate organisations and some individuals are putting together (to help alleviate the sufferings occasioned by this unanticipated emergency), concerned corporates and individuals have stayed consistent with throwing in their contributions in the hope that government would surprise everyone and do a job that leaves Nigeria the reference point for all.

So far, unfortunately, that has not been the case. Grumblings and murmurings and incidences of near rioting have been the norm in many places where government intervention is channeled by way of basic foodstuff. What is supplied is so inadequate, the people consider it insulting and a measure of the lack of value that government places on them. And meretricious comments from government officials notwithstanding, the people are walking by sight, not by propaganda.

The Conditional Cash Transfer scheme, for instance, has a very limited sharing radius, relative to the wide span of pan Nigeria misery it is supposed to help ameliorate. Plus, the parameters that inform its sharing policy are, to put it charitably, nebulous. Funds from the commonwealth are not being channeled equitably thereby instigating anger rather than commendation.

Another spanner in the mix is government’s increasingly limited revenue intake. As of the time of this writing, oil, our revenue mainstay was selling at $10.50 per barrel. Most likely, we will increasingly start hearing from our officials how even basic salaries are difficult to pay, not to talk of relief measures for starving folks under lockdown.

Many farmers are compelled to observe the lockdown. Farm owners, who would normally travel from the cities on weekends to supervise their farms in the villages and bushes, can no longer do so, despite this being the onset of the rainy season. The rains are falling but it’s the grasses that are growing. There isn’t much cultivation going on. Ditto for livestock. They are now at the mercy of farmhands, most of whom are happily derelict in their duties except where strict supervision is applied.

The world economy is taking a horrid beating, but would you know where it’s worse? It would be over here, of course. And so, again, like was said last week on these pages, we must be original with our solutions. It would be a sad day when our country, already run over in some parts by Boko Haram, bandits, kidnappers, and militant herdsmen, is finally taken over by criminals who have not been shy in showing their hands. The lockdown hasn’t been on for a month, the effect on the economy (of dirt cheap fuel price) is not yet telling – we had buffers); and yet the criminals, driven by desperation for wealth or mere survival, are already wreaking havoc.

The question we must ask is, all things considered, can Nigeria afford this ill-managed lockdown? And by affordability I do not mean merely in the short term. Is it to our long term advantage, seeing how it’s been most difficult to enforce the lockdown due to gaps in formulation and application, wouldn’t it be wiser if we stayed at work, if we stayed productive (at least let’s produce and sell food!); wouldn’t it make more sense if government adopted the Cross River State model of policing social distancing and preventive wear (face masks) while citizens are out and about their jobs?

The lockdown can even be time specific:

  • Let’s work 8- 2pm and allow for till 5pm for everybody to be home.
  • Lockdown begins at 6pm every day.
  • No bars open. No gardens open.
  • Hotels under strict instructions to enforce social distancing.
  • Markets open every day, but with social distancing in place.
  • Senior citizens (those 65 and above) to stay at home
  • Schools to stay online for now until the risk tapers down.

It is important that we think for ourselves, and that we envision our collective future beyond Covid-19. Every country is looking out for itself and we would be remiss in our responsibilities as representatives of this generation (which likes to think of itself as enlightened) to imagine even if for one minute that the US, China, Russia, the UK, France, Germany, WHO or any of the UN organisations is losing sleep over our predicament. They are all engrossed in theirs and have deliverables that, shorn of diplomatic flatulence, do not include us.

So who speaks for us at this time? We would rather our business leaders spoke up and maybe help give government a sense of where they should be going this period. Nigeria needs to stay productive. Hopefully, oil prices would rebound, but for now, we can’t count on oil. Our creative sector needs to keep working. The technology sector needs to stay cranking. Our industries can’t stop humming. We can and should be the model rather than copying models that, being exogenous, are likely most inapplicable.

Let our business leaders speak up, not from their own personal profit motive, but from the collective. Will they be misunderstood? Yes, they will. Just in the same way as this writing is sure to be misunderstood and issues taken with it. That is okay. But the responsible thing is to speak up, not merely for one’s own beliefs, but from an informed position based on a topical as well as visionary analysis of the situation.

The stats don’t lie: we are on a downward slide with our halfhearted lockdown which equals total non-compliance at the end of the day.

Let our chambers of commerce speak up. Show us the projected figures vis a vis figures from elsewhere. Help Nigeria take an informed life-or-death decision

If the economy stays on lockdown, the CBN N50Bn intervention Fund, for instance, will end up going for food and everyday survival rather than the business stimulus for which it was supposedly designed.

Austria, as at the time of this writing, is exploring ways of reopening some businesses.  Israel, South Korea, and Germany also, as well as India are all itching to get back into the fray. Donald Trump, of course, is bullish and mulish about that particular course of action despite opposition from many sides.

And Nigeria? It should not be that after the dust settles on Covid-19, that beloved country Nigeria would have only managed to reinforce its dependency status of going cap in hand to other economies which are only too happy to negotiate choice deals that leave us open to their economic takeover.

Contributors, so far, to the CA-COVID Relief Fund

  1. Central Bank of Nigeria – N2Bn
  2. Aliko Dangote – N2Bn
  3. Flood Relief Fund – N1.5 Bn
  4. Abdulsamad Rabiu – N1Bn
  5. Segun Agbaje (GTBank) – N1Bn
  6. Tony Elumelu (UBA) – N1Bn
  7. Oba Otudeko (First Bank) – N1Bn
  8. Jim Ovia – (Zenith Bank) – N1Bn
  9. Herbert Wigwe (Access Bank) – 1Bn
  10. Femi Otedola – 1Bn
  11. Raj Gupta (African Steel Mills) – 1Bn
  12. Modupe & Folorunsho Alakija – 1Bn
  13. Mike Adenuga – N1Bn
  14. Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) – N1Bn
  15. John Coumantatous (Flour Mills of Nigeria) – N1Bn
  16. MTN Nigeria – N1Bn
  17. Deji Adeleke (Pacific Holdings) – N500m
  18. Rahul Savara – (Wacot Rice) – N500m
  19. Tolaram Enterprise Africa Ltd – N500m
  20. Bank of Industry – N500m
  21. Friesland Campina WAMCO – N500m
  22. Union Bank Plc – N250m
  23. Sterling Bank Plc – N250m
  24. Standard Chartered Bank – N250m
  25. Stanbic IBTC – N250m
  26. Citibank Nigeria – N250m
  27. FCMB – N250m
  28. Fidelity Bank – N250m
  29. Ecobank – N250m
  30. Africa Finance Corporation – N250m
  31. Multichoice Nigeria – N200m
  32. APM Terminals Apapa – N150,000
  33. FSDH Merchant Bank – N100,000
  34. FBN Merchant Bank – N100,000
  35. Rand Merchant Bank – N100,000
  36. Coronation Merchant Bank – N100,000
  37. Sun Trust Bank – N100,000
  38. Providus Bank – N100,000
  39. WEMA Bank – N100,000
  40. Unity Bank – N100,000
  41. Heritage Bank – N100,000
  42. NOVA Merchant Bank – N100,000
  43. Polaris Bank – N100,000
  44. Keystone Bank – N100,000
  45. KC Gaming Networks – N100,000
  46. Ports and Terminal Multiservices – N100,000
  47. Ports & Cargo Handling Services – N75,000
  48. Five Star Logistics Ltd – N75,000
  49. ENL Consortium – N 70,000
  50. Josepdam Ports Services – N60,000
  51. Systemspecs – N50,000
  52. Globus Bank – N50,000
  53. Titan Trust Bank – N50,000
  54. Takagro Chemicals – N50m
  55. Atiku Abubakar – N50m
  56. WA Container Terminal – N50m
  57. Ports & Terminal – N50m
  58. Pastor WF Kumuyi (Deeper Life) – N50m
  59. KAM Wire Ltd – N30m
  60. De Damak Nigeria Ltd Automobile – N25m
  61. Ahmadu Mahmoud – N20m
  62. CWAY – N20m
  63. Adron Homes Properties Ltd – N20m
  64. Ekeoma Eme Ekeoma – N10m
  65. LADOL Logistics – N10m
  66. Greenwich Trust Ltd – N10m
  67. SIL Chemicals Ltd – N10m
  68. ECN Terminal – N10m
  69. Apapa Bulk Terminal – N10m
  70. Cowry Asset Management – N9,999,838.75
  71. Jennifer Ramatu Etuh Foundation – N5m
  72. Mecure Industries – N5m
  73. Comet Shipping Agencies Nigeria – N5m
  74. Jubali Brothers Ltd – N5m
  75. ADG International Resources – N2.5m
  76. Ocean Lords Ltd – N2m
  77. Norrenberger Investment Capital – N2m
  78. Proshare – N1m
  79. Few Chore Finance Company – N1m
  80. Tarabaroz Fisheries Ltd – N504,451.25
  81. Abayomi Folorunsho – N500,000
  82. Kanakala Lakshmipathi Naidu – N100,698.75
  83. Usman Ahmed – N50,000
  84. Manji Yabwahat Longmut – N10,000
  85. Jayakumar Selvam – N10,000
  86. Anyaehie Stanislaus Ikechukwu – 10,000
  87. Frederick Kigha – N10,000
  88. Mr & Mrs Ojo Edward Oluwajoba – N3,000
  89. Hamza Muhammad Kamba – N2,000
  90. Kamalu Aminu – N1,000
  91. Oluwadamilola Fagbiye – N1,000
  92. Mohammed Ghali Muhammed
  93. Adamu Yusuf & Uchendu Collins (N100 each)
  94. Bashir Auwal (N60); Bilal Abdulsalam (N50); Umar Nafiu Usman (N50); Sani Alto Isah (N20); Bashir Sulaiman (N20); Abubakar Shehu (N10); Sanni Zakariyya (N10); Ibrahim Moh’d Bello (N8); Idris Mohammad (N5); Alhaji Mallam Musa (N5); Abubakar Ismail Abubakar (N2); Bello Shuaibu (N1); GH (N1)

TOTAL = 25,893,699,791.00

TAKE-AWAYS from the List:

  • The billionaires on the list donated in their corporate rather than individual capacities. Most of these businesses are PLCs so would have required some emergency board resolution. The donations are from the businesses.
  • Some have donated in what seems like their individual rather than corporate capacity.
  • Would we be asking for too much if we say we still expect more from these captains of industry and the businesses they represent? Not necessarily to the Fund, but in other ways that help lighten the heavy Covid-19 burden.
  • Some MIA industry captains: Aigboje Aig-Imokhuede, Fola Adeola, Otunba Subomi Balogun, Peter Obi, Atedo Peterside, etc.
  • Former office holders MIA: Ghali Na’abba, David Mark, Olusola Saraki, Anyim Pius Anyim, Sule Lamido, Attahiru Bafarawa, Dino Melaye, etc.
  • Curiously, also, there are no Chinese companies represented here. But nice to see a number of Indian as well as Greek and Lebanese businesses represented on the list.
  • Some of the organisations here seem to have punched well below their weight….
  • Pastor Paul Enenche’s N2Bn worth donation not here mentioned. Maybe as it was in kind rather than cash.
  • Kudos to the CBN for making the list available. That’s the first step in transparency. The next step is for donors and citizens to police the spending…

Onuwa Lucky Joseph is the CEO, Earl Glow Communications

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