Friday, 9th June 2023

COVID-19: Forgive us our…

By Matthew Agboma Ozah
22 April 2020   |   2:35 am
There is so much confusion in the air. You can actually feel it especially with the coronavirus outbreak and the theories surrounding it. The action and inaction of governments around the globe are particularly telling on how they are handling the pandemic.

There is so much confusion in the air. You can actually feel it especially with the coronavirus outbreak and the theories surrounding it. The action and inaction of governments around the globe are particularly telling on how they are handling the pandemic. Nigerians as always are demoralised as many have lost or are losing faith in government as the lockdown bites harder without palliatives. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown in Nigeria have made governance to gain more yards in distancing its effect from the people. If rhetoric ever brings good governance, ours would be the best on earth. But, sadly, government policies have often fallen like many seeds on rocky soil allowing some parts of the country to look like isolation centres.

Currently, with the biting effect of the COVID-19 outbreak, there are many strange things working against global economies. For Nigeria, COVID-19 is not only strange but shocking as it has swept the nation off its economic balance. The nation’s mono-economy has not only been muddled along a dark tunnel, it has been threatened with the ominous signs of bad market. There are scarce buyers of the nation’s crude oil, a consequence that has worsened the country’s economic plight. Over the years, the country has been dangerously exposed to ugly economic policies and selfish political decisions. As it were, nearly everyone knows that the ruling government cannot function properly without borrowing, not minding the fact that the country is highly indebted to some frightening unforgiving ‘shylock’ creditors. The nations debt profile continues to generate one of the most tedious pastimes in Nigeria’s politics as citizens debate whether the ruling government should further increase the nation’s debt to fight the coronavirus epidemic.

It is however surprising that as one country comes out of the throes of debt forgiveness another is willing to risk the future of its people in the debt phenomenon by taking more loans. Those who are forever complaining about the nation’s huge debts under Buhari administration should know that loan is to the government as ants is to sugar. The ruling government is eager to continue with its borrowing nature despite the dire consequences and the excuse for this ‘Oliver Twist’ attitude not far fetched. The economy is in a funk and has been further weakened by the coronavirus outbreak. Even the finance minister, Hajia Zainab Ahmed had no choice than to buttress a set of unpalatable options, none of which come without a cost, she said “…the plans to borrow from lenders like the World Bank, African Development Bank (AfDB), Islamic Development Bank (IDB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) was necessary as the country is struggling to counteract the impact of coronavirus on the economy”.

In what seems like a breakdown of the borrowing strategy the finance minster said government would ask for 3.4 billion dollar from IMF, 2.5 billion dollar from the World Bank and 1 billion dollar from AfDB respectively. These are fashioned out explanation as evidence is mounting that the economy might fall into a serious comma that may result in recession if not given some more loans as energiser or some kind of debt relief as cushion effect. As it were, the reality is somewhere in the middle since all of the above is true. However, the ultimate source of the problem is Nigeria’s extravagant spending on frivolous things.

Understandably, countries that have done a good job in utilising their natural resources very well or properly channelled loans it received from lenders to meaningful projects ought not to seek debt forgiveness. Having jettisoned all other natural resources and agriculture for oil as the only source of its economic welfare, the nation is now on its kneels begging for debt forgiveness. The other day, the African Union Economic, Social and Cultural Council (AUECOSOCC) Nigeria office urged China, Japan, France, and India to write off Nigeria’s debt or allow a two-year moratorium on repayments. The AU body believes that debt forgiveness will certainly further assist the benefiting countries to significantly cushion the impact of the dreaded disease on their economies. The AU said, “Nigeria needs China’s support at these trying times with the long and fruitful bilateral relationship between both countries which has led to Nigerian government owing China the debt of about 3.2 billion dollar.

The AU and indeed indebted countries should know that money lenders enjoy dealling with delicate and desirous countries that are in need of a loan. More so, creditors are not bothered about debtor’s travails because they thrive and proper from debtor’s bad condition. It is important to know that the tragicomic state of Nigeria’s economy is not entirely the fault of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Did I hear you say why? Well, the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, as always is on the front line in defence why the tide is flowing against the ruling government’s honest agenda. He said, “We are faced with a challenge that no government in the history of Nigeria has ever faced. So we have to redesign our economic planning and change our thinking”. This country’s political leaders have a disappointing record when it comes to defending government for its poor leadership role.

The vice president should have known that every government is peculiar and is, therefore, faced with different challenges. During President Goodluck Jonathan administration, there was an Ebola outbreak and suicide bombing by the dreaded Boko Haram insurgents, all of which were alien to the government and Nigeria at that time.

The irony of the whole wretched situation is that covid-19 is an issue the government could have handled squarely if the political declaration of diversification and fixing of the healthcare system was taken seriously all these years. The pandemic has simply exposed the misjudgment about the health of the economy as well as healthcare system by political sycophants. At the moment, the economy remained in the shadow of the greatest financial depression. Indeed, these are difficult times for everybody and the government ought to stand up to assist every Nigerian instead of exonerating self with flimsy excuses. The empty optimism of the ruling government’s staccato and the erstwhile window dressing of the economy have been uncovered with the covid-19 outbreak. No doubt, the coronavirus outbreak has indeed yielded some eye opening for the ruling government and Nigerians at large to realise a new dawn in all endevours. There is no denying the fact that Nigeria is a country with prospects to develop. Its major trouble is leadership that will help to unlock its resources and speed off with the rest of the world. But first, it must desist from running a mono economy and stop the feast of taking loans.

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