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Real stimulus package Nigerians need to mitigate Covid-19 lockdown

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Atiku

• Atiku, Dangote make donations
Perhaps, if the Muhammadu Buhari presidency had not been in a hurry to do whatever needed to be done to win the 2019 election and return to power, it would have waited till now to distribute the Tradermoni and Marketmoni, which would now have been christened ‘Coromoni’, to Nigerians as the country gradually goes into lockdown to avert the spread of the deadly coronavirus. Now more than ever before, Nigeria’s economy, largely propelled by those in the informal sector, with its army of breadwinners who go out daily to meet basic obligations, needs such direct injection of cash as Tradermoni and Marketmoni or ‘Coromoni’ so that millions of urban households can truly stay at home without starving.

For although the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), through its governor, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, had announced N1 trillion as stimulus package to get the economy going while the pandemic persists, it is hard how such stimulus would trickle to those in the informal sector, whose markets and places of businesses are being forced to shutdown. While many of those in the formal sector may be lucky to have some cash to stock up and stay at home, those on the informal divide will have a hard time coping without any form of assistance from governments, whether federal or state. This is where CBN’s N1 trillion package is meaningless to this set of Nigerians, who eek out a living on a daily basis.

While Nigeria’s stimulus package came almost by fiat from the apex bank, the U.S. also approved $2 trillion coronavirus spending to stimulate its economy following gruesome discussions between the executive and the Senate. While the $2 trillion is for the formal sector, every household in America will get $1,000 as palliative. The federal government is yet to announce any such package for Nigerians.

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Perhaps, this is where late Gen. Sani Abacha’s recovered loot would have come handy if monies returned so far were being properly accounted for and kept in an identified and dedicated account for an emergency as this.

An Abuja-based attorney, Mr. Martins Ezimano, noted wryly, that Abacha is perhaps the only ‘wealthy’ ancestor who truly cared and still sends Nigerians alerts from his grave. He charged the Buhari government to dip its hand in the Abacha ‘alert’ chest to cushion the hardship the coronavirus lockdown would engender. Dispensing Abacha loot to Nigerians at this period, Ezimano contended, is the only way government can touch lives and make millions of Nigerians not ordinarily covered in government’s thinking brought into the loop of things.

According to Ezimano, “This government, even as it is compelling a lock-down, should activate measures to facilitate even distribution of Abacha loot— sorry, Abacha savings—to every Nigerian. If this government could ingeniously come up with Tradermoni to assist its unscrupulous retention in office, then those government thinkers should put their heads to better use this time as to modalities. Let this be one occasion that a Nigerian feels care and compassion from a system that otherwise seems programmed to be callous and anti-citizen.”

Without prompting and as a show of personal example, opposition politician and presidential candidate of Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, has made a donation of N50 million, made on his behalf by Priam Group, to help cushion the resulting hardship millions of Nigerian families are bound to face as lockdown spreads across the 36 states of the federation. Atiku has also set a benchmark of N10,000 as supplement for food, which each family should get as palliative. Mohammed, Atiku’s son, is battling for his life having been infected with the coronavirus in his recent trip abroad.

According to Atiku, “At an approximate 30 million households or thereabouts, the government should devise modalities to distribute N10,000 as a supplement for foodstuff to each household, among other palliative measures, with no one left behind. It is thus time for the National Assembly to reconvene in an emergency session, perhaps by teleconference (in line with the demands of social distancing), to legislate a Stimulus Package Act that will cater for all Nigerian citizens.”

Atiku, who announced the N50 million donation via a tweet titled ‘Coronavirus: Nigerians Deserves Palliative Measures,’ said the donation would be part of the relief fund he expected the federal government to set up for the purpose of helping poor Nigerian families. He also extended invitation to individuals and organisations to show empathy and love towards disadvantaged Nigerians so no one would be left behind in these difficult times. Specifically also, Atiku also tasked the federal government to take the lead so Nigerians do not die of hunger. He also appealed to all mobile telephone companies in the country to develop mobile money platforms so that the government will be able to reach unbanked Nigerians with the proposed package.

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“I also urge these telecommunications firms to offer each of the 100 million mobile phone lines in Nigeria free credit of, at least, ₦1,500 per mobile line, so that Nigerians who show symptoms, or those who just want information, can call the nearest available health facility, or even an ambulance service, as the case may be,” he said.

As if heeding Atiku’s plea, other wealthy Nigerians like the Alico Dangote Foundation (ADF) has also donated N200 million towards the relief fund to ease family hardships caused by lockdowns occasioned by coronavirus.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Aliko Dangote Foundation, Zouera Youssoufou, represented by the Health and Nutrition Programme Officer, Maryam Shehu-Buhari, at a donor coordinating meeting in Abuja on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, said the donation was part of the foundation’s cardinal objective of partnering with governments at all levels against the dreaded disease in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. She said Aliko Dangote Foundation has earmarked N124 million to support facilities to help prevent, assess and respond to health events at Point of Entry to ensure National Health Security. Youssoufou also highlighted other areas of intervention to include surveillance and epidemiology, where facilities worth N36 million will be provided by the foundation to support government’s effort.

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