Exclusive: How COVID-19 lockdown affected businesses, mobile phone sales shrink by 70 per cent in Lagos

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Story from Kenneth AFOR, Lagos

The COVID-19 pandemic has in no doubt distorted a lot of businesses in the country and the world at large to the extent that most businesses have folded up either to a non-demand of services rendered since the wake of the Coronavirus or the lack of funds to keep businesses afloat.

According to Elimian Okojie, General Manager at 3C Hub, a mobile phone outlet at Nigeria’s largest computer and mobile phone market, Computer Village, Ikeja, Lagos, since the reopening of the economy in the state, they record about 30 per cent of sales on mobile phones daily than the normal 80 per cent record before the pandemic.

This assertion according to Okojie in an interview with Neptune Prime, has placed businesses like his to the rock bottom.

Okojie said it was glaring that the COVID-19 has done a lot of harm to their businesses than good, adding that due to the directives from the state government, they are allowed to open for business at a one-day interval which has slowed down sales volumes thereby having a great impact on profits.

Also, not only has the pandemic affected sales but workers’ salaries as well, which have been slashed by 50 per cent by the management to maintain the smooth running of the business as well as retaining staff.

“It is very glaring, it is not far fetched that COVID-19 has done a lot of harm to our businesses than good.

“For instance, in Ikeja, we observe one day on and one day off which has also affected the salary grades of every worker. We are being paid 50 per cent which is not good for us, so, in return, for the economy, it is not good, everything is bad,” said Okojie.

As the federal government continues to grapple with the continuous spread of the virus daily in some states in the country, especially in Lagos the epicentre, reports have it that the federal government under the supervision of the apex bank, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), has put in place about N50 billion as loan for micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in key sectors of the economy as a buffer.

But for business owners and managers like Okojie who wants facilities to be assessed as quickly as possible, such initiatives by the government may not be easily assessable by them due to the cumbersome nature and bureaucratic bottleneck attached with government’s loan offerings.

This uneasy access to government’s loans has made entrepreneurs lose faith in government.

“When you mention the government of Nigeria, a lot of people have lost faith in them. When the government proposes the measures to alleviate poverty, getting to apply for those palliatives becomes difficult because before you get there, a lot of things have happened, so people tend to hustle for themselves because they know that before the promises come it is a tall order.

“It is difficult, out of 100 per cent, a fraction of the applicants get the loan to scale their businesses. Instead of me waiting for the loan, I would rather work hard to provide for my family,” said Okojie.

While the government continues to relax the lockdown at its ports and land borders to enable the exchange of goods and services, Okojie hinted that since the wake of the virus, it has hindered the free flow of importation of mobile phones into the country due to countless protocols and checks at ports, slamming heavy fees on import duties among others.

“Now, the pandemic has distorted sales of mobile phones in the market. Even the protocols involved in clearing the goods at the ports have shrunk mobile phones sales in the country.”

He, therefore, urged the government to create platforms for business owners to borrow monies and also revamp the existing ones to give equal opportunities as well as create sustainable initiatives to create job opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths in the country.

“The government should open a platform that can be assessable by the youths in business, a platform that would create more job opportunities so that they can thrive.

“Some of the government’s initiatives for job opportunities are not viable enough, I want the government to be truthful to their words and create sustainable initiatives so that people can benefit and attest to it,” Okojie said.

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