Deep Thought with Othman
Since the end of the World War in the 1940s, nothing has devastatingly impacted all facets of human endeavours within ten months like COVID-19.
As I am writing this piece, as at Tuesday 9th February 2021, loss of human lives has globally reached 2,320,497 with over 106 million active cases while Nigeria recorded 1,673 deaths and 24,083 active cases out of 140,391 total cases. And the counting continues on daily basis.
Socio-economic and political fronts were affected beyond imagination. COVID-19 tested the resilience and doggedness of over 200 affected countries and some almost crumbled on their knees.
COVID-19 has no regard for the country’s high level of development as seen in America and the United Kingdom. The mightiest and smallest were both tested by COVID-19 with unforgettable results.
COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a global challenge that negatively affects productivity and retards economic growth. This is in addition to the growing fatality, which the world counts every day.
In Nigeria, the situation is worst. Our system is so defective and allows some people to take advantage of every national calamity for aggrandizement and personal enrichment. Yes, these people live opulently in the misery of the nation.
For instance, fuel scarcity is a goldmine to this category of people, private school owners smile to the bank as our educational system collapses, the inability of the government to address problems of tertiary institutions of learning is springing out private universities in their tens across the nation.
Look around and think deeply, this kind of situation arises in every challenge the nation faces. The beneficiaries of the unfortunate situation live big when the nation is bleeding. They are the unseen but powerful people who strive to aggravate every misfortune for their selfish reasons.
Therefore, in addition to COVID-19 being a global malaise, these unseen and unpatriotic people are busy taking advantage of the situation to prolong it. They making the nation pay more dearly while feathering their nets. These people are not wishing to see the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is in this vein, that the claim of the Executive Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello on the Trillion of Naira being expended for COVID-19 in the last ten months becomes disturbing.
The Governor claimed while appearing on Sunrise Daily of Channels TV on December 23, 2020. He made damning revelations of how much money had so far been expended on COVID and COVID related matters.
He said, “the figures from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) revealed that an eye-popping figure of three and a half trillion naira (N3.5 trillion) had so far been spent on COVID and COVID related matters over ten months”.
He also revealed that an additional five hundred and forty billion nairas (N540b) had been earmarked for the purchase of COVID-19 vaccines. Although, I am yet to hear the government rebuttal of the claim and the claimant, being a high profile personality but still the figure is too large to be believable.
Again, this type of claim is too difficult to be verifiable in a country like Nigeria. Nevertheless, a colossal sum of public funds is being expended on COVID-19 with a significant percentage ending up in private pockets.
This is not the total monetary cost the nation has incurred since the advent of COVID-19. What of the cost being incurred by private sectors and individuals?
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conducted a study to estimate the economic cost of COVID-19 in Nigeria. The study focused on the five-week lockdown implemented by the federal government across the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja, Lagos, and Ogun states from late March to early May 2020.
Additionally, the study captured the federal lockdown for Kano from mid-April, and the state-level lockdowns that were implemented from mid-April for around seven weeks in Akwa-Ibom, Borno, Ekiti, Kwara, Osun, Rivers, and Taraba states.
The result estimated the consequences of the lockdown on Nigeria’s GDP. The GDP was reduced by 34.1 per cent amounting to USD 16 billion (N5.7 Trillion), with two-thirds of the losses coming from the services sector.
The agriculture sector, which serves as the primary means of livelihood for most Nigerians, suffered a 13.1 per cent loss in output worth USD 1.2 billion (N432 billion). Loss of jobs in the private sectors was unprecedented resulting in millions of people placed under the extreme poverty line.
Quantitatively, the fatality cost of COVID-19 in Nigeria is low relative to similar countries and considering our poor health services and low level of literacy. However, qualitatively, the nation lost several high profile personalities to COVID-19 in both public and private sectors.
In academia, several professors and people in lower cadres were lost to the dreaded disease. Similarly, several Nigerians in the diaspora were also lost to the disease.
As the cost and consequences of COVID-19 are becoming unbearable, the need to have collective effort cannot be overemphasized. The government should lead the effort for preventive, spread, and management of COVID-19 cases. We must have transparent measures on funding and expenditure of the collective effort to address the dreaded disease.