COVID-19: FG Shuts Lagos, Abuja Airports, Rail Services

COVID-19: FG Shuts Lagos, Abuja Airports, Rail Services

…As Cases Rise to 22 …ILO Predicts 25 Million Job Losses …Group Asks Government to Avoid Using Pandemic as Smokescreen for Poor Budget Implementation …CBN Supports Manufacturing, Health Sectors with N1 Trillion The Federal Government says it will be closing the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; and the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja from Monday,

…As Cases Rise to 22

…ILO Predicts 25 Million Job Losses

…Group Asks Government to Avoid Using Pandemic as Smokescreen for Poor Budget Implementation

…CBN Supports Manufacturing, Health Sectors with N1 Trillion

The Federal Government says it will be closing the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos; and the Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja from Monday, March 23 as part of measures to control the spread of COVID-19 known commonly as Coronavirus.

This follows the discovery of 10 new cases, raising Nigeria’s tally to 22, reinforcing government’s apprehension and stoking earlier concerns that many cases of the virus may be lurking around the country.

The airports in Lagos and Abuja are the busiest in Nigeria and the major transit points for international travellers in and outside Nigeria. Both airports were earlier excluded from the closure of three other international gateways

In a statement signed by the Director-General, Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, Capt. Musa Nuhu, the closure of international flight operations at the Lagos and Abuja airports are in addition to the three other international airports in Kano, Enugu and Port Harcourt shut for flight operations on Saturday.

Nuhu said the closure would last through April 23, adding that emergency and essential flights could be operated from any of the airports, noting that domestic flight operations would continue normally in all airports in the country.

He said, “Further to our earlier letter on the restriction of international flights into Nigeria, we wish to inform you that effective Monday, 23rd March at 2300Z to 23rd April at 2300Z, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Lagos (DNMM) and Nnamdi Azikwe International Airport, Abuja (DNAA) will be closed to all international flights.

“This is in addition to the closure of Mallam Aminu Kano International Airport, Kano (DNKN); Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu (DNEN); and Port Harcourt International Airport, Omagwa (DNPO) effective Saturday, 21 March at 2300Z.

“Henceforth, all airports in Nigeria are closed to all incoming international flights with the exception of emergency and essential flights.

“Domestic flights will continue normal operations at all airports.”

Three of the new cases are in the Federal capital territory, Abuja while the other 7 are in Lagos. The three cases in the FCT are being treated at the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital while the Lagos cases are being treated at the Infectious Disease Hospital, Yaba.

Nine of the ten cases have travel history outside Nigeria while the tenth case is a contact of a confirmed case. All new cases have mild to moderate symptoms..The 9 cases have travel history to the UK, US, Spain and the Netherlands.

The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) also on Saturday announced the shutdown of all passenger train services in the country from Monday, March 23.

A statement issued by its Spokesperson, Mr. Yakub Mahmood said that the board and management of the corporation approved the shut down as part of the measures being taken by the government to prevent the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

“Further information on passengers’ train services will be made available in due course to our esteemed passengers,” the statement also said.

Meanwhile, the Centre for Human Rights and Social Justice (CHRSJ) has urged the Nigerian Government to stop blaming the non implementation of the 2020 budget on the Coronavirus outbreak.

Executive Chairman of the CHRSJ, Mr Adeniyi Alimi Sulaiman, stated that the government lacked the competence to manage the nation’s economy in a sustainable manner.

The group was responding to claims by Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Mrs Zainab Ahmed, that the impact of Coronavirus outbreak was the reason for the decision of government to review the 2020 national budget of N10.95trn.

In a statement, Sulaiman accused the All Progressives Congress (APC) government for its inability to pull the country out of its economic recession contrary to its claim of having done otherwise.

According to the group, the reason adduced was not genuine owing to the nature of the mono-economy system the country operates, which it stated, was seriously affecting the economy presently.

He said, “The present administration promised to diversify the nation’s economy but five years down the line, Nigeria still relies on one product to put up its 2020 budget.

“Blaming the budget crisis on Coronavirus was a lame excuse nurtured by gross incompetence of the current administration.

“The Buhari-led government has not been doing anything meaningful on the need to broaden the nation’s economic base in a sustainable manner that would ensure that the people are productively engaged for meaningful economic endeavours.”

The CHRSJ executive director also faulted claims by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to have lifted about 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, adding that no serious country would rely on mono-economy to lift her people out of poverty.

The rights group advised government to seriously and aggressively make use of agriculture to diversify the Nigerian economy, adding that paying lip service to the issue of diversification of the economy would not take the country anywhere.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) says the economic and labour crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic could increase global unemployment by almost 25 million, according to a new assessment. Nigeria’s tottering economy like many across the world, will reel from closure of the airports, entertainment centres and a virtual lockdown of the country.

Although the Central Bank of Nigeria says it is supporting some critical sectors with a N1 trillion intervention fund while fuel price has been reduced by N20, analysts say the impact on the citizens’ purchasing power may still be forlorn.

In the statement, the CBN Governor, Mr Godwin Emefiele explained that out of the N1.1trillion, about N1trillion would be used to support the local manufacturing sector as well as boost import substitution.

He added that the balance of N100 billion would be used to support the Health Authorities to ensure laboratories, researchers and innovators work with global scientists to patent and produce vaccines and test kits in Nigeria.

This, he said, was imperative following the Coronavirus pandemic, adding that the N100bn would enable the country prepare for any major crises ahead.

He said given the continuing impact of the disease on global supply chains, the CBN will increase its intervention in boosting the economy.

He said, “First the CBN is directing all Deposit Money Banks to increase their support to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries.

“In local drug manufacturing, in increased bed count in hospitals across Nigeria, in funding intensive care as well as in training, laboratory testing, equipment and R&D.

“In addition to the N50bn soft loans to small businesses already announced, the CBN will increase its intervention by another N100bn in loans this year to support health authorities.

“Secondly, given the continuing impact of the disease on global supply chains, the CBN will increase its intervention in boosting local manufacturing and import substitution by another N1tn across all critical sectors of the economy.”

He said the management of the apex bank will meet with the Bankers Committee this Saturday at 10.00 am to work out the modalities for the intervention.

Based on different scenarios for the impact of COVID-19 on global GDP growth, the ILO estimates indicate a rise in global unemployment of between 5.3 million (“low” scenario) and 24.7 million (“high” scenario) from a base level of 188 million in 2019. By comparison, the 2008-9 global financial crises increased global unemployment by 22 million.

Underemployment is also expected to increase on a large scale, as the economic consequences of the virus outbreak translate into reductions in working hours and wages. Self-employment in developing countries, which often serves to cushion the impact of changes, may not do so this time because of restrictions on the movement of people (e.g. service providers) and goods.

Falls in employment also mean large income losses for workers. The study estimates these as being between USD 860 billion and USD 3.4 trillion by the end of 2020. This will translate into falls in consumption of goods and services, in turn affecting the prospects for businesses and economies.

Working poverty is expected to increase significantly too, as “the strain on incomes resulting from the decline in economic activity will devastate workers close to or below the poverty line”. The ILO estimates that between 8.8 and 35 million additional people will be in working poverty worldwide, compared to the original estimate for 2020 (which projected a decline of 14 million worldwide).

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