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#NigeriaSupportYourSMEs is Calling on the Federal Government to Prioritize SMEs in the COVID-19 Interventions

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COVID-19 has descended upon our world, disrupting global health, economic, social and financial systems.

On March 30th, President Muhammadu Buhari announced a 2-week stay-at-home lockdown in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, leading to a sudden and unprecedented halt in operations of businesses across the formal and informal sectors, a lock-down that has been further extended for another 2 weeks.

Governments around the world who announced similar lockdowns, including African countries like Ghana, Kenya and South Africa, have quickly followed up with stimulus packages to support their Small Businesses, largely considered to be the engine of growth of the economy, to ensure millions of jobs are retained and to subdue the negative economic impact of a slow-down.

However, in Nigeria, small business owners are yet to see meaningful supporting actions from the government, causing a great deal of fear and uncertainty of the future of their businesses.

The SME Business-Owners Working Group, alongside the efforts of the NASME and NASSI, want to ensure that SMEs representing vulnerable sectors are urgently included in the COVID-19 response of the Nigerian government (Federal, State and Local) and her agencies, as well as in the actions of financial intermediaries like commercial banks. This additional government-led support should be appropriately structured to quickly and effectively get to the intended beneficiaries.

Ada Osakwe recognizes that these are unprecedented times globally, so she believes unprecedented actions need to be taken. Most of the movement’s recommendations are unconventional, but they strongly urge our leaders to open their minds to doing things differently.

She sincerely hopes that the government is able to understand what SMEs are going through and rank their needs at the top of their interventions in order to retain jobs, avoid an economic depression and reduce social unrest. She says:

Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) make up over 86% of the Nigerian workforce. And so the nationwide lockdown has severely affected livelihoods, as SMEs are no longer able to operate, generate revenues, and meet short-term cash obligations.

Governments around the world quickly put in place stimulus packages to support their Small Businesses to ensure jobs were not lost and the pain in the economy is not as pronounced.

However, the Nigerian government has done very little to support their SMEs, particularly, the over 12,000 SMEs in Lagos, the centre of the pandemic. Many business owners feel lost. We are scared of what the future might bring, not knowing how our businesses are going to get through this. If we can pay salaries for April and the coming months. If we can meet our other obligations.

What makes it worse is that our financial providers, commercial banks, continue to act as nothing has changed. Principal and interest payments on loans are still being deducted, as well as the erroneous fees from ATM to Maintenance and Stamp Duty.

We need HELP.

From our Federal Government, through the Central Bank, who can also mandate commercial banks to reign in on their practices. This is not normal times.




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