By Victor Agi
For some reasons, I cut down exposure to Al-jazeera and other favoured news outlets. The most important reason is that I can’t deal with a network news that devote a whole 60 minutes of reporting about one thing, COVID-19 and its devastating impact across the globe.
It was none of their fault, to quickly add.
Well, it wasn’t a total blank out; so this morning, I wanted a peep into the global economy, and the networks didn’t dissapoint, as always.
But my major concern is the crash in oil price, with some countries already trading below zero per barrel and others, into negative territory. I was quickly reminded of the country that prides itself as the “giant of Africa”, Nigeria. Same country that has the highest concentration of poor people in the world. It’s the country that’s a mono-economy, that has depended on oil proceeds over the years, with efforts to diversify not really yielding as much results, coupled with the lockdown that’s crumbling economic activities.
Listening to Donald Trump, in his characteristic manner, he downplayed the shrinking oil price, saying that the U.S. will seize the crisis to fill up its “strategic” shortfalls. The truth is that Trump was only trying to inspire hope in the populace, because no nation can, in actual sense look down on this crash in the oil market.
But then, as a once most virile economy, if the lockdown is eased, the Trump administration is sure to dole out strategies to get the economy moving even in the face of the crumbling oil price.
To put it in perspective also, the oil prices are crashing because there’s a drastic fall in demand ocassioned by the global lockdown of economic activities, thus, a reopening of economies will see oil prices gaining positive figure, howbeit, on a gradual slow pace.
But what hopes of reopening of economies do will have in the face of this COVID-19 crisis, when India is ordering a total lockdown of it’s 1.3 billion population, representing the highest figure in this crisis thus far?
With community spreading being noticed in the Nigeria situation, in essence, we have a big problem in our hands. How do our governments continue payments of salaries and meet other statutory obligations? With the shrinking allocation to states, how will our overtly federal allocation dependent states continue to pay their bills?
We have started seeing rise in arm robbery attacks across states due to the biting hunger and hardship favoured by the lockdown, even “Boko boys” are not left out of the reality, as we have seen a fall in their activities, and indeed among other global terrorist groups, though, we must continue to commend and acknowledge the heroic outing of the Chadian Army, in the case of the “Boko boys.”
You would think that the “1 million boys” campaign flying around social media is another way of Nigerians making light of the current situation, but when you see also on the same social media that “those boys are now in our street robbing”, it will dawn on you that it’s not another comic campaign but an offshoot of our reality.
A friend called a few days ago and told me how he is now a member of the vigilantee group that is securing their street in Lagos. After the call, I thought about how an unarmed group like theirs can match the “1 million boys” who are fully armed, and indeed, how long more they can continue with this when real hunger sets in. It’s a bleak situation we have found ourselves.
These disturbing trends are most likely to be with us, as the lockdown continues and remains the only way to reduce the spread of the virus if we must avoid the Bill Gates scenario, giving our deplorable health infrastructure, but the bigger picture and challenge for the majority poor populace is choosing between the virus and watching your family languish in hunger.
Around the world, governments are devicing means to open up businesses, as the lockdowns are increasingly becoming unsustainable, but as usual, our governments are waiting to copy and transfer such strategies with little consideration for their local suitability, adaptability and sustainability.
How about thinking inwards and taking advantage of the rains that we have began to see in some states. Our biggest undoing will be to watch everything crumble, including agriculture, which is our only hope of feeding the people. States government should think about investing in the sector in the long run, because projections for economic recovery are negative, even if we reopen immediately.
Instead of also watching and allowing everything to revolve around COVID-19, how about developing strategies for gradual reopening of our economy?
If nothing is done, this hardship is just beginning and the consequences are sure dire.