Coronavirus: How the government is helping Nigerians cope with economic hardship

With the rising cases of COVID-19 in Nigeria and the extension of the lockdown that began on March 30 in Lagos, Abuja, and Ogun, the Nigerian government has begun making attempts to help vulnerable citizens whose means of livelihood have been affected. The lockdown which follows a global response to flatten the curve of Coronavirus has put a strain on many Nigerians due to the disruption of business activities and lack of any social support system in the country. 

To help cushion the effect of the lockdown, the Humanitarian Affairs Ministry on April 1, began paying N20,000 to families registered in the National Social Register of Poor and Vulnerable Households set up in 2016 to combat poverty in the country. The government said that each family on the register will receive monthly cash payments for four months.

According to the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Hajia Sadiya Farouq, the National Social Register includes 11,045,537 people from 2,644,493 households, which is far below the over 90 million Nigerians estimated to live in extreme poverty.

President Buhari announced on April 13 that the National Social Register would be expanded from 2.6 million households to 3.6 million in the next two weeks. This will take all regions of the country into account.

Initially, the Lagos state government had said on March 27 that it would provide food packages to 200,000 households during the lockdown. And on April 8, the federal government announced that it was going to distribute 77,000 metric tons of food to vulnerable households affected by the lockdown in Lagos, Ogun, and Abuja.

The Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN announced earlier that it will provide a N50 billion credit facility "to support households and micro, small and medium enterprises affected by the COVID-19 pandemic."

Some drawbacks to the loan are that it requires collateral and a bank account. Only 40 million Nigerians (about 25%), have bank accounts and the majority of the people do not have a personal property for collateral. Nonetheless, the CBN says it plans to help up to 3 million households through the credit facility.

With a lot of jobs being threatened by the lockdown, the House of Representatives on March 24 passed the Emergency Economic Stimulus bill, 2020 to provide a 50 percent tax rebate for employers and business owners who agree to not make staff cuts in 2020. The bill, which is expected to protect formal jobs if it goes into effect, contains no provisions for informal workers, who make up at least 65% of Lagos workforce.

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