#EndSARS protests and Nigeria’s fragile economy

Anti-police protesters

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It is unfortunate that hoodlums infiltrated the ranks of the protesters across the country and caused some of the deaths, damages to businesses, private and public offices and buildings. Indeed, the youths have spoken the minds of the silent majority and the best the government can do is not only to meet their demands, but improve its poor governance rating, which is the bane of this administration

By Anayo Ezugwu

A few months after the Nigerian economy was opened up for business after the Coronavirus pandemic induced lockdown, the economy is into another lockdown. The current lockdown is due to the protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS, and police brutality across the country, which began on Thursday, October 8, with many governors imposing curfew in their respective states.

As of Friday, October 16, many banks, companies and individual businesses in many parts of Lagos, Edo, Rivers, Abuja and so many other states shut down operations as the hoodlums mobilise for more supporters. For instance, on Tuesday, October 20, the protests turned bloody with destruction of police stations and government buildings.

But the situation went out of control on Wednesday October 21, when the hoodlums unleashed hail of fires across the country. Images of burnt buildings, including headquarters of Television Continental, TVC, The Nation Newspapers, other media houses, emergency and safety offices/equipment, the Lekki and Ikoyi toll plazas, shopping malls, banks and hotels littered the media. Disturbing footages across the country showed anarchy reigning supreme as rampaging armed thugs besieged the country in search of politically exposed persons.

Several Bus Rapid Transport, BRT, buses and stations at Berger and Oyingbo were torched while the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, head office in Marina, Lagos was also burnt. Other public places attacked include Lagos City Mall, Igbosere Magistrate Court and Ibeju-lekki Local Government Secretariat, Bella’s place owned by Mike Adenuga, Circle Mall Jakande in Lekki, Shoprite Mall Sangetodo, several shops and plazas across the state as well as some commercial banks.

Also the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency, LASEMA, offices, Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, complex at Ojodu Berger and fire trucks were not left out of the destruction.

Apart from these, the protests have also impacted trading at the Nigerian Stock Exchange, NSE. The NSE protests lost N113 billion, amid sell pressure on Wednesday, October 21. Specifically, the market capitalisation shed N113 billion or 0.75 percent to close at N14.870 trillion against N14.983 trillion recorded on Tuesday.

Also, the All-Share Index dipped 216.33 points or 0.75 percent to close at 28,449.49 compared with 28,665.82 achieved on Tuesday. Consequently, the month-to-date and year-to-date gains both moderated to 6.0 per share.

In quantifying the amount of damage the protests have done on the nation’s economy, the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry, LCCI, said the Nigerian economy might have lost about N700 billion to the #EndSARS protests. Toki Mabogunje, president, LCCI, expressed concern over the negative impact of the #EndSARS demonstrations on business activities across the country.

“The LCCI appreciates the value of citizens’ engagement and the demand for accountability which the EndSARS protest essentially represents. These are in consonance with democratic norms. They also form vital ingredients for good governance.

“Over the past 12 days, economic activities have been crippled in most parts of the country and have been particularly profound in the urban areas. The Nigerian economy has suffered an estimated ₦700 billion loss in the past 12 days.”

Mabogunje noted that the #EndSARS demonstrations had been impactful and profound, adding that it had the power of the people and the potency of the energy of the youth to bring about change. She said the protests achieved some significant outcomes and had reawakened the need to reform the shortcomings in Nigeria’s political governance.

She recommended that the protesters should dialogue with the government. This, according to Mobogunje, is necessary to reduce the massive disruptions, blockades and barricades around our major cities and interstate highways. “These actions have been at great cost to the economy and the welfare of Nigerian citizens. It should be noted that our economy is still reeling from the shocks of the Covid-19 pandemic and struggling to recover from its devastating effects,” she said.

Mobogunje advised President Muhammadu Buhari to urgently grant audience to the leadership of the #EndSARS to deliberate on the way forward and to agree on an action plan for the delivery of agreed outcomes. She urged the government to commit to rapid improvement in governance quality and accountability in the police and public sector.

Adori Ochai, economist, said the protest would impact negatively on Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Products, GDP. “The country is just coming out of fragile economy as a result of COVID-19 and here comes the #EndSARS protests, which would cripple the economy the more. For every single person blocked by the protesters from going about their normal business, the person’s contribution to GDP that day will be negative.

“So if a whole state is shut down then you can imagine the general impact on the economy. So, we are going to have more negative impact on the growth of GDP as a result of this. The blockage of movement will affect productivity and movement of goods, price of goods will generally rise when the supply do not meet up with demands. The blockage we are experiencing now will affect productivity and supply, so price will rise. The best the government can do is to do all within its jurisdiction to end the protest,” he said.

On his part, Ayo Ibaru, chief executive officer/director of research, Northcourt, said the hoodlums’ attacks across the country would impact investors’ confidence in Nigeria negatively. Speaking on Arise Television on Thursday, October 22, Ibaru said the level of destruction of malls in Lagos was unquantifiable. He said this would make investing in Nigeria more difficult than it is today.

He noted that billions of naira have been lost to the attacks on malls in Lagos and across the states. He urged governments at all levels to protect investments in Nigeria, noting that the latest attacks will increase the risk level of doing business in the country.

As the fear of attacks by the hoodlums persists, many petty traders, shop owners, artisans, farmers and other businesses in Nigeria are wondering where the next meal will come from.

– Oct. 24 2020 @ 7:55 GMT |

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