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COVID-19: How Banks, private sector operators provide funding, capacity building

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The Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is real in Nigeria with nearly 100 confirmed cases recorded so far in the country. But government, banks and private sector leaders are taking steps to curb the spread of the virus and reduce impact of the pandemic on the people.

The Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 instituted by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) on behalf of the Bankers’ Committee and in partnership with the private sector will be raising funds needed to fight the scourge. Many banks and real sector operators have also risen to the challenge by making cash donations, providing e-learning centers, making loans available to healthcare providers and feeding low-income earners within the populace.

Fighting and defeating Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in Nigeria requires more than government efforts alone.

Private sectors, especially banks and real sector operators support is paramount.

That explains why the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) last week inaugurated the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition against COVID-19 meant to receive funds from banks and real sector operators to be fight the pandemic.

CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele who broke the news in Lagos, also announced members of the Funding Committee who are expected to, through their organizations, contribute to the designated account opened at the CBN.

The fund from the coalition is expected to be raised within the next two weeks and deployed to procuring equipment and materials needed to combat the menace of COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Guaranty Trust Bank and Access Bank have donated to the project N1 billion each. GTBank has aside the donation, officially presented a 100-bed space Intensive Care Centre for Covid-19 patients at Onikan in Lagos for Nigerians that may be infected by the disease. Access Bank has also promised to set up 1,000 bed spaces too.

First Bank of Nigeria Limited has also responded to the CBN call for contribution. The bank has donated N1 billion to the Nigerian Private Sector Coalition Against COVID-19 project. Beyond the bed spaces, FirstBank has focused on education and contributed to the empowering children and the youth.

The commercial banks generally are asking their customers to use alternate e-payment channels to ensure their safety as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread across the country.

The lenders are also taking measures to ensure their staff members, customers and stakeholders are protected against the pandemic gradually spreading in the country.

To ensure the continuity of businesses and economic activities with minimal effect from the pandemic, banks have ensured that everyone visiting any of its branches takes a temperature test, makes use of hand sanitisers and maintains social distance.

Many lenders also reduced the number of staff on duty and encouraged customers to use digital channels, like Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) and mobile payments.

Other real sector operators like Honeywell Flour Mills have also moved to provide their support.

On the need for accountability with secured funds, Emefiele disclosed that at the end of the project, a reputable form of Accountants will be used to render full account of how the funds were utilized as well as account for the materials donated.

There is need for telecom operators to support the COVID-19 project and the e-learning plan by donating data to make learning easy and seamless for the benefiting children. Also, real sector operators and manufacturers need to also support by donating their products to help the most vulnerable in the society at this trying time.

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Tinubu To Protest Planners: Shelve Idea, Await Our Response

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President Bola Tinubu has appealed to Nigerians who plan to stage nationwide hunger protests to shelve the plan.

The President also urged the citizens to give his administration enough time to respond to their requests.

The request was revealed by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, to State House Correspondents after closed-door talks with President Tinubu at the Aso Rock Villa, Abuja, on Tuesday.

He said, “On the issue of the planned protest, Mr. President does not see any need for that. He asked them to shelve that plan and he has asked them to await the government’s response to all their pleas.

“So, there is no need for strike. The young people out there should listen to the President and allow the President more time to see to the realisation of all the goodies he has for them.”

His comments come days after calls for nationwide protests from August 1-10 against the rising cost of living and the economic hardship.

 

 

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Lagos Students Shun National Protest, Plan Solidarity Walk

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Students of tertiary institutions in Lagos State have disclosed their stand on the planned nationwide protests expected to commence on August 1.

JomogNews reports that Nigerians, particularly youths, have vowed to stage mass protests across the country beginning from August 1 to August 10 to draw the attention of the government to the plight of citizens.

According to the organizers, the protesters are expected to converge at state government houses across the country and the National Assembly complex in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, to express their anger over the hardship in Nigeria.

However, Mr Alimi Lekan-Idris, President, National Association of Lagos State Students, NULASS, said on Tuesday that the students will not join the protest.

Addressing journalists at a press conference held at the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital College of Medicine, Ikeja, Mr Alimi urged Nigerian youths to embrace dialogue.

He said, “It is crucial that we remember the importance of peace and stability and use dialogue to achieve our collective goals.

”Given these significant contributions and progress we have witnessed, we wish to state that we are not in support of any protest against the government of Lagos State”.

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Labour Plans Talks With Govs As N’Assembly Okays N70,000 Wage

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Labour unions in the country say they will schedule meetings with state governments as part of efforts to ensure that they comply with the 2024 National Minimum Wage Amendment Act Bill, which on Tuesday empowered Nigerian workers to earn at least N70,000 on a monthly basis.

The Senate on Tuesday at plenary passed the 2024 National Minimum Wage Amendment Act Bill after President Bola Tinubu had transmitted the new wage bill to both chambers of the National Assembly, seeking expeditious support of the lawmakers for its passage.

The Senate and House of Representatives passed the new minimum wage bill.

The bill passed the first (President Tinubu’s request), second (debate on general principles) and third readings on Tuesday — all within an hour — in the upper and lower legislative chambers.

The new bill replaces the National Minimum Wage Act, No. 8, 2019 which approved N30,000 minimum wage with five years to negotiate a new wage. The new wage review period has now been reduced to three years following Tuesday’s legislation.

While leading a debate on the bill, Opeyemi Bamidele, Majority Leader of the Senate, said N70,000 was agreed upon by all the parties after negotiations.

“This is part of the Federal Government’s short term measure to mitigate the situation in the country,” Bamidele said.

Chief Whip of the Senate, Tahir Monguno, said there was the need to review the minimum wage to align with economic realities.

“The review of the minimum wage used to be after every five years. It is now every three years,” Monguno said.

No Senator opposed the Bill during its consideration by the Committee of the Whole.

The Senators also unanimously approved that the Bill be read for the third time and passed when it was put to voice vote by Senate President Godswill Akpabio.

The legislation gives legal backing to the N70,000 minimum wage recently approved by the President after weeks of a face-off with labour unions over a new minimum wage.

The Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress had both threatened a nationwide strike in the event of the failure of the Federal Government to approve a new wage for workers.

The NLC and TUC proposed N494,000 as the new monthly national minimum wage, citing inflation and the prevailing economic hardship in the country.

The unions in several statements lamented the hardship in the country, fueled by the removal of subsidy from the Premium Motor Spirit, also known as petrol, and the rising cost of goods and services.

But the unions later reduced the amount to N250,000 after several meetings with the Presidency.

On June 7, the Federal Government increased its offer for the new minimum wage for workers from N60,000 to N62,000 but the unions insisted on N250,000.

On July 11, the labour leaders again met with President Tinubu at the Presidential Villa over the new minimum wage before eventually accepting N70,000 as the new minimum wage for workers last week.

At Tuesday’s plenary, the bill was speedily passed through the first and second reading stages, leading to the consideration of the report and final passage to pave the way for the immediate implementation of the new minimum wage.

After the bill passage on Tuesday, the Trade Union Congress warned states against delay in the implementation of the new minimum wage. The TUC noted that no delay should be allowed due to the biting economic conditions in the country.

The National Vice President, TUC, Tommy Etim, made this known in an interview with our correspondent.

Etim said, “We are happy that the Senate was able to pass the National Minimum Wage Bill promptly. It’s now for the President to sign it into law and for the implementation to commence immediately.

“Moreover, the states should not delay in the implementation because of the socioeconomic challenges and the need to address hunger in the land.”

The NLC also urged state governments to replicate the move by the Federal Government to hastily pass the new minimum wage bill into law. The Congress also advised states to implement the new minimum wage to the letter.

“We are delighted by the gesture of the Senate because it suggests sensitivity to the plight of our members. The 2019 law expired in April 2024. This means we are already in arrears. The states should not only obey the law to the hilt but timeously too,” the Head of Public Relations of the NLC, Benson Upah, told one of our correspondents in Abuja.

Ekiti, Osun pledge to pay

Meanwhile, The Kwara State Governor, Mallam AbdulRaman AbdulRazaq, on Tuesday forwarded a bill seeking the revised Supplementary Budget of the state by N201bn to the State House of Assembly for approval, as states begin moves to pay the new wage.

Though, the Governor did not state the reason for the budget in his letter to the Assembly, it was learnt it might not be unconnected with the recent enaqctment of the new wage bill.

In the letter, which was read at plenary by the Speaker, Yakubu Danladi-Salihu, the Governor sought consideration and approval for the 2024 Revised/Supplementary Estimate.

The Speaker stated, “The total budget size after review is now N493,449,372,429.00 as against the 2024 approved estimates of N292,741,292,132.30, representing 69 per cent increase.

“The bill, however, passed through first reading and thereafter the Clerk of the House was directed to circulate clean copies of the bill to the Honourable members and the bill was referred to the House Committee on Rules and Business to slate it for second reading at the next legislative day.”

Ekiti State Governor, Biodun Oyebanji, on Tuesday assured workers in the state that he would not disappoint them on the new minimum wage for workers.

Oyebanji, who spoke in Ado Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, during the presentation of N1bn gratuity cheques to retirees, expressed hope that he would offset all outstanding pension arrears before the end of the year.

The governor said, “On minimum wage, once it becomes law, when the President signs it into law, all will be well. The only thing I know, I am here to serve you. Let us wait, at the appropriate time, all will be well. One thing I know is that I am not going to disappoint you.”

Also, Osun State Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Kolapo Alimi, said the state government would pay the new minimum wage, adding that the welfare of workers remained a priority of the present administration.

Alimi, who admitted that the new wage would strain the state’s finances, added that since the FG’s decision to pay the N70,000 minimum wage to workers was backed by law, Osun would not be found wanting.

“We will pay, but if the Federal Government is willing to give us more money, we will definitely be interested in collecting it. It is a question of law. Once they say an amount is the minimum wage and it is backed up by law, it is not negotiable.

“In Osun, the number one in the five-point agenda of the governor is workers’ welfare. If we can be paying arrears of salaries and pensions, we are going to pay the minimum wage. It is an obligation. I told you before now that whatever agreed upon as minimum wage, Osun will not be found wanting. It’s an additional burden but that notwithstanding, our government is committed to the welfare of the workers. We are going to pay,” Alimi said.

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