Sokoto: ‘Politicians hijacked CBN’s Covid-19 loans’ – Small businesses  groan

Small business owners in Sokoto State are fuming over the alleged silence of the government on the impact of Covid-19 on their businesses. 

Also, market traders in the State have decried their inability to access government facilities. They claimed that most of the opportunities have been hijacked by politicians and shared among their families and children in the state. 

According to a trader at one of the largest markets in the State capital, Sokoto, Hajia Halimah market, Bashir Muhammad, “The government won’t do anything because the government doesn’t like poor people, especially small business owners”.

In his mid-30s, Muhammad owns a cooking utensils shop at the popular market in Sokoto. He is one of many small business owners affected by the Covid-19 pandemic globally.

It was double jeopardy for Mohammad and other shop owners at the market, as they also suffered losses due to a fire incident in January.  Muhammad said if the pandemic continues till next year, small business owners in Sokoto State may not survive the devastating effects.

A 2017 MSME survey carried out by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics, (NBS) and the Small and Medium Enterprise Agency of Nigeria, (SMEDAN), found that micro, small and medium enterprises, (MSMEs) account for 76.5% of Nigeria’s total workforce and 49.78% of the country’s gross domestic production (GDP). Evidence that MSMEs are the socio-economic engine of the country.

In a survey on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Nigerian MSMEs conducted in 2020 by FATE Foundation and BudgIT Nigeria, 95% of respondents said the pandemic negatively impacted their cash flow, sales, and revenue.  However, they expressed optimism that their businesses would survive the pandemic. 

The survey studied the impact of Covid-19 on 1,943 MSMEs across the 36 states in Nigeria, including the FCT. Almost two years into the pandemic, many MSMEs are still struggling to stay afloat and recover from losses. 

As of September 21, 2021, Nigeria had recorded 202,704 cases of Covid-19 — 191,370 people have recovered and have been discharged, while a total of 2,664 lives have been lost to the virus across the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).

In Nigeria, the majority of enterprises are micro-enterprises, and any business and economic shocks will unavoidably affect various sectors and livelihoods of many citizens. With the country currently experiencing the third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses are likely to continue to crawl and fight for survival.

A recent report, titled: “The Impact of Covid-19 on Business Enterprises In Nigeria,” conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), called on the government to implement more targeted interventions for MSMEs to alleviate the worst of the suffering caused by the pandemic.

The report said that the interventions would be necessary to shield small businesses from the worst of the effects of this once-in-a-lifetime event.

“Addressing these challenges through targeted interventions will help accelerate the economic recovery and create a business environment that is more equitable and sustainable in line with the sustainable development goals (SDGs). This holistic approach can better contribute to improving the lot of both business owners and the communities surrounding them”, the report stated.

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