As Coronavirus (Covid-19) anxiety continues to heighten among Nigerians, the government, at all levels, have pulled all stops to assuage that feeling before it becomes part of the problem. From border closures to outright lockdown, it is obvious that the powers that be accept that there is crisis on ground and that they are committed to doing the needful to confront it headlong.
In our view, of particular mention is the move by the management of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), under Godwin Emefiele who, reacting proactively even before President Muhammadu Buhari announced far reaching measures to confront the pandemic, had put in a place a financial package, a targeted credit facility estimated at N50 billion for households and Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises that have been adversely affected by the Covid-19 virus.
The outlined objectives of the fund are to cushion the adverse effects of Covid-19 on households and Medium Small and Micro Enterprises (MSMEs); support households; throw a life line to those whose economic activities have been significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic; and stimulate credit that will enable them to expand their productive capacity through equipment upgrade, research and development.
To ensure that the real target segment benefitted from it, CBN made it clear that among the MSMEs will be households with verifiable evidence of livelihood adversely impacted by Covid-19, they must have existing enterprises with verifiable evidence of business activities affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and they must also be enterprises with bankable plans to take advantage of opportunities arising from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Remarkably, there is already in existence within the CBN monetary system, a Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund (MSMEDF) scheme from which this Covid-19 package will be financed. It is also noteworthy that that facility will attract a meagre interest rate of five per cent per annum till 28 February 2021, after which the interest rate will be increased to nine per cent which is still, admirably, in our view, within the single digit band.
For Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), the maximum loan amount will be N25 million and N3 million for households. Tenor of the loan, going by these guidelines, will be a maximum of one year for working capital loans and a maximum of three years for term loans with at least one year moratorium. The scheme will be done in partnership with NIRSAL Microfinance Bank (NMFB) and collateral requirement will be as acceptable by NIRSAL.
We, as a newspaper, are of the firm belief that this credit stimulus will help in mitigating the adverse effects of the Covid-19 outbreak on already beleaguered household businesses as well as SMEs. It is from this perspective that we commend the management of the apex bank for its forthrightness in putting together this credit stimulus which will help in keeping them afloat in the interim, at least, pending when normalcy returns to economic activities.
We also note with satisfaction the process adopted by the CBN to mobilise the Private Sector to form a Coalition Against Covid-19 (CACovid). This coalition will put together funds from individuals and corporate bodies that will be used to provide and equip medical facilities in the six geopolitical zones. This, according to the government banker, will involve the creation of testing, isolation and treatment centres, and include the provision of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and molecular testing laboratories in stipulated areas.
This pull of resources from the private sector is already being deployed to put facilities in place in Lagos, the epicentre of the pandemic in Nigeria which will get 1,000 beds, Kano 500 beds, Rivers 210 beds, Abuja 200 beds, Enugu 200 beds and Borno (200 beds). The expectation is that these facilities will become operational within 10 days in those cities. The next phase will bring in Katsina, Ogun, Bayelsa, Anambra, Bauchi and Plateau among the beneficiaries and this will be ready, all things being equal, within three weeks. The remaining states of the Federation will be set up in the last phase within the next five weeks.
Based on the population of Lagos, this coalition will also be creating a permanent structure within the next four to six months just as teams have been set up and world-class standards employed to aggressively pursue a solution to this pandemic.
We appreciate the recognition by these public spirited individuals and corporate bodies about the enormity of the problem at hand. Even more than that, we commend the CBN governor, Emefiele for driving these processes, the N50 billion fund and spearheading of this massive private sector effort. Evidently, when all these are established and stabilised, Nigeria and Nigerians will be able to look Covid-19 straight in the face and tell it; we are not afraid of you.