The Federal Government has raised the fear that except something urgent is done, about 39.4 million Nigerians may become jobless by the end of the year as a result of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It also expressed the fear that millions more may slide into extreme poverty before the pandemic ends.
Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo painted the gloomy picture on Thursday while presenting the report of the Economic Sustainability Committee to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
Buhari set up the committee on March 30, 2020 in response to what was then becoming a threat of the most severe economic downturn in the country’s history, largely caused by the pandemic.
Its terms of reference include to develop a clear economic sustainability plan in response to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and to propose monetary policy measures in support of the plan.
Others are to provide a fiscal/monetary stimulus package, including support to private businesses and vulnerable segments of the population, among others.
Presenting the report to Buhari, Osinbajo noted that the lockdowns and social distancing measures put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19 had had a severe negative impact on farms and factories as well as on trade, transport and tourism.
He said the federation might experience a shortfall of about N185bn monthly in the amount available for allocation to the three tiers of government.
The Vice President said, “Several projections, including those done by the NBS on behalf of the Economic Sustainability Committee, showed a severe downturn in our oil earnings, as a result of which, even with oil price at $30 a barrel, we would still have a shortfall of about N185bn every month in the amount available for allocation to the three tiers of government.
“They showed that unemployment may rise to 33.6 per cent or about 39.4 million people by the end of 2020, if we fail to take prompt preemptive measures.
“They showed that millions more will fall into extreme poverty before the pandemic ends; and that GDP may fall to between -4.40 per cent and -8.91 per cent, depending on the length of the lockdown period and strength of our economic response.”
In the report titled ‘Bouncing back: The Nigerian economic sustainability plan,’ Osinabjo said the committee recommended that the government embarked on mass job creation to cushion the effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
He added, “We have therefore recommended that we must carry out mass programmes that create jobs and utilise local materials.”
The committee also recommended the expansion of the Social Investment Programme through an increase in the number cash transfer beneficiaries, N-Power volunteers and sundry traders enjoying small and micro loans through the MarketMoni and TraderMoni schemes.
Talking about implementation which he said was critical to the success of the plan, Osinbajo said the committee recommended that each minister would be responsible for supervising the implementation of plans situated in their respective ministries.