With the economic cost of the recent #EndSARS protest disruption put at an estimated N1.5 trillion nationwide, approximately 1.03 per cent of the GDP and 11.47 per cent of the 2021 budget, members of the Organized Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) have reminded the federal and state governments of the need to roll-out tax break and financial assistance to all businesses affected by the ugly incident. TAIWO HASSAN reports
With the dust settled after the #EndSARS protests with adverse effects on the economy and businesses as a result of violence, looting, and destruction of infrastructure across the country, the time has come to put heads together in order to rebuild the economy. The protests by youths kicking against the activities of the now-dissolved Special Anti-Robbery Squad, which had long been accused of unlawful arrests, torture and extrajudicial killings were very profound as it dealt major blow on the economy. Also greatly affected were operators in The Small and Medium scale Enterprises (SMEs) segment of the economy.
The Organised Private Sector of Nigeria (OPSN) consisting of all chambers of commerce and voices of the private sector in Nigeria, including of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN), Nigerian Association of Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (NACCIMA), Nigerian Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASME), Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), and Nigerian Association of Small Scale Industrialists (NASSI), said that the way forward for economic recovery was for the federal and Lagos State Government to collaborate to provide support (in the form of grants) to all the victims of the unfortunate protests, who were just recouping from COVID-19 crisis. In her assertion, the President of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Mrs. Toki Mabogunje, explained that investors in micro, small, medium and others suffered huge losses in monetary terms as a result of the arson, looting and the destruction of their valuable fixed and moveable assets. According to her, “the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) notes with a deep sense of loss and pain, the loss of lives, property and livelihoods arising from the subsequent regrettable events following the recent peaceful EndSARS protests. “We bemoan the unprecedented levels of destruction, plundering, arson, looting and vandalization that took place, which even with the caution that we expressed in our press statement of Monday October 19, we could not have imagined. This is one of the darkest moments in our recent history.” For the Chairperson of OPSN and NACCIMA National President, Hajiya Saratu Iya Aliyu, the #EndSARS crisis has caused on straits in the economy and is putting more pressure on the country’s inflation. She said that at a time like this, much is expected from the federal and state government to come to the aid of affected businesses, mostly small businesses in terms of grants, bailout, and tax rebate so as to cushion the multiplier effects of the losses on trade. Speaking on the impact of the #EndSARS protests on the country’s economy, Hajia Aliyu said: “The impact of the ongoing crisis on the economy has been devastating. Billions of Naira has been lost as a result of attacks on businesses, many are on the verge of losing their livelihoods. “Properties, factories and infrastructure across the nation have been destroyed with innocent citizens bearing the brunt of the outcome.” For foremost economist and Chief Executive Officer, Financial Derivatives Company (FDC) Limited, Bismarck Rewane, in its latest economic bulletin, the economic recovery path could be longer than anticipated, pointing out that massive investment in job-elastic sectors with minimal control on the pricing mechanism will serve as catalysts and ensure a sustained take-off. He said the protests magnified existing output challenges and supply chain disruptions. According to him, “this coupled with money supply saturation, higher logistics costs, CBN’s forex rationing as well as forex restriction for imported finished goods have heightened inflationary pressures.”
LASG’s tax break
However, Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has promised to assist tenants and shop owners at the mall for them to bounce back to business. Speaking during a condolence visit and meeting with tenants and shop own ers at the Mall in Lekki, recently, Governor Sanwo-Olu said Lagos State Government would give tax break and some financial assistance to all the business owners affected by the ugly incident. Speaking on his administration’s readiness to assist those affected by destruction in Circle Mall, Lekki, Governor Sanwo-Olu said Lagos State Government would not leave the people to bear the pains alone, noting that government will assist them to return to their respective businesses. The governor said Lagos State Government would give all business owners in the burnt Circle Mall tax break and also appealed to Federal Government to ensure that they get tax relief from the Federal Internal Revenue Services (FIRS). Sanwo-Olu said the grant support was a non-refundable financial support to the victims. He said the affected businesses were not expected to pay back while the lending support would be in form of a loan, adding that he was already discussing with some financial institutions to assist people with zero interest loans. Sanwo-Olu also asked the shop owners to reach out to the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and urged them to make use of the opportunities being provided by the agency in assisting people who are in business, especially small scale businesses.
During his courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja recently to briefed him on the situation report about the EndSARS protests, Governor Sanwo-Olu appealed to President Buhari that Federal Government’s assistance would be needed and germane in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Lagos State infrastructural facilities destroyed in the process.
However, the demand by the OPSN for grants, bailout, tax rebate and financial support for businesses affected during the protest is very strategic and apt as it will help them leapfrog through the current hardship in their investments.