A financial expert, Prof. Uche Uwaleke, has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to speed up access to the N50 billion intervention scheme aimed at cushioning the effect of COVID-19 for small businesses.
Uwaleke, a Professor of Finance and Capital Market at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, stated this in an interview with our reporter in Lagos on Tuesday.
President Muhammadu Buhari had in a broadcast on Monday extended the lockdown in Lagos State, Ogun and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
The don said the apex bank should review the criteria for accessing the N50 billion intervention scheme to make it less stringent for small businesses.
Uwaleke added that the CBN should speed up access to the facility by appointing more participating institutions instead of using only the NIRSAL Microfinance Bank.
“The CBN should take a second look at the eligibility criteria with a view to making the conditions less stringent to enable easier access by small businesses,” he said.
He noted that even in developed countries with adequate data such as the United States, the enormity and complexity of the interventions had been a major challenge to the authorities.
According to him, thousands of firms, especially SMEs, will suffer great financial losses and may end up laying off their employees.
Uwalake stated that these firms should take advantage of the concessional loans and other palliatives which the CBN had rolled out to mitigate the negative impact of the lockdown on businesses.
He explained that the extension of the lockdown became inevitable following the rising positive cases being recorded across the country.
“The first challenge COVID-19 presents is how to save lives and thereafter, livelihoods/the economy without underestimating the importance of the latter and its correlation to the former,” Uwaleke said.
He said the idea of expanding the scope of the cash transfer scheme from 2.6 million to 3.6 million was commendable.
Uwaleke said the Federal Government should work closely with states and local governments through the Community Development Associations to identify the vulnerable persons yet to be captured in the social register.
The don stated that attention should equally be paid to the urban poor, especially in Lagos, Ogun and Abuja, who depended on daily income for survival.
Uwaleke said the extent these interventions would go to ameliorate the hardship occasioned by the lockdown would depend on how well they were implemented.
“It will also be a function of availability of resources against the backdrop of dwindling government revenue.
“In this regard, the complementary effort of corporate bodies as well as public spirited individuals is laudable.
“I believe this is why the government has announced plans to borrow from the multilateral institutions such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank not only to fund the 2020 Budget but also to source COVID’19 emergency response funds,” Uwaleke said.