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Traders, artisans abandon face masks, sanitizers as fear of COVID-19 fades off for most Nigerians

Most Nigerian traders have stopped wearing facemasks as they believe the Pandemic may well be a rich man’s disease.

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Traders, artisans abandon face masks, sanitizers as fear of COVID-19 fades off for most Nigerians

Most Nigerians appear to have abandoned the use of face masks, despite the lack of a vaccine for the COVID-19 pandemic that grounded their lives for most parts of 2020.

A survey of major markets across Lagos, revealed that most traders have abandoned the daily use of face masks – a mandatory requirement of the Lagos State Government, and an offense under the law. Hawkers, roadside sellers, shop traders, clothe dealers, food sellers, cart pushers, textile sellers, etc. are no longer paying attention to the safety measures.

The Nairametrics research team, discovered most traders believe the virus is no longer a threat, as they go about their daily business without being sick. At the night market in Idumota, most of the traders can be seen transacting their business with customers, without wearing masks or any form of social distancing, suggesting life appears to be back to normal for a lot of them.

READ: UK to impose visa ban, seize assets of Nigerians for electoral offences

The same situation played out at Oyingbo market, where traders lined up their goods on the floor around the train tracks, beckoning on customers to buy their goods. Most did not wear face masks, and even those who did failed to comply with the minimum requirements.

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The face masks appeared unwashed, and even worn below the nose area. Social distancing rules also did not apply, and most did not have a basic hand sanitizer. For those who bother to wear, they only do so, to avoid being apprehended by Policemen. If caught, they end up parting away with some money – a fine, to avoid facing the law.

READ: Banks’ loans to customers rise to N18.9 trillion in Q1 2020

What they are saying

Nairametrics asked some of the traders why they no longer wear face masks. According to Mrs. Chioma at Arena market, Bolade,

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“We only see reported numbers, but we have not heard of anyone who actually had the virus. In my opinion, even if there was COVID-19 in the country, it is most likely gone and defeated.”

She told Nairametrics research, that Nigerians are no more interested in the figures of COVID-19 cases anymore, because it is assumed that the numbers are inflated. Meanwhile, she stated that the only reason traders and customers are compelled to put on a face mask, is because of the enforcement by the police and market authorities.

READ: Lagos seals off church, others in Surulere, moves against illegal conversion of open spaces

Nairametrics research also visited the Computer village at Ikeja, and found few people in the market due to the alternating market day policy declared by the Lagos State government. However, some of the traders were seen without the use of face masks, and others ate in close proximity to each other.

In a conversation with Mr. Wasiu, a phone repairer, he said,

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“Though we hear there is still COVID-19 in the country, but we do not believe it is true, which is why we have been going about our businesses as usual, and we have been good. It is safe to say, God is the one protecting us.”

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Also in the Mile-12 market, another trader who identified himself as KC, believes the pandemic may have been a hype

“I have come to the conclusion that the pandemic is not as bad as we were made to believe, as most people now go back to their usual practices.”

READ: Gas is the new petrol – FG to Nigerian car owners

When asked if he now engages in handshakes, He said

“Yes. Furthermore, I used to have sanitizer before, but I don’t use it anymore. Our security personnel who enforces the use of face masks and sanitizers have stopped doing so, which has caused most of us to stop adherence. That alone is an indication that the disease is not as bad in the country as it was portrayed.”

While others claim the inexistence of the disease, Mrs. Bimpe, at Idumota, feels that Nigerians are not used to covering their faces, and staying apart from each other. That is why they tend to forget the guidelines stated by the government.

“I believe that there is COVID-19 in the country, we only need time to get used to the social distancing and the wearing of face masks.” She said.

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In perhaps, one of the most remarkable take on COVID-19; a commuter explained how the BRT bus he entered was filled with passengers, without social distancing rules being applied. According to her,

“The new blue BRT going to Cement, Iyana-Ipaja area, was loaded beyond capacity yesterday, including standing. If the Government is not acting like there is COVID-19, why should I? My brother e no dey.”

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Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Economic and Financial Data

What the data says

Nigeria has about 56, 735 confirmed COVID-19 cases, since the first case in late February 2020. However, case numbers have dropped significantly in September, partially due to the reduced number of testing.

  • As the curve flattens, the government has gradually lifted lockdown restrictions; opening Churches, Schools, Markets, and most public areas.
  • Most publicized death cases have been of notable public figures, giving the impression that the disease does not affect the poor.
  • Without reported cases of an outbreak in congested locations – with next to zero social distancing capabilities; it is difficult to convince most of these traders and artisans, that they can be affected by COVID-19
  • Also, without palliatives, Nigerians have had no choice but to get back to their daily livelihoods, fending for themselves and their families. This is purely the motivating factor for most traders who have no one else to turn to, as higher fuel and electricity prices take toll.

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Business

Nigeria records lowest remittances from abroad since 2008

Nigeria recorded the lowest remittances from abroad since 2008 as Covid-19 affected the income of Nigerians living abroad

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Nigeria received $96 billion diaspora remittances inflow in 6-years

Second-quarter data from the CBN shows Nigeria recorded the lowest remittances from abroad since 2008 as Covid-19 affected the income of Nigerians living abroad and looking to snd money to loved ones back home.

According to the data, remittances fell to $3.3 billion in the second quarter of the year way lower than the average of $5.8 billion per quarter remitted to the country. The drop can be attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Explore Data on the Nairametrics Research Website

The data highlights just how bad the global economic crunch has affected the income of people across the world especially Nigerians in diaspora looking to send money to their families. Most have either lost their jobs or seen their earnings tumble due to the global lockdowns.

READ: South South States lead in Nigerian unemployment

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Nigeria also relies on dollar inflows from remittances to improve on its balance of payment position, a critical economic indicator used in determining a country’s foreign exchange position.

READ: Is Zenith Bank thriving on the strength of sound financial indices?

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Total foreign remittances into the country rose to $23 billion in 2019 one of the highest on record helping boost income and investments in Nigeria. Poor countries like Nigeria rely heavily on these inflows to soften the low income paid to citizens while also funding millions of families from education to healthcare.

Nigeria  Remittances only came second to oil as Nigeria’s top export earner much more than foreign portfolio and direct investments into the country.

READ: 150 million to fall into extreme poverty by 2021 – World Bank

Third-quarter numbers are likely to improve as the unemployment rate dropped in the third quarter of the year particularly in the US. For example, the US unemployment rate was as high as 14.7% in April at the height of the lockdowns but has since dropped to 7.9% in September 2020. It was 4.4% in March this year.

Why this matters: Apart from helping to stabilize the exchange rate, remittances are a critical source of cushion for millions of families in Nigeria.

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READ: Nigeria’s dollar earnings fall by over $7 billion due to Covid-19

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  • The global economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic remains pervasive in most developed countries despite the easing of lockdowns.
  • In fact, some countries, particularly in Europe are going through the second phase of lockdown meaning more jobs could be lost as we approach winter.
  • Nigerians also look forward to the ember months for remittances and is also a useful tool at stabilizing the exchange rate. In the 4th quarter of 2019 and 2018, Nigerians in diaspora remitted $5.9 billion and $6.24 billion respectively.

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Exclusives

Leo Stan Ekeh denies being behind HealthPlus “takeover”

Mr. Ekeh has addressed suspicions of his alleged involvement in the crisis that has rocked HealthPlus Limited.

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Leo Stan Ekeh

“Mrs. Bukky George is A miracle child” – Leo Stan Ekeh.

The news making the rounds is that the billionaire tech entrepreneur, Leo Stan Ekeh, Chairman of Zinox, is allegedly the man behind the takeover of HealthPlus in Nigeria. The rumours come amid a well-publicised management tussle over the soul of the business. Is this real or mere speculation?

READ: Chevron to sack 25% of its workforce in Nigeria

Above the frenzy of social media controversies, it is always good to investigate and ascertain the true facts of any case.
In a telephone conversation with the serial entrepreneur, Mr. Ekeh said that when he read the news, he did not give it much thought and dismissed it as one of those social media noises. But to his astonishment, few clips of the news have been sent to him by friends.

Explore the Nairametrics Research Website for Financial Data

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Hear him:
I have the highest regards for Mrs. Bukky George. I see her till tomorrow as a miracle child like myself. She is extremely brilliant with great energy and passion to succeed in her sector and there are few such women in Africa and my wife is one of them, so it will be spiritually wrong for me to be against her. I know both parties and simply put, they are all credible parties in partnership. I have known her investors – Alta Sempta Capital for some time before I met Mrs. George and we have had preliminary engagement relating to their potential investment in one of my companies and my ambition to roll out across Africa.

But till date, I do not have a kobo share in any of their different investment vehicles including a kobo in HealthPlus, though anyone has a right to invest in any company of his or her choice without clearance from the general public including investing in any of my companies. I have great passion for the health sector and those around me know my investment and support in that sector locally. It is my prayer they resolve their challenges soonest. I want to keep the several discussions I had with Mrs. George private because she is an amazon. I have my highest regards for successful African women and my Group is possibly the only one in the world with five certified women as Managing Directors. You can now understand!”

READ: Minister denies approving NIPOST license fee increment 

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What do you advise Nigerian companies looking for foreign investors?

‘‘Looking for foreign investors is like taking a bank loan locally. You must keep your promises. When you talk about knowledge economy, it means you should be knowledgeable enough to understand what you are going into or pay quality corporate law firms to advise you, but you must listen to them. The money the bank lends to you belongs to depositors and investors and you must do everything to keep to the terms of the loan. Same with foreign investors. They are here to help you build and make money and in the process, you make more than you would have made. They help you alter your destiny. They are not charity organizations. Sincerely, they add huge value to help you institutionalize corporate governance and make more money than you would have made.

I had warned severally in conferences that the failure rate of startups in Nigeria is unbecoming of a nation and an embarrassment. We should respect agreements signed in this 21st century. That is the only way this country can grow. I am a child of trust economy, so I must keep strictly to agreements to grow. We have world class locally owned legal firms to guide us in these partnerships. I have had at least one major public quoted company as foreign investor and the experience is rewarding. They remain my best friends till today and can vouch for me on major international transactions and they have done this severally even though I bought them out few years ago. We need these people to scale. Nigeria doesn’t have the real financial capacity to build globally rated companies. Trust me on that. Thank you.’’

READ: Why Nigeria’s external reserves is stuck at $35 billion

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Exclusives

Exclusive: I put up my house as collateral to save HealthPlus – Bukky George

Bukky George sits with Nairametrics to discuss the crisis that has rocked HealthPlus Limited.

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HealthPlus: More facts emerge as Bukky George reveals she owns 48.9%

The founder and ‘CEO’ of HealthPlus Ltd, Mrs. Bukky George, revealed she put up her house as collateral to help fund operations of the company she founded in 1999. She revealed this to Nairametrics, in an exclusive interview granted to our Analyst, at Southern Sun, Ikoyi, Lagos.

The Nairametrics’ Lead Analyst sat with Mrs. George, to get a first-hand account of her side of the story, that has pit Private Equity investors from the UK, against the Founder of a business seeking cash to expand their operations.

READ: Meet Bukky George, The CEO of HealthPlus who just raised $18 million

Nairametrics asked a range of questions, some of which she preferred not to respond to as the matter was still in court. However, in one of the remarks, she confirmed that she had to put up her house as collateral, to get funding from a financial institution. She also implied that the Private Equity firm’s modus operandi was to starve her company of funds, so they can watch the business falter, allowing them to buy on the cheap.

“When the funds stopped coming, I had to put my house as collateral, and my personal guarantee is also collateral too. Apart from the money they invested, they don’t have much to lose, but I have everything to lose. When the funding never came, I invested my life savings.”

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She emphasized that the modus operandi of some of these investors is, “They come, they pledge, give you some money, and stop. When the business dies, they buy at peanut.”

READ: Just in: FG bars Air France, KLM and other foreign airlines

According to Mrs. George, the failure of the private equity firm, Alta Semper, to disburse the balance of the $18 million, hampered the operations of a once-thriving business. They paid less than half of the total sum.

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“The agreement is to fund our operations without delay. The objectives are the premise of the balance funds. However, 18 months on, the balance is still outstanding. We could not meet our target, because more than half of the funds has not been released to us. We were doing well in the first year of the deal, but the DNA changed after 1 year,” she said.

She also hammered on how Alta Semper starved them of working capital, resulting in their inability to stock their shelves with drugs. Saying, “We had board meetings, they are the financial gurus. They saw the working capital and our cash flow and made no comment. I would not fight if I am not sure of winning the case. They were watching us dwindle. We needed to buy drugs on our shelves, but we couldn’t get the fund. We spoke every week, but they kept promising that they will fund me in two weeks. Our agreement indicates that we were joined at the hips, that is, they can’t make decisions without my consent and vice verse.”

READ: HealthPlus: More facts emerge as Bukky George reveals she owns 48.9%

Mrs. George insisted that the technical agreement she had signed with Alta Semper, required that they perform certain obligations, which they have failed to fulfill, leading to her decision to go to court.

“We signed a technical agreement, they had obligations but failed to achieve one. I can’t go into details, because we are in court. When I put it down in writing, they compelled me to retract it. When I complained about what is not going right, they stayed mute. I had no choice but to go to court,” she stated.

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She also provided her own view of why the other two directors, former Chairman, Dr. Ayo Salami, and Mr. Deji Akinyanju had resigned from the board.

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READ: NCR to leverage MSMEs lending by over N1.23 trillion

Saying, “The Chairman resigned last week Thursday, another Director resigned 5 weeks ago (that is my nominee Director). A day after the Chairman resigned, they swooped in when we didn’t have a constituted board. They had asked the banks to hijack our account, but they denied it, requesting board resolution, and approved minutes for the meeting. They have not been able to provide that.”

Mrs. George also claimed that the employees of HealthPlus were on her side because she is a ‘good boss’, which is why they avoided meeting with representatives of Alta Semper.

“When they called staff for a meeting on Friday, everybody ignored the call. They tried a zoom meeting, everyone ignored it. If I am not a good boss, don’t you think they would have rushed to the meeting?” she asked.

Nairametrics maintains a neutral stance in this matter. We have also reached out to the representatives of Alta Semper to get their own side of the story. We will keep you updated, as it unfolds in the coming days.

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