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COVID 19: The Unfinished Guidelines As UBA And Other Banks Open For Business

By Stephen Ubanna

President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have left the management of the lockdown to the governors in their various states of the Federation but under the supervision of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, headed by Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the government of the Federation.

This is evident going by the recent change of the guidelines on the phased easing of the lockdown in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center, described as the epicenter of the Coronavirus, recently by Babajide   Sanwo-Olu, the state governor.  Initially the governor had excluded the non food items traders from opening their shops on the designated  days approved for markets to be opened in the state.

In the new guidelineS that was released on Sunday, May 3, 2020, the governor was said to have accommodated all the traders including the non food items dealers which are to open shops on different selected days.  Wale Ahmed, the state Commissioner for Local government and Chieftaincy Affairs confirmed that the governor had given approval to the non food items dealers to open shops three days in a week, between Monday May 4, and Friday, May 8, 2020 .

 According to the Commissioner, the non food items traders  are  expected to open on the selected days between 9 A.M and 3 P.M.  This is good news for SLOT and other business men and traders at the Computer village, Ikeja, Alaba and other markets where Telephone and Televisions are sold in Lagos including the popular Idumota market in Lagos Island.

The Commissioner has said  that the Shopping Mall operators and other major stores in the state  which had opened for sales of their products    must maintain the  60 percent occupancy Capacity and ensure that adequate physical distancing is maintained.

Boss Mustapha: Chairman, Presidential Task Force OnCOVID 19

He may have spoken the mind of the governor when he said that with the phased relaxation of the lock down in the state and opening of the markets   for slales of both food items and non food items traders, the government will not ’’ tolerate street trading’’. He may have sent a signal to the traders to keep to keep to the selected dates as the government will not tolerate non Compliance.

Appealing to the traders, particular, the food items dealers to ensure Compliance with the new guidelines by ‘’wearing Face Masks and gloves’’, he  said there is no going back on it. He was said to have also mandated the shop owners to provide hand sanitisers, wash hands with  soap  and running water at all entry points,  conduct  temperature checks on Customers as part of the  measures to curb the spread of the disease in the state.

Godwin Emefiele: CBN Governor

Recall that the governor had directed  that  government offices in the state would open on May 4, 2020.  The directive may have been informed after discussions with  Mustapha, the Chairman of the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19, which may have  forced  him  to change  his mind on Sunday, May 3, 2020. He had disclosed   the category of Civil Servants that should be in the office on  Monday   and those that should resume on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. He  was said to have made  clear to those that cares to listen that only Civil servants  from   grade 15 and above  will resume  on Tuesday , May 5,2020, while those  below   level 14  are to stay at home from Monday, May 4, 2020. This is an indication that these other category of Public officers could only be invited  to  the office  if their services are needed as long as the  Coronavirus  last in the country

In Kwara, Rafiu Ajakaye, the Secretary to the state government  at  the instance of Abdulrazaq Abdulrahman, the state  governor  was had  announced additional measures  to curtail Community transmission  of the  disease, insisting that the recent relaxation of the lock down  does not mean that  it is out of the wood. He had warned the people against letting down their guards   as the level of threat of the infection   remains high across the country.

 He is right. The Nigerian Center for Disease Control, NCDC, had twitted that the number of infected persons in the country had hit 2, 558. The number of infected persons in the country may have hit the number  because  of the 170  new cases    that were discovered  between Saturday and Sunday across the country.

Gong by the new guidelines that had been  revealed  by the Kwara  state government  for the easing of the lock down relaxation,   Ajakaye, the  Secretary to the  government  had said  that  the curfew  imposed by the government  was basically to curtail the movement of people  across the state. The Curfew which  is expected to   take effect from 6 A.M, starting from Monday, May  4, 2020, he said  will be in place  until further notice.  This is bad news for cross border travelers in the state.

 He disclosed that the measure became necessary following  the  agreement  by the Northern states governors  to prevent non– essential and unauthorized  movement  in the region  in order to curtail the spread of the disease.  Indeed, what is happening in north central state, according to sources, are not different from  the  situation in Kaduna, Niger and other northern states.

Take for instance, in Katsina, the President home state, of President Muhammadu Buhari, Aminu Masari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and the governor, has ordered the shutdown  of three major  weekly markets on Sunday, May 3, 2020.  The markets that  were  said  to have been affected by the governor’s directive  are Garkin Daura, Dutsi and  Kayawa .An aggrieved  Masari  had said that  the  closure of the three markets in the state was  taken  following  the growing  number of confirmed Coronavirus cases  in the state which stakeholders    no longer finding it  funny.

At the rate the  disease  was going in the country, Godwin Emefiele, the  governor of Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, and  Chairman , of the Banker’s Committee which has all the  Money Deposit Banks, MDBs, Managing Directors as members has warned banks not to  take  advantage of the health crisis to lay off workers. 

Kennedy Uzoka: Group MD, UBA

Emefiele, the CBN, governor, had confirmed that   at  the Bankers’ Committee level, they  had ’’agreed to suspend  lay- offs in banks  across the country’’. It was learnt that the agreement was reached at the recent special  meeting  of the Committee which was Convened on Saturday, May 2, 2020, to further review the implications  of the COVID 19, pandemic on the nation’s banking industry. They were said to have also   deliberated  on the issue  of the operating costs  of banks  in view  of the disruptions  emanating from the global lockdown  that is causing economic difficulties in the country.

 Perhaps, aware of the bank’s  rising interest rates across the country, Ahmed Bola Tinunubu, a former governor of Lagos state and National Leader of the  All  Progressive Congress, APC,   has lend  his voice calling on the   banks to reduce interest rates on loans . The former Lagos state  governor,  however,  appealed to the government  to grant  tax reliefs to the banks  to facilitate reducing  their interest rates to borrowers.

 He noted  that  by granting such tax reliefs to the Financial Institutions,  it will go a long way  ‘’in saving the country  from a monumental  drag on national economic growth’’. It may be  a hard decision to take  by the katsina  state  born Nigerian President because  the government is looking for money to finance the N10.33 trillion 2020 budget, with the Collapse of the International Oil market and the drop in the non oil import revenue due to the Coronavirus.

 In a related Development, Kingsley Uzoka, Managing Director, United Bank for Africa, UBA, plc,a  pan African Bank, has taken advantage of the government’s  decision to allow banks open for transactions  to assure its millions of teeming  Customers across the country that its   branches across the country will open for transactions starting between  Monday   to Friday each week. 

The bank, which many believe has  the interest of Customers first in its services  was said to have assured them that they have no cause to worry about withdrawing from the bank to run their business or replenish their finished  stock in their stores  as the branches will provide  the following services: Cash  in their ATMs, and  Over the counter service  for essential cash and cheque transactions.

The bank, it was gathered  has made adequate arrangement to ensure the safety of Customers in the  branches that had opened  for Customers to conduct their financial transactions  by Compiling with the NCDC, and World Health Organisation, WHO, a United Nations, UN, health agency, safe distancing   measures to curb  the spread of the disease  in the country.

Some of the measures put in place,  according to an insider , to protect Customers from contacting the disease include   regular cleaning and sanitizing of the ATMs in the branches and the Bank Head office, in Lagos, provision of hand sanitisers, at the entrance of the branches as  Staff are made to wear Face Masks

 Customers within and outside the country entering any of its branches to conduct their transactions have also been directed to wear Face Masks.  Unlike in the past where branches of the bank allow scores of Customers into the banking hall at a ago, the situation appear to have changed with the lock down.

There are indications that no branch of the bank could attend to more than 10 Customers at a go under the present circumstances. This is basically  to  keep the NCDC and WHO, distancing policy since the out- break of the Wuhan Town in Hebei  province of the Asian  country of China emerged disease.

Stickers  were said to have been  placed at the branches   entrance ‘’ to guide  the six  feet  social distancing requirement’’. The bank was said to have also discouraged the use of  Customers sharing writing materials to fill Tellers for withdrawals in the banking hall to curb the spread of the disease. ‘’If  you  need  to fill out any forms or deposit Slips, please come along with  pen’’, the bank has warned.

Stephen Ubanna

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