#EndSARS and the Economy

#EndSARS: Wading Through Nigeria’s Economic Ruins In The Aftermath

By  |  October 27, 2020

In the past 14 days, Nigeria experienced a massive civil turnout in its nationwide protest organised to #EndSARS; a massive peaceful demonstration against police brutality and corruption in the country.

What started as an online movement soon turned into a major force offline that spread throughout the global space.

Although the physical march has been suspended following the address of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, it’s troubling that things had to first spiral out of control as thugs hijacked the protests in various parts of the country.

These thugs were looting places of business and damaging government/private property with reckless abandon, and even causing loss of lives in some cases. Dusk-to-dawn curfews were announced in a few hot spots around the country.

With investigations on cases of violence (on the part of both security agents and miscreants) believed to be ongoing with a view to bringing perpetrators to book, the dust has begun to settle. And some of the attention has turned to counting losses.

Lagos State and the NGN 1 Tn damage

It’s not a surprising fact that, in all of these, there seems to be a concentrated effort on Lagos State.

Apart from being the economic capital of Nigeria, Lagos was also the site of the de-facto headquarters of the #EndSARS protests; The Lekki Toll Gate. This was the scene of an unprovoked military onslaught by officers of the Nigerian Army which led to the loss of many innocent lives on Tuesday, October 20, 2020.

Lagos was also the scene of wanton acts of violence, vandalisation, and looting that became widespread when the thugs took over.

On Sunday, October 25, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, suggested a staggering NGN 1 Tn (USD 2.6 Bn) as the estimated cost of fixing the damage that had been done during last week’s episode of anarchy in Lagos.

That figure caused quite a stir. For context, Lagos State’s 2020 budget totals NGN 920 Bn (USD 2.4 Bn). It’s why eyebrows were raised when it was estimated that the State would require more than its entire budget to right the wrongs that had been committed.

It is to be noted that there was no basis or facts backing up the figure brought up by the Speaker and many are convinced the amount may have been overstated. However, it doesn’t dispute the fact that, truly, the damages done were quite significant, in terms of monetary value.

Digging further into the economic implications

As seen with the #EndSARS protest, it is quite possible for protests to be hijacked by groups with malicious motives, who decide to take advantage of the civil demonstrations to cause chaos. This ultimately leads to unrest and Instability. 

Furthermore, instability and unrest could as well lead to an economic standstill; a case where the normal business activities are crippled. 

It’s a well-known fact that money is only made when some value is offered, and offering value equates to doing work. However, when there is unrest in the country, it affects the mental state of workers and causes drawbacks at work. The unrests have thus affected work hours, work rate, and hence capital inflows.

Following the announcement of curfews across different parts of the country, it was seen that many activities were suspended.

Also, it was quite disturbing to see what looked like sponsored thugs infiltrate a peaceful protest and eventually went on to loot and damage property of both private/public establishments, including multinationals.

This has a ripple effect on the economy. Particularly, it poses a tendency of causing a depletion in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows in the country since many of the establishments that were looted are foreign-owned.

A good example to consider is SPAR Nigeria. The Lekki store of  Spar Nigeria, a Dutch Multinational Franchise, was burgled on the 23rd of October by thugs, who showed no mercy and had their facilities looted and destroyed.

Dastardy acts like this could affect the country’s investment reputation and thereby discourage people from investing in the country.

There’s something called investors’ sentiment, and all of these happenings could take a toll on that, serving as a deterrent.

Africa’s most populous country is already in a tight position with its primary revenue source, crude, bringing in dwindling returns as a result of the global oil doom and gloom. The price of crude — which supplies the bulk of Nigeria’s earnings — has been in decline for much of the year, more so in the midst of the global pandemic that has shrunk the demand for oil.

The fallout of the #EndSARS protests may have made the situation worse as there has been a loss of precious business hours and some serious damages to private and state-owned properties.

Owing to the damage done, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also shown an inclination to review the economic growth decline projections of Nigeria, which was previously pegged at -5.4%. In the words of a Director at IMF, Abebe Selassie;

 “On the growth projections in Nigeria, I mean, these protests happened of course, after we had closed, after the period where the data we looked at in making the growth projections for this economic outlook.”

Selassie added, “And much will depend really on how these protests evolve. Lagos, of course, is a very important economic hub and contributes quite a bit of economic activity to overall Nigeria activities. So, if these persist and are showing significant effects on economic data, we will internalize them in due course.”

No doubt, Nigeria has lost greatly to these events; from the destruction of properties and investments of individuals and businesses and its negative effect on the country’s FDI inflows to investors’ sentiment. Plus the significant downtime in economic activities following the curfew and its impact on the GDP.

Hence, the government has its work cut out for it in looking critically at the ruins and doing an efficient job of cushioning the far-reaching effects.

Featured Image Courtesy: Intervention.ng

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