A financial expert, Mr Okechukwu Unegbu, has urged the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) to increase support for commercial banks to address the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the sector.
Unegbu, a past President of Chattered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN), made the call in an interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Monday in Abuja.
He gave the suggestion against the backdrop of reports that 13 Nigerian banks made provision of about N157.15 billion for bad loans in their half-year performance.
Unegbu, a former Managing Director of the defunct Citizens International Bank said Nigerian banks had remained resilient to economic disruptions, adding however that the pandemic had inflicted colossal damage to businesses across sectors
He said that the pandemic had created challenges for many businesses across the globe with most of them needing government support to stay afloat.
“COVID-19 has caused economic dislocation, social dislocation, and dislocation of relationships. Businesses are closing down; unemployment is on the rise.
“Even before the pandemic, inflation rate was already on the increase in Nigeria. The naira has lost its value to virtually all currencies in the world.
“Because of all these negative factors, economic managers should not be too dogmatic about monetary policy. Most banks and other businesses need government’s stimulus package to survive.
“The banks are complaining but CBN is still breathing down their necks to increase their capital base. CBN should consider the position of these banks vis a vis the COVID-19 pandemic,’’ he said.
Unegu said that increase in utility bills in the midst of economic hardship induced by COVID-19 would further worsen the living standard of the Nigerian masses.
He called on the government to take steps to alleviate the economic hardship experienced by the Nigerian masses as was the case in other climes.
“I support the removal of petroleum subsidy because the idea of paying some businessmen huge amounts in subsidy claims does not make economic sense.
“But the increase in electricity tariff at this time, even when there is no improvement in power supply, is not advisable.
“There must be a human face to economic management. COVID-19 has really dealt a devastating blow on the economy and our economic managers need to consider the masses in formulating their policies.
“A country like Ghana, for instance, has been paying electricity tariff of it citizens for the past five months,’’ he said.
Unegbu advised government to halt wastage in government expenditure to have more resources to alleviate economic hardship experienced by the masses.