As the scourge of the pandemic rages on across the world, residents of Bayelsa State in Nigeria remain apprehensive about the prospects of their livelihoods and general wellbeing. Bayelsa, being an oil-rich state has experienced firsthand, the negative impact COVID-19 has had on the global oil market. The dwindling oil revenue accruable to the State, coupled with a noticeable lull in business activities within the state have adversely affected the livelihoods of the majority of the State’s inhabitants who are mainly into petty trading, small-scale fishery and artisanal work. The Civil Society Organisations under the auspices of the CSO Situation Room, having organised themselves into strategic teams for the purpose of monitoring the impact of COVId-19 and sensitising the people about it, paid regular visits to several communities in different Local Government Areas of the State and it was observed that most small and medium-scale enterprises were experiencing low patronage. Most shops and supermarkets visited were devoid of the usual human traffic which used to be a common sight in those places. It was gathered, that many traders believe the reduced patronage and poor business was as a result of various reasons related to the coronavirus pandemic.
Some traders complained that they could no more access goods from other parts of the country, which were hitherto supplied to them to sell, because of restrictions to movement witnessed in those parts of the country where a total lockdown is presently in operation. Hence, they have not enough goods left to sell and no means of restocking the depleting inventories in their shops. Some complained that most of their customers who regularly patronise them, have either been sacked or had their salaries slashed at their paid-jobs, as a result of which they no longer patronise them as much as they used to.
Of recent, there has been an increase in unemployment with many workers in the private sector being made to proceed on an indefinite Leave without pay at their workplaces. Several companies have reduced their workforce in this manner, while some have retained a few staff who were given the option of either accepting pay cuts or be faced with a job loss.
Notwithstanding the partial lockdown in the state, many residents go about their legitimate businesses in fear of the pandemic getting worse in the State and the likely effects a total lockdown will have if the government decides to resort to that. With the number of cases still on the increase across the country and no end in sight yet, many are bracing up for any eventuality with respect to their lives and livelihoods, and the CSO Situation Room is monitoring closely whilst liaising with the government to ensure the protection of people’s rights and livelihoods in these testy times.