Papa Omo­tayo: MOE+ and A Whites­pace Creative Agency

As the lock­down ap­proached, a mind­less dis­pute be­tween Rus­sia and Saudi Ara­bia sent the price of petrol tum­bling, drag­ging down the value of the Nige­rian cur­rency with it. With the naira still volatile with for­eign ex­change in­creas­ingly hard to get and a

Business Day (Nigeria) - - NEWS - Mar­ifa

We ac­tu­ally closed our doors be­fore the govern­ment shut the coun­try. Our first pri­or­ity was keep­ing the chil­dren safe. “At the time we had only three chil­dren, but it started off very well con­sid­er­ing that we opened in the mid­dle of a school year. We were scout­ing for par­ents.

“When the lock­down hap­pened I started pan­ick­ing, be­cause just be­fore then we had al­ready started see­ing the de­val­u­a­tion of the naira.

“To­day ev­ery­one is pro­ject­ing that it will go up to 500 naira to one US dol­lar. It would be a dis­as­ter - I would need more naira to pay ex­pa­tri­ate staff in my es­tab­lish­ment.

“Be­ing a new school, we only have a cer­tain amount of sav­ings to float us for the first and sec­ond year un­til the school be­comes suc­cess­ful.

“At the mo­ment our staff - se­cu­rity, clean­ers, nan­nies and ad­min­is­tra­tive staff - are all on full salary. I’ve told them I will cut their salaries by 50% to pre­pare for the worst, but I ex­pect to cut salaries by around 30%.

“There were four more peo­ple - a teacher, teach­ing as­sis­tants and a re­cep­tion­ist - whose three-month pro­ba­tion pe­riod ended in April. We told them that we would come back to them when the school re­sumes. If they do, I will have to rene­go­ti­ate salaries be­cause I can no longer pay them what we agreed.

“All the par­ents who have reg­is­tered for Septem­ber still aim to come - that’s four more chil­dren. But my big­gest fear is that we may not open then.

“I’ve thought about clos­ing the school down. If the pan­demic goes on for an­other year the school will not be able to sur­vive. The rent is very ex­pen­sive here, on one of the prime com­mer­cial streets in La­gos. I would not be able to make my rent in the third year if we don’t open in Septem­ber.

“To­day, yes the virus is still here, yes ev­ery­one is still scared, but peo­ple are a lit­tle bit more re­laxed. The econ­omy is my big­gest fear in Nige­ria.”

The re­sponse from my clients has been to put a lot of things on hold. “Ev­ery­body’s try­ing to fig­ure out how it’s go­ing to af­fect them as in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions. Hope­fully, the ma­jor­ity of projects will come back.

“I think that the un­cer­tainty is go­ing to last for quite a while. I’m def­i­nitely feel­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties.

“[If ] you look at the cost of things now com­pared to months ago it’s in some cases al­most double, so that hard­ship is go­ing to be felt dra­mat­i­cally.

“Peo­ple’s earn­ings are go­ing down be­cause a lot of busi­nesses are hav­ing to scale back be­cause of the pan­demic so it’s tough times.

We made the con­scious de­ci­sion not to get rid of staff [to] keep a great team.

“But we have to dis­cuss with staff how we can look at off-set­ting cer­tain ex­penses and mov­ing them to a later pe­riod in the year.

“I would say we’re op­er­at­ing [at] 50% pro­duc­tiv­ity at best, but I think that’s also to do with the na­ture of the type of work that we do.

“You can’t just walk over to some­one’s desk to check up on what’s go­ing on.

“Ev­ery­body’s a lit­tle bit sick and tired of zoom calls and team calls. We’re def­i­nitely not as ef­fi­cient.”

Papa Omo­tayo

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