Civil rights groups and analysts have cautioned the Federal Government against declaring long holidays, stating that such action will have a negative impact on the nation’s economy that is already struggling to survive.
They said while workers might have a longer time to rest, extending holidays would affect the economy in terms of loss of income.
The Federal Government had, on Tuesday, extended the Eid-el-Fitri holiday to Thursday.
The government had initially declared Tuesday and Wednesday as holidays to end the Ramadan fast, but decided to extend the holiday after the moon was not sighted on Monday.
The President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs and the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, had said on Monday that the Ramadan fast continued on Tuesday as a result of the non-sighting of the moon.
The Minister of Interior, Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazau (retd.), announced the extension of the holiday in a statement on Tuesday in Abuja.
He urged Nigerians “to use this period of sober reflections to ensure harmony, unity and peaceful co-existence, while giving full support to the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari in his sustained effort to pursue socio-economic and political growth of the nation.”
Those who spoke to our correspondents on the extension of the holiday included the President, Abuja Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mr Tony Ejinkeonye; the Head, Department of Banking and Finance, Nasarawa State University, Uche Uwaleke; and the National Publicity Secretary of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin.
Others were two Senior Advocates of Nigeria, Mr. Norrison Quakers and Chief Mike Ozekhome.
Ejinkeonye said, “There would be loss of income to both the public and private sectors owing to the holiday period and this is not good for an economy that is struggling to survive.
“I am not against the declaration of public holiday for our Muslim brothers but for a government to declare three straight days of holidays in a country that has economic challenges will definitely affect productivity.’’
On his part, Odumakin said, “It only shows how unserious we are about nation building. There were no serious activities on Monday as people were already in holiday mood and many won’t come back until Monday, meaning we effectively lost a whole week to Sallah.
“We cannot afford such indolent disposition if this were an economy based on productivity. But because all we need to do is to hold the calculator and multiply the price of crude in the international market and multiply with the number of barrels of crude we are able to extract from the Niger Delta, we can be living irresponsibly.”
Quakers said inasmuch as he didn’t want to look at it from a religious or sentimental angle, long holiday was not good for a country like Nigeria, whose economy was still struggling to stabilise.
Quakers said, “I take the view that it is not good for the economy but I don’t want to introduce religious sentiment into it and that’s one of the things we have always complained about in Nigeria. But aside from that, the holiday extension is actually not good for the economy – an economy that is just starting to pick up. Too many holidays will further dampen economic growth of the country.
“It encourages laziness; it also encourages lukewarmness. It’s not so good when we embark on long holidays. Two days is even more than enough; extending it for another one day, what is left?’’
Another SAN, Ozekhome, while sharing Quakers’ views, said it was important for Buhari to correct the impression that he was a sectional leader, which he said was already reflecting in his appointments.
Ozekhome said, “To me the extension of the public holiday will send a wrong signal, especially in these days that our naira is on a free fall. In one week, three solid working days, when Friday is already considered as a half working day, which will now be the only working day that will be left in this week!
“We are talking of one full week holiday for a country that is in a state of economic asphyxiation and strangulation! And I think this is not sending the right signal at all because already a lot of Nigerians are worried about the lopsided appointments by Mr. President.
“I think he should have allowed Nigerians to resume on Thursday and of course Friday is already a half working day and they would have the rest of Saturday and Sunday to rest. I think Nigeria can ill afford this luxury, which to me is an unnecessary luxury for a country that should be in a hurry to overcome its economic challenges.”
In his comment, Uwaleke, an Associate Professor of Finance, told one of our correspondents that the holiday would have both positive and negative effects on the economy.
He said while the holiday would provide Nigerians with the opportunity to relax and attend to their health thus improving their productivity, it would affect business activities.
Uwaleke added, “Having an extended public holiday would of course affect a number of economic activities including the stock market.
“The stock market trading is done on working days and there is no trading on public holidays. But again, the holiday affords the workers with an opportunity to also have enough rest because productivity is tied to healthy workers.’’