CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY

Because SMEs have variable configurations and have greatly contributed to nation development accordingly (Aderemi et al. 2019), small and medium scale firms have been a focal point of many governments throughout the world. SMEs are defined by the World Bank as enterprises with less than 300 employees. Small and medium scale enterprises, on the other hand, are defined in Nigeria as businesses with fewer than 50 employees. Basically, these businesses have small investment in machinery and equipment of less than or equal to 600,000 naira and are independently owned and controlled with the goal of creating jobs and reaching sales targets (CBN, 2018). Nigeria’s SMEs are expected to number 41.4 million, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

The use of locally sourced raw materials, the creation of jobs, incentive for rural development, entrepreneurship growth, mobilization of local savings, and a platform for self-employment are all characteristics of SMEs.

However, the devastating repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 on both human and material resources must not be overlooked. Wuhan-COVID-19 appeared in China in 2019, much like Ebola did in West Africa in 2014. COVID-19, on the other hand, resulted in a global epidemic that spread unhindered over the world (WHO, 2020). This unique infection triggered a slew of restrictions on people, products, and services. Due to the stay-indoors orders, factory closures and reductions in production of goods and services invariably reverberated their effect on SMEs’ activities globally. However, after the lockdown, with not all SMEs operating, the ordeal was how to ensure the rate of Covid-19 spread was drastically reduced. This is only possible if SME owners and customers follow the established safety rules. According to Worldometre 2020, asymptomatic COVID-19 infection and transmission are feasible. Asymptomatic infection happens when a person is infected but has no symptoms, and asymptomatic transmission occurs when a person who is sick but has no symptoms transmits the virus to another person. These findings suggest that in countries like Nigeria, where mass testing capacity is lacking and contact tracing is ineffective, asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic cases act as silent spreaders, emphasizing the importance of social distancing, regular hand washing and good hygiene, and mask wearing, which should be practiced primarily among the general public, particularly SMEs owners and patrons.

STATEMENT OF PROBLEM

Small and medium-sized businesses, such as supermarkets, hotels, fast-food restaurants, and manufacturing companies, are just as vulnerable to COVID-19 as other public places where big groups of people interact with one another and with staff. They are venues where guests stay in close quarters for a short period of time and where there is a high level of engagement between customers and employees.

These crucial challenges extend beyond supermarkets, restaurants, and cafeterias. In fact, businesses that produce goods and services for which their clients and customers demand special care must ensure that every employee and customer adheres to the WHO’s fundamental protection measures against COVID-19.  SMEs must closely adhere to their employees’ health, sanitary measures, and proper usage of personal protective equipment while on the job, as well as strict visitor/customer rules. Cleaning and disinfecting frequent and high touch sites with approved chemicals and sanitizers at predetermined intervals, as well as applying social distancing and personnel optimization during shifts, can all help to reduce Coronavirus spread. As a result, the purpose of this study is to look into the extent of covid-19 safety compliance among Nigerian SMEs.

OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY

In summary, the goal of this study is to determine the extent of covid-19 safety compliance among Nigerian SMEs. Specifically, this research aims to:

Examine the several recognized Covid-19 safety procedures that SMEs in Nigeria follow.

Examine whether the owners of SMEs in Nigeria strictly adhere to the Covid-19 safety standards.

To determine the extent of compliance with the Covid-19 safety standard among Nigerian SMEs.

RESEARCH QUESTIONS

What are the various COVID-19 safety precautions that SMEs in Nigeria must follow?

Is there a strong adherence to the Covid-19 safety requirements by SMEs in Nigeria?

What is the level of Covid-19 compliance among employees and consumers in Nigerian SMEs?

SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY

This study aims to raise SME owners’ and employees’ awareness of the importance of adhering to the Covid-19 safety standards, as they are at a significant risk of contracting diseases while providing commercial services and products. It will oblige chief executive officers, managing directors, and business owners to ensure that facilities and equipment are in place within their business premises or factories to enable efficient compliance with the Covid-19 safety guidelines. It will allow the government to ensure that agencies concerned, such as the Covid-19 task force, conduct regular inspections of Small and Medium Enterprises to ensure that a high level of compliance is maintained, so limiting the spread of this unique disease.

SCOPE OF THE STUDY

The COVID-19 safety compliance level among SMEs in Nigeria will be assessed in this study, which will use Kilimanjaro Fast Food and Pick Payless Supermarket in Port Hacourt, Rivers State, as a case study.

RESEARCH HYPOTHESIS

H0: SMEs have a low degree of covid-19 safety compliance.

H1: SMEs have a high level of covid-19 safety compliance.

LIMITATION OF THE STUDY

Several problems were faced over the course of the research, including but not limited to the following. These are the ones.

Inadequate funding: The research was hampered by a lack of funds, which prevented the researcher from accessing banks in Lagos, as well as printing and collating questionnaires.

Time: Another constraint is time, as this research had to be completed while also juggling other academic responsibilities, making it hard to conduct this study in a larger, more representative sample size.

DEFINITION OF TERMS

COVID-19: Corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a sickness caused by a new corona virus known as SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2).

Small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) are non-affiliated, self-contained businesses with fewer than a certain number of employees.

SAFETY: the state of being free and unaffected by danger or anything harmful.

COMPLIANCE: This term refers to following the rules, specifications, processes, policies, and laws that have been established.

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