…demands cash grants for workers in informal sector
The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called on the Federal Government to lockdown the country to all forms of activities except those providing essential goods and services to the citizenry.
Congress, while expressing fear over the fast spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), noted that its initial fear on the efficacy of the self-isolation strategy as deployed by government had become a reality, given the increasing number of persons infected with the scourge, including its members.
In a statement made available to newsmen yesterday in Abuja, President of the NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, also urged government to make available support systems for the millions of workers in the formal and informal sectors such as cash grants, to ensure law and order throughout the period of the “involuntary lockdown.”
According to him, the reality and panic of the Convid-19 pandemic was gaining momentum by the day, as it was possible that the incident rate in Nigeria, which was hovering around 50 active cases, might increase as contact tracing tracks down persons who were in close proximity with infected cases.
While commending the partial lockdown of Lagos and other cities, he noted that an expansion of such an extreme initiative was necessary if Nigeria must contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
His words: “Clearly, there is need for robust and coherent response to focus on prevention, containment and management.
“Given the prevalence and devastation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic even in countries with very strong and resilient health systems, it is important for all governments, especially our own government, to deal with this pandemic as a national emergency.
“We call for broad lockdown of the country with exception to the provision of essential goods and services.
“Such large-scale lockdown should be accompanied with appropriate support systems that allow workers who provide essential services to function and in a manner that provides protection and sustenance to them and their families.
“On a population wide level, lock downs must be exercised in a way that guarantees citizens, especially the vulnerable groups including those without income access to essential goods and services, to meet basic needs. Anything short of this would be an invitation to mass hysteria, confusion and widespread unrests which would extremely complicate the current prevalence of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We also wish to reiterate our earlier concerns on the directive by government for exposed citizens to self-quarantine. The recent exponential rise in the cases of COVID-19 infection mostly by citizens who returned from countries with worse case prevalence proves that self-quarantine would be largely ineffective in our clime owing to a mix of factors including economic, social, religious and behavioural.
“Government should provide suitable quarantine facilities that inspire confidence in citizens and assure everyone that infection with COVID-19 and subsequent isolation is not a death sentence.”
Wabba, who noted that the writing on the wall reveals closure of work places or reduction in working hours, demanded job and wage protection for workers in the country.
“We insist that workers must not be cannon fodders for these socio-economic fallouts. In all of these, we demand job and wage protection. To make this possible, factories and businesses will require fiscal stimulus, financial aids and other macro-economic support incentives at this critical time.
“For millions of workers in the informal sectors, including our members in the transport, in the markets and all categories of artisans who are involved in involuntary lockdown, we demand cash grant through their associations to enable them cope during this difficult time.
“In the light of the foregoing development, we would like to make further demands under the following overarching areas of national health priorities.”
The unionist, while calling on government to provide allowances to COVID-19 front line workers and urgently invest in mass testing to identify cases and begin timely treatment, called for massive support for health and utility workers from all quarters, stressing that all hands must be on deck to overcome the global pandemic.