The Nigeria Labour Congress on Wednesday blamed top government officials, whom it described as ‘big men,’ for the spread of coronavirus in the country.
In a statement signed by the president of the union, Ayuba Wabba, the NLC accused the top officials of failing to go into self-isolation after returning to Nigeria from countries with high burden of the virus and refusing to submit themselves for checks at ports of entry.
The union also said poor contact tracing, government failure to enforce self-isolation policy and inadequate facility for on-the-spot check at ports of entry were indications that the Federal Government was not prepared to handle increased case of coronavirus in the country.
Wabba added that failure of the government to monitor those who should be in self-isolation and subsequent rise in the number of people infected with the virus justified the union’s earlier call for the Federal Government to ditch self-isolation policy. He described the rise in the number of infected persons as a looming tragedy that was avoidable.
He said, “We have been informed that there are inadequate facilities for on-the-spot check in our ports of entry. Even tracking processes are not conforming to global standards to confront the situation.
“To compound the situation, elitist syndrome or the Nigerian ‘bigmanism’ has severely impaired our response as some senior government officials refuse to subject themselves for routine test, self-isolation and tracking. These negative attitudes contribute to rising number of COVID-19 infection in Nigeria.
“No doubt, we are not prepared for the avoidable tragedy that looms over us. We do not have requisite infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment on a large scale. If advanced economies are finding it difficult to manage treatment situations with all their infrastructure, the situation can be better imagined with our weak systems and in some cases, non-existing infrastructure and response capabilities.”
Meanwhile, the president of the workers’ union said with the national lockdown almost inevitable, workers must not be made to shoulder the burden of the situation, while calling for wage protection in the event of closure of factories and work places.
He added, “As it is, we foresee a situation where more factories and workplaces will experience closure and reduction in working hours. We insist that workers must not be cannon fodder 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.”
The NLC called on government to consider a national lockdown for a reasonable period of time if the level of infection escalated, in line with Section 45 of the Nigeria Constitution which empowered government to limit citizens’ rights in the favour of public safety.
He noted, “We call for broad lockdown of the country. 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.
“Lockdown 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.
“We call on government to urgently invest in mass testing and treatment of established infections with Covid-19. Mass testing at this point is very critical as it will help identify infections long before further transmission.”