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May Day: NLC urges FG to deploy chunk of COVID-19 donations to tackle deficits in health, education sectors



The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has called on the Federal Government to deploy huge chunk of the donations made by Corporate Nigeria on COVID-19 and debt relief grants to tackling the deficits in other sectors.

Mr Ayuba Wabba, the NLC President, said this on Friday in Abuja, during the commemoration of the 2020 May Day celebration.

The celebration is with the theme: COVID-19 Pandemic and its Socio-Economic Impact on the Nigerian Working Class.

He said that part of the huge donation could be used in tackling the deficits in both the education and health sectors

”For the first time in a long time, the commemoration of the Workers’ Day will be low key and behind closed doors devoid of the usual pomp and parade that exemplify the ”never-say-never” spirit of the working class.

“This is as a result of the novel Coronavirus  disease (COVID-19) pandemic, which is ravaging several cities and almost every country of the world right now.

“As at today, 210 countries and territories of the world have recorded about three million cases. The world has lost more than 210,000 precious souls to this deadly virus.

“In Nigeria, the deadly fangs of the Coronavirus have not been any less brutal. Over 1,000 Nigerians have been infected with about 40 deaths already recorded,” he said.

He noted that the infection rate in Nigeria could be more than what the official figures present as the country’s health system had struggled with contact tracing and testing for the virus.

He, however, noted that the world would never remain the same again, after the current episode of the Coronavirus challenge.

Wabba then said the COVID-19 had amplified the need to fix the primary healthcare system, adding that there was need to revamp the country’s  secondary and tertiary health institutions.

“We must reconstruct a robust public health emergency system.

“We press that a huge chunk of the donations commendably made by corporate Nigerians on the COVID-19 and debt relief grants, be deployed to tackling the deficits in our education and health sectors.

“We can reverse the trend of oversea medical tourism by matching our highly skilled medical personnel with hi-tech medical machines, procured directly from Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

“We must adequately remunerate and incentivise our education and health personnel.

“We must stop treating labour as a commodity whose entitlements can be withheld or withdrawn at will,” he said.

Wabba further, said that Nigeria must support its entertainment industry which provides a means of livelihood for the teeming mass of her people especially the youth.

”This is the time to wean our collective survival from the uncertain juices of crude oil.

“The diversification of our economy requires very robust investment in modern and enduring infrastructure, if we aspire to build a 21st century economy.

‘We also call for an urgent review of the power privatisation programme.

“We demand a stop to the exploitation of electricity consumers in Nigeria through estimated billing.

“We also call for the expansion and improvement of our existing road network, ports, railways, internal waterways, and our aviation sector,” he said.

Wabba said that Nigeria must invest in her local economy instead of the craze of globe throttling, in the name of looking for investors.

He added that the country must look inwards to encourage local talents, innovations and enterprise.

”We want to see government take the challenge of local innovations seriously.

“This also means that we must adequately fund research. A country that neglects research is a country that has consigned herself to perpetual servitude.

“Nobody would grow our economy for us.

“The reality is that capital mobility would be a lot harder in the next few years, following the COVID-19 pandemic, as richer countries are also struggling to rebuild their own economies,” he stated.

Wabba, however, said that the huge severance payment and pension to political office holders was a form of corruption.

He noted that it was even more disturbing when many of the recipients of these self-sponsored and self-benefitting allowances were state governors who left office with piles of unpaid salaries, gratuity and pension liabilities.

“The truth is that if we tackle official corruption and waste there will be enough funds to pay workers salaries.

The slowdown in the economy will never be accepted as an excuse to owe workers or to lay off workers from their jobs.

The NLC president said that for restarting the Nigerian Economy there was need to understand the public health imperatives for the lockdown in many parts of the country.

“As much as it is important to keep many Nigerians from the Coronavirus, loss of income and the accompanying destitution can also be a pathfinder for numerous other sicknesses and deaths.

”This is the time to play the balancing game. It is gratifying that President Muhammadu Buhari in his last nationwide broadcast on COVID-19, announced an imminent relaxation of the lockdown in the FCT, Ogun and Lagos.

“The truth is that our economy might collapse into prolonged coma if the total lockdown in many parts of our country persists and lockdowns are best effective in the short term.

“In the medium to long term, the human instinct to survive would kick in and restraint might lead to the collapse of law and order, he said.

He, therefore, called for a smart, gradual and evidence-based restarting of the economy.

Wabba explained that to ensure a safe restart, governments should collaborate to build at least one test centre in each state.

“They should also make  efforts at COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, public fumigation, environmental sanitation and robust public health education should be expanded and intensified,” he said.

Edited By: Chinyere Nwachukwu/Donald Ugwu (NAN)

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