Since December last year when the novel coronavirus reared its ugly head in China, it has expanded to nearly every corner of the world.
Nigeria has not been spared of this scourge. From our incident case in February, the plague has spread to 33 states and the FCT with 1,728 confirmed cases and 51 deaths, according to information from NCDC as at April 29. The good news however is that thanks to our heroic healthcare workers, 307 persons were successfully treated and discharged. One of those is my son, Mohammed. I remain eternally grateful to the medical personnel for their services.
Sadly while we had to embark on lockdown to stem the spread of the virus, what was left of the hemorrhaging global economy took a bruising. In the aftermath of that, jobs both formal and informal, were the first casualties of this invisible and virulent enemy.
Because this year’s Workers Day is coming at a time when we are in the middle of a ravaging health pandemic, I believe it is more appropriate to use the opportunity to express my utmost gratitude to our health workers who have been leading the battle to contain the spread of the deadly Corona Virus in our country. We cannot thank you enough.
The outbreak of this pandemic however has vindicated organised Labour’s long time agitation for improved investments in our healthcare service system. There is no doubt that when the world comes out of this depressing anguish, governments will look around and see the absolute necessity to increase spending on healthcare, human capital development, better standard of living for the people and all those other topical issues that Labour has long called our attention toward.
We are all witnesses to the reality today that governments across the world have fallen short of the requirement to keep people safe and healthy if there is a sudden and unexpected shock. For a developing country like ours, this is a moment of truth – a time for us to look inwards and accept that the strength of our national security is intrinsically connected to how virile our workforce is. That is a lesson that we must be ready to learn from this pandemic. That no matter what, we are all exposed to the same dangers when the time is dire.
No one ever envisaged that the global economy could afford to shutdown for several weeks with heavy consequences on businesses – both public and private sector.
But even the greater casualties of the current lockdowns are the workers. There are abundant reports about how companies and corporations are laying off staff and cutting wages. Even many state governments in Nigeria could not pay monthly dues to workers who, even before the lockdown, lived on subsistent means, while some others are slashing workers’ salary on account of the Covid19 situation.
This is a grossly irresponsible thing to do. It will be wrong of us as a society to say that the weakest of us, should bear the pain of this affliction. The reverse should be the case. It will not be asking for too much to urge the National Assembly to forbid any employer of Labour from penalizing workers in the effect of the pandemic.
The grim reality of the situation that we are in today calls for greater understanding between government and Labour. It is therefore time that both entities saw each other as partners in progress.
On the occasion of this year’s Workers Day, I join many across the world in solidarity with the Nigerian workers in particular who have been making great sacrifices to keep our frontiers firm.
I want to however take solace in the can-do Nigerian spirit. We shall not give up. We shall not give in. It will take more than Covid19 and the consequential lockdown to knock us down. It will not be easy, but standing united, we can rebuild our country because it is the place we call home.