COVID-19: Labour calls for de-contamination of aircrafts, airports

*Wants establishment of testing centres in all senatorial distficts
*Decentralization, community based contact tracing, isolation, treatment centers
*Emphasizes on gradual, evidence led relaxation of lockdown

COVID-19: Labour calls for de-contamination of aircrafts, airports

THE Organized Labour and Civil Society Organizations have called for adequate de-contamination of aircrafts and airports during and after the current lockdown of normal flight operations in order to safeguard the health of airport workers and users;

They also called for the establishment of testing centers in every senatorial district of the country and community mobilization and enforcement.

These among others were the outcome of the Labour-Civil Society Situation Room on Covid-19 comprising representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the Trade Union Congress, TUC, affiliate unions in the frontline of the Covid-19 challenge, civil society organizations and professional groups meeting at the Labour House, Abuja.

In a statement on Monday jointly signed by the NLC President, Ayuba Wabba, who chaired the meeting and the TUC President, Quadri Olaleye, they also called for a community based and decentralized contact tracing, testing, isolation and treatment.

The meeting emphasized the need for sector specific, gradual, and evidence led relaxation of the lockdown in different states of Nigeria.

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The Situation Room according to the statement discussed a broad range of issues pertaining to the management of the Covid-19 pandemic in Nigeria particularly the fallout of the recent relaxation of the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States.

The meeting made observations on emerging trends, situated workers’ concerns and gave recommendations to identified challenges in the Covid-19 fight.

Lockdown Relaxation 

The Labour-Civil Society Situation Room welcomed the relaxation of the lockdown in some parts of the country, but observed that the relaxation of the lockdown in the Federal Capital Territory, Lagos and Ogun States brought about some challenges and concerns which could be quickly addressed and fixed.

It said that, “The failure to phase the lockdown relaxation by sectors and the absence of sector specific guidelines on the lockdown relaxation have led to overcrowding of people at public places such as banks and markets.

“It was also observed that public health guidelines with regard to social distancing and the use of face masks were observed largely in the breach owing to widespread failure in enforcement and individuals not taking responsibility.

“The Situation Room observed the absence of uniform strategy and response among states and a mix of conflicting responses between the Federal Government and the sub-national governments.

“The situation has frustrated a streamlined and cohesive approach to public health response to the Covid-19 pandemic thus expanding the risk of exposure and deepening vulnerability of the general population to Covid-19.”

It said despite the increase in the number of testing opportunities which was commendable, there were still shortfalls as the number of testing centres and kits for Covid-19 in Nigeria remains inadequate for the population.

On COVID-19 development and deportation of Almajiri children

It said that the 22492 people that have been so far tested still lags behind when compared with that of other African countries;

Besides, the statement noted that the number of infected health workers in Nigeria was on the rise, alleging that currently, there were about 300 health workers exposed or infected with Covid-19.

“This is due to the dearth of personal protective equipment, absence of specialized and continuous training on effective management of Covid-19 and support systems failure,” It said.

It further stated that the challenge of salary payment in FCT including the withholding of statutory deductions by the Administration was antithetical to the Covid-19 fight.

Other worrisome developers were” the increasing cases of patients’ unrests and escape from Covid-19 isolation centers as a result of poor treatment and facilities. This trend is a major public health danger for the wider population;

“The emergence of Kano State as a new epicenter of the Covid-19 infection in the northern part of Nigeria. The Situation Room observed that the status of Kano as a major commercial nerve centre and the poor handling of Almajiri children have worsened the epidemiology of the Covid-19 pandemic in Kano State;

“The deportation of Almajiri children across many states in Nigeria has given rise to active mobility of the Covid-19 cases. The failure to address and resolve the Almajiri question within the broader context of Nigeria’s “out-of-school-children” crisis has been severely exposed by the Covid-19 pandemic;

“The dearth of de-contamination efforts and facilities at the major international airports operational during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Situation Room observes that the failure to fumigate aircrafts and airport terminals exposes airport workers and users to Covid19 infection; and

“The paucity of public health education and mass community mobilization on Covid-19 in many parts of Nigeria especially in rural places is a major challenge as many Nigerians still doubt the reality of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Job losses, salary cut

While appreciating the prompt intervention of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, they noted that there has been an upsurge in job losses and salary cuts across different sectors of the Nigerian economy in the wake of the Covid-19 challenge and associated lockdown;

The statement noted, “There are concerns on the resilience of the Nigerian economy to the shock of the global economic crisis consequent on Covid-19.

“The Situation Room identified specific concerns with regard to external borrowing, internal borrowing, Nigeria’s external reserves, trade balance, management of the downstream petroleum sub sector especially the state of Nigeria’s national oil refineries, diversification of the economy, increase in energy costs and the hike in the prices of public utilities;

“Looming Crisis of Food Insecurity essentially owing to the restriction in the free movement of foodstuff across various checkpoints in the country contrary to the clear directives of Mr. President.

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“The Situation Room observed that this unsavoury development is occasioned by the overzealousness and corrupt tendencies of security personnel at the various checkpoints.

“Lack of proactive response and synergy in the approach of subnational governments to the present economic challenges consequent on Covid-19.

Recommendations and Demands of Public Health Concerns

“We emphasize the need for sector specific, gradual, and evidence led relaxation of the lockdown in different states of Nigeria.

“This is in order to avoid overcrowding in public places with the attendant risk of worsening the Covid-19 incidence. We also call for synergy between the Federal Government and the states;

“We reiterate the call for the prioritization of adequate supply of personal protective equipment for health workers at all level of healthcare delivery; we call for specialized and continuous training of health workers on Covid-19 management.;

“We call for special Isolation Centres for infected health care workers and standardization of all isolation and treatment centres in Nigeria. Proper equipping of Isolation Centres will correct their public perception as detention centers.

“It will also improve recovery rate, boost confidence of health workers and also make available more professional hands to fight the Covid-19 challenge.

“The rash of conflicting responses and approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic by state governments should be addressed. We call on the Nigeria Governors Forum to issue a set of overarching guidelines on issues of common interest to states while allowing individual states to deal with peculiar nuances that affect them;

“We call on the Kano State Government to take the current wave of infection in the state more seriously. We call for very proactive measures by Kano State Government including strict enforcement of total lockdown of the state, deployment of robust public health education, provision of adequate personnel and equipment for rapid contact tracing, testing and treatment of Covid-19 cases.

“We also call on the Federal Government to mobilize additional support to Kano State and other states in similar situations;

“We call for adequate de-contamination of aircrafts and airports during and after the current lockdown of normal flight operations in order to safeguard the health of airport workers and users;

“We call for a community based and decentralized contact tracing, testing, isolation and treatment. This should be prioritized as a major public health policy response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Furthermore, we call for more testing facilities and kits across the country. As a matter of national health emergency, testing centers should be established in every senatorial district of the country complete with community mobilization and enforcement;

“The Situation Room calls for improvement in Public Health Education through community participation and ownership.

“We call for immediate action at the ward and unit grassroots level under the
supervision of a committee of local government officials, traditional rulers, religious and civil society leaders, to educate our people on the reality, dangers and public health guidelines on Covid-19.”

The Situation Room demanded a permanent fix to the Alamjiri issue by concerned states; and the FCT administration to quickly address the challenge of salary payment in the FCT brought about by IPPIS.

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On how to mitigate the socio-economic impact –stimulus package, it called on employers of labour to stop the massive layoff of workers and cut in salaries.

“We demand that the economic stimulus package by government target employers who have demonstrated iron-clad commitment to keep jobs, retain existing salaries and expand production;

“This is the time to re-think our economic strategy. We posit that the current economic crisis which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic is as a result of gross mismanagement of the Nigerian economy by successive governments.

“The continuous importation of refined petroleum products as a result of the neglect of our oil refineries, perennial distortions in our trade balance, huge patronage of foreign goods and services including medical tourism especially by public officials, dearth of a national development blueprint and appetite and widespread official corruption has brought us to this cauldron.”

It said that an urgent surgical socio-economic paradigm shift was the panacea to navigate out of the mess.

“In line with our call for a paradigm shift in the management of our resources and the economy, we re-echo our earlier calls for an urgent national conversation for an immediate resuscitation of our four comatose national oil refineries.

“We also insist that Nigerians are not ready to bear yet again further costs of the clear ineptitude, policy failures and outright corruption of public officials whether in the petroleum sector or with regard to the so called cost reflective adjustment of electricity tariff;

“We call for strategic action and synergy by the federal and subnational governments on a scale of immediate, short term and long-term responses to the fallout of the Covid-19 challenge;

“Given that our country is almost at the limits of sustainable loan financing and the fact that we are almost at the same level before the debt reprieve from the Paris Club creditors in October 2005, we call for a cap on external and internal borrowing by different tiers of government,” it said.

It contended that the bill on the Control of Infectious Diseases being currently considered by the two chambers of the National Assembly was unnecessary distraction at this time of national health emergency.

“We demand that the bill should not in any way encroach on the fundamental rights of workers and citizens. We are also ready to engage with the bill when it comes up for public hearing, and

“We call on all security operatives at different checkpoints to respect and adhere to the directives of Mr. President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces who had ordered the free movement of foodstuff across the country.

“This is very critical to avoid a worse pandemic than Covid-19. Certainly, we do not want to start dealing with “Hunger-20.”

It said that the Covid-19 challenge has further brought to the fore the need for credible data more than ever before.

“We call for the empowering of the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) with a fresh mandate to capture every Nigerian with all the relevant demographic information within the next two years.”



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