The ravaging coronavirus has pushed 27 million Nigerians into abject poverty since the outbreak of the virus early last year.
Speaking at the National Executive Council (NEC) meeting of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) in Abuja, President of Congress, Ayuba Wabba, added that the pandemic also led to a 14% increase in poverty headcount rate in Nigeria.
“About 27 million Nigerians fell headlong into poverty as a result of COVID-19,” he stated.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) said about 225 million full-time equivalent working hours were wiped off globally in 2020 due to the virus. In all, ILO said 114 million jobs were lost temporarily while a further 33 million jobs were lost permanently.
NLC advised workers to be vigilant as vaccines begin to emerge to confront the damaging effects of the virus.
While calling for the democratisation of vaccines worldwide, NLC observed that nowhere is safe in the world if every nation is not safe from the pandemic.
The Congress noted: “I also wish to challenge the Nigerian government and governments of other African countries to rise to the challenge of research and innovation. Our failure to develop a novel corona vaccine does not speak well of us.”
Away from the COVID-19 pandemic, Wabba too swiped at some state governors who have declined to implement the minimum wage which was passed into law in April 2019.
The Congress said: “Unfortunately, the worst violators of the national minimum wage law are employers in the public sector especially State Governors. There is no begging anyone to comply with the provisions of the law.”
As a way out of the flagrant disobedience to the law, NLC called for the provision of special penalties against public sector employers who violate the national minimum wage law.
While tacitly accepting the inevitability of hardship on the hapless Nigerian workers, NLC noted that the gradual upward movement in the price of crude oil in the international market presents bitter-sweet expectations to Nigeria.
Wabba called on workers to brace up for a long battle with the government over the possible increment in the price of petroleum products and other socio-economic hardships that are imminent.
His words: “Our resistance against the subjection of our people to chains of hardship and suffering will be a long one. It is a marathon. We must be ready to give it our best shot. Our position has never changed. We insist that the resuscitation of our refineries and the overhauling of the entire value chain in our downstream petroleum sub-sector are the only sustainable ways to halt the embarrassing mass importation of refined petroleum products into Nigeria and the high price volatility that comes with it.”
Wabba hinted about the possibility of participating of labour movement in the political activities of the country, saying, NLC would either move to recover and reposition the Labour Party or form a new Workers Party that would serve as the political vehicle for the mass of Nigerian workers and millions of downtrodden Nigerians who are desperately in need of true change.