NLC, TUC, Others Unite for the Poor

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Peter Uzoho

A coalition of labour movements including, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and over 70 civil society groups have launched a new group to campaign for the protection of the interests of workers and the vulnerable poor against the far-reaching economic and socio-cultural impact of COVID-19 in Nigeria.

The new coalition referred to as ‘Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB)’, launched yesterday ahead of the historic Friday, May 1 Workers Day, has elected human rights lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, (SAN) as its interim chairman.

Other interim officers include, Deputy Chairman, Ms. Hauwa Mustapha; Secretary, Mr. Ade Atambi; and Publicity Secretary, Mr. Adewale Adeoye.

The group in a statement signed by its Publicity Secretary, Adeoye, said the coalition has an extensive network of participating organisations drawn from across Nigeria’s six-geo political zones.

Some of the affiliate members, according to the statement, are the NLC, TUC, United Action for Democracy, (UAD) Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre, (WARD-C), Journalists for Democratic Rights, (JODER), Air Transport Services Senior Staff Association Of Nigeria, Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Services Technical And Recreational Services Employees (AUPCTRE), Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), Bayelsa, COPEAIDS Foundation, and Committee for the Defence of Human Rights, (CDHR), among many
others.

“COVID-19 is taking a high toll on the beliefs, culture and economy of Nigerians. It is a threat to every household. The working class and the poor will suffer most. The State and Federal Governments’ responses to COVID-19 show the lack of the least preparation for any pandemic in Nigeria. It has exposed the weaknesses and ineptitude of the ruling class. It shows they have no strategic response to an affliction of the COVID-19 magnitude”, ASCAB said.

ASCAB bemoaned the fact that COVID-19 was turning the world upside down and that responses from the corrupt elite was for a lockdown until the virus went away without a short and long term strategic plan.

It added that authorities in Nigeria had failed to link the spread of the pandemic to failure of an effective public health system, the absence of social security and health insurance for the masses, while governments had no preference for provision of the essentials of life like housing and food security.

The group condemned a regime of policies driven by investments in consumables rather than production, saying, COVID-19 has exposed the vulnerability of Nigerians to communicable diseases and has demonstrated the complete lack of creativity on the part of leadership.

It warned of the consequences of neglecting indigenous alternative medicine by public health administrators, pointing out that there were 72, 000 doctors registered with the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria (MDCN) but more than half of the population had been compelled to flee the country for overseas.