By Peter Uzoho
The Alliance for Surviving COVID-19 and Beyond (ASCAB), a labour and civil society coalition, led by human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, has provided a roadmap that can help the federal government to pull Nigeria’s economy back to life amid COVID-19 hardship.
The group also cautioned the federal and state governments as well as the private sector not to use budget cuts as an excuse to sack their workers in this difficult time.
The coalition, made up of over 70 civil society organisations, in a statement issued by its Publicity Secretary, Adewale Adeoye, listed steps the government could take to ensure the economy and worker’s interests are protected.
According to him, “The government and the private sector must resist an easy recourse to job cuts and reduction of public spending on social services, especially healthcare services.”
The coalition said one of the challenges the federal government must decisively confront at this time was how to significantly increase or double public spending not only on healthcare services but also on public sanitation, water supply and public education.
“Increased spending on public education would allow decongestion of overcrowded classrooms by employing more teachers and urgently building more classrooms before children resume school.
“Doubling public expenditure in these areas will bridge huge gaps in service provision in these critical areas which are important for the early containment of COVID-19,” ASCAB said.
Other measures, according to the statement, include “funding for personal protective equipment (PPE) and adequate compensation for healthcare professionals in the frontline of COVID-19 care and treatment; intensified massive testing and building more well-equipped isolation centres with adequate provision for the care of those in isolation; a separate stimulus package for the informal sector through their cooperatives and organisations to boost local economies having been excluded from the CBN N50billion grant due to conditionality.”
The group also called for rapid provision of water and sanitation services, adding that states can be directly supported to provide both temporary and more permanent water supply technologies in communities and public places.