Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
The Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa (OTUWA) has expressed concern that most countries in West African do not have the resources required to mitigate the excruciating effect of COVID-19 pandemic.
He said the sub-region was faced with chronic lack of resources to reflate its public service at a time of a pandemic like the type direct cash transfers that was being done in developed countries.
OTAWA President, Mr. Mademba Sock, said this at the opening session of a two-day sub-regional workshop on: ‘COVID-19 and Post Lockdown Socio-Economic Recovery in West Africa,’ in Abuja, yesterday.
”We have seen how billions of dollars have been deployed by the developed western nations to buy up and stockpile hundreds of millions of vaccines against COVID-19.
”This leaves hundreds of millions of people from the developing nations with virtually none of these vaccines.
”Not only are these vaccines not available for our people, they are also expensive and our government have largely depended on hand outs from donations into a central pool called Covax Initiative,” he said.
He said the workshop would review efforts being made across the sub-region by ECOWAS and individual national government to make the vaccine available to tens of millions of ECOWAS citizens.
He also said the workshop would review the economic measures being put in place by the various government in the sub-region to stimulate investment in the economics of countries in large, small and medium size enterprises.
Also, International Labour Organisation (ILO), Country Director for Nigeria, Ms. Vanessa Phala, noted that COVID-19 had wrecked unprecedented havoc to health, economic and social life in almost all countries of the world, including the rich industrialised countries.
Phala said there was a need for strong tripartite respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and its related impact on the world of work which is the Global Call adopted by the ILO.
”The Global call which underlines the need for supporting a human-centred recovery. It also highlights the policies that are needed to shape a global response to the pandemic that is inclusive, sustainable and resilient.
”It calls for international Cooperation and urgent solidarity to roll out vaccines and provide adequate financial support, including debt relief, to counter the employment impact of crisis and strengthen social protection,” she said.
Phala therefore called on policymakers to strive to support a recovery that is robust and broad-based, focusing on employment, income, workers’ rights and social dialogue.
She added that policymakers need to consider among other issues, policies for ensuring that hard-hit groups (notably young people, women, the low-paid and low-skilled workers) are supported in finding decent work opportunities and that they do not suffer any long-term “scarring effects”.
“It is the role of OTUWA and affiliates to ensure that recovery strategies are based on social dialogue, that promote a transition to a more inclusive, resilient and sustainable world of work,” she said.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean Kasi Brou, who was represented by Prof. Stanley Okoro, said the body was in discussion with the African Development Bank so that they both organisations would partner in supporting local manufacturer of vaccines.
On his part, President, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC)
Mr. Ayuba Wabba, stressed the need for government to invest heavily on protecting jobs, providing effective and efficient healthcare due to the contrary situation of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wabba who was represented by its Head of Information by Mr. Benson Upah, urged governments and organised private sector to explore strategic partnership options to revive ailing companies to restore jobs and preserve common heritage.
“We call on the appropriate governments at all levels to reduce corruption in the system and cost of governance. We cannot pretend that things are still what they used to be.
“Nonetheless, we find it necessary to say that time has come for people in the sub region to take more seriously issues of governance and accountability in democracies.
”We are not armchair critics, either are we agents of doom. We did make our modest contributions during the COVID lockdown, and even till this afternoon.
“We had a robust advocacy campaign on the dangers of COVID virus, the dangers of COVID virus to the economy and how to preserve jobs during COVID lockdown and its aftermath, “he said.