TOP GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS, Nigerian Labour Congress, NLC, said in a statement, Wednesday, should accept responsibility for the spread of coronavirus in the country. Ayuba Wabba, NLC President, described them as “Big Men”, who have failed the country, by their refusal to self-isolate themselves after various trips abroad, in the face of ravaging effects of the pandemic.
On its part, Nigeria’s leading opposition political party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, said it was disturbed by heightening public anxiety over who controls governance machinery in the country, as President Buhari had remained silent since Abba Kyari, his Chief of Staff, who supervises the ministers and other sensitive government officials, has been quarantined, after testing positive to the coronavirus.
Nigerians, along with the NLC and the PDP, are displeased with the uninspiring commitment by the leadership of Nigerian government in handling the coronavirus outbreak in the country, after the Italian index case. Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to the President Buhari, and other “Big Men”, the NLC said, violated self-isolation policy to keep the spread of virus in check.
These “Big Men” have caused panic in the country, and endangering the lives of others, by moving freely and mingling with unsuspecting Nigerians, after foreign trips, instead of self-isolation. The executive engagements by Kyari, after his various trips abroad, is a long list. Many top government officials – including those in the seat of government, cabinet ministers and state governors are on the contacts tracking list of those who had contact with Abba Kyari.
NLC, the umbrella body of trade union in Nigeria, faulted poor contacts tracking of those infected by the virus. It also, faulted the failure of government to enforce the policy of self-isolation, and inadequate facility for on-the-spot checks at ports of entry, as indications that government was not prepared to handle the cases of coronavirus in the country.
Wabba described the increase in number of infected persons in the country as looming tragedy that was avoidable. The failure of government to monitor those who should self-isolate, and subsequent rise in number of people infected with the virus, he said, justified NLC’s earlier call on government to ditch self-isolation policy.
“To compound the situation, elitist syndrome or the Nigerian ‘bigmanism’ has severely impaired our response as some senior government officials refuse to subject themselves for routine test, self-isolation and tracking. These negative attitudes contribute to rising number of COVID-19 infection in Nigeria.
“No doubt, we are not prepared for the avoidable tragedy that looms over us. We do not have requisite infrastructure for diagnosis and treatment on a large scale. If advanced economies are finding it difficult to manage treatment situations with all their infrastructure, the situation can be better imagined with our weak systems and in some cases, non-existing infrastructure and response capabilities.”
With national lockdown becoming inevitable, NLC said workers must not be made to shoulder the burden of the situation. It called for wage protection in the event of closure of factories and work places. “As it is, we foresee a situation where more factories and workplaces will experience closure and reduction in working hours. We insist that workers must not be cannon fodder for these socio-economic fallouts.
“In all of these, we demand job and wage protection. To make this possible, factories and businesses will require fiscal stimulus, financial aids and other macro-economic support incentives at this critical time. For millions of workers in the informal sectors, including our members in the transport, in the markets and all categories of artisans who are involved in involuntary lockdown, we demand cash grant through their associations to enable them cope during this difficult time,” NLC demanded.
NLC called for national lockdown for a reasonable period of time if the level of infection escalated, in line with Section 45 of Nigerian Constitution, which empowered government to limit citizens’ rights in favour of public safety. “We call for broad lockdown of the country. Such large-scale lockdown should be accompanied with appropriate support systems that allow workers who provide essential services to function and in a manner that provides protection and sustenance to them and their families.
“Lockdown must be exercised in a way that guarantees citizens, especially the vulnerable groups, including those without income access to essential goods and services, to meet basic needs. We call on government to urgently invest in mass testing and treatment of established infections with Covid-19. Mass testing at this point is very critical as it will help identify infections long before further transmission,” NLC further stated.
Kola Ologbondiyan, PDP National Publicity Secretary’s statement, said “The PDP is worried that Nigerians are now at a loss regarding who the cabinet ministers and other officials of the Federal Government currently report to, a development that has sparked apprehensions of a collapse of governance command structure at the Federal Executive.
“Already, there is heightened public apprehensions that the development could have been the reason behind the cancellation of Tuesday and Wednesday’s scheduled Federal Government’s briefing on the COVID-19 pandemic thereby denying Nigerians much needed update on issues relating to the coronavirus disease.
“The party notes that Nigerians are distressed that Buhari has remained silent on the spread of COVID-19 and has failed to address the nation since some Presidency officials, as well as some state governors and other high profile officials and individuals reportedly tested positive to the virus.”
And added: “Our party wants President Buhari to note that, what Nigerians expect of him at this point in our history is to end his silence, be visible and take up the challenge of personally leading in governance, particularly in this fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, like other leaders across the globe.”