Former vice president and 2019 presidential candidate of Nigeria opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Atiku Abubakar has called for greater understanding between government and Labour as the country battles to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
Atiku made the call in his message to celebrate the 2020 Workers’ Day.
He said the outbreak of this pandemic had vindicated organised Labour’s long-time agitation for improved investments in the country’s healthcare service system.
“There is no doubt that when the world comes out of this depressing anguish, governments will look around and see the absolute necessity to increase spending on healthcare, human capital development, better standard of living for the people and all those other topical issues that Labour has long called our attention toward.
“We are all witnesses to the reality today that governments across the world have fallen short of the requirement to keep people safe and healthy if there is a sudden and unexpected shock.
“For a developing country like ours, this is a moment of truth – a time for us to look inwards and accept that the strength of our national security is intrinsically connected to how virile our workforce is.
“That is a lesson that we must be ready to learn from this pandemic. That no matter what, we are all exposed to the same dangers when the time is dire” Atiku said.
He added that no one ever envisaged that the global economy could afford to shut down for several weeks with heavy consequences on businesses both public and private sectors, adding that workers were the greater casualties of the current lockdowns.
Atiku also acknowledged reports about how companies and corporations were laying off staff members and cutting wages and urged the National Assembly to forbid any employer of Labour from penalizing workers in the effect of the pandemic.
“Even many state governments in Nigeria could not pay monthly dues to workers who, even before the lockdown, lived on subsistent means, while some others are slashing workers’ salary on account of the COVID-19 situation.
“This is a grossly irresponsible thing to do. It will be wrong of us as a society to say that the weakest of us, should bear the pain of this affliction.
“The reverse should be the case. It will not be asking for too much to urge the National Assembly to forbid any employer of Labour from penalizing workers in the effect of the pandemic.
“The grim reality of the situation that we are in today calls for greater understanding between government and Labour. It is therefore time that both entities saw each other as partners in progress,” he said.
He joined many across the world “in solidarity with the Nigerian workers in particular who have been making great sacrifices to keep our frontiers firm.”
“I want to however take solace in the can-do Nigerian spirit. We shall not give up. We shall not give in. It will take more than COVID-19 and the consequential lockdown to knock us down.
“It will not be easy, but standing united, we can rebuild our country because it is the place we call home,” Atiku said.