ABUJA (ILO Press Release) – On Friday, the 1st of May 2020, Nigeria workers under the auspices of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and Trade Union Congress (TUC) celebrated their May Day in a unique way devoid of the usual Eagle’s Square pomp and pageantry. Despite conducting the celebration at its secretariat, the International Labour Organisation sent its solidarity message to the Nigeria Labour Congress on the occasion.
In his goodwill message, the Director of ILO Country Office, Abuja, Mr. Dennis Zulu, commended NLC for the roles it has been playing in supporting the working class and in sensitizing Nigerian citizens, thereby creating awareness on the COVID-19 pandemic. Making reference to the theme of 2020 celebration, “COVID-19 Pandemic and its Socio-Economic Impact on the Nigerian Workers”, Mr Zulu acknowledged that the negative consequences of the outbreak of the COVID-19 on workers both in the formal and informal economy of Nigeria are enormous.
He regretted that the impact of COVID-19 has resulted in the closure of many businesses while major companies, especially those engaged in tourism, mining, construction, banking, and fishery were experiencing a reduction in operations and had significantly scaled down activities. This he said has led to joblessness and reduced income generation among the economically viable groups. While bemoaning the fate of the Informal Sector workers whose sustenance was dependent on daily activities, he added that lockdowns, though necessary, He expressed the commitment of the ILO to continue to support Nigerian workers, especially at this difficult time.
In his speech, the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, congratulated Nigerian workers for another May Day which he said offered an opportunity to speak to issues that affected the welfare and wellbeing of workers and sought solutions to same. He observed that the 2020 May Day was unique, in that for the first time, the commemoration of the Workers’ Day was low-keyed and took place behind closed doors, void of the usual pomp and parade. He attributed the low-key celebration to the novel corona virus disease (Covid-19) pandemic which was ravaging several cities and almost every country of the world.
Regretting the number of human lives lost to the deadly virus across the world, he lamented that the rate of infection in Nigeria could be more than what the official figures presented as our country’s health system has been struggling with contact tracing and testing for the virus. He acknowledged that humanity was passing through another trying time of a “major public health care of fatalistic proportions” after the Spanish flu of 1918 -1920. He stated that the accompanying global lockdown was perhaps the broadest since the end of the Second World War, opining that the world was at war with an invisible biological enemy. He viewed COVID-19 as a deadly enemy that had no respect for borders, race, rules of engagement, and showed no qualms about socio-economic status. He said that humanity was dealing with a foe that desecrated sacred places with impunity, an enemy that could not be forced to a negotiation table or a truce.
Quoting the ILO, Comrade Wabba regretted that COVID-19 social lockdown measures had affected almost 2.7 billion workers worldwide or around 81 per cent of the world’s workforce. He commended all the workers for coopering with governments to fight the pandemic, especially the front-line workers for putting their lives on the line to stem the tide of coved 19 spread and death. He also commended the Federal Government for the insurance cover of those workers.