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COVID-19 Job Losses: FG, Private Sector Must Take Steps To Protect Livelihoods

The Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED) is seriously concerned about the continued haemorrhage in the national economy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and what appears to be the absence of a clear strategy to preserve the livelihoods of citizens. Given the effect of the pandemic in terms of job losses, it is essential for the government, and employers in the private sector to be humane and compassionate at this challenging time. This is not the time for the employers of labour, particularly government, and the private sector to rashly cut jobs, and sack workers without due consideration for the hardships, and the untold sufferings millions of families would have to go through. This is the time for policymakers, and captains of industries to think outside the box bearing in mind that people are passing through one of the most trying times ever experienced.

In this regard, therefore, CHRICED condemns the haste and lack of consideration with which some businesses have been throwing their workers into the wilderness of unemployment. A prime example is Access Bank Nigeria PLC, which reportedly made known its readiness to go ahead and sack 75% of its workforce while slashing the salaries of others right in the middle of the pandemic. Ironically, this is the same bank that recently posted N211 billion earnings and N45 billion profit in the first quarter (January – March 2020). Disappointedly, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar who has been very vocal in pontificating about how to make the Nigerian economy work is leading the bandwagon of inconsiderate sackings with the shedding of jobs both at Gotel TV, and the American University of Nigeria, which has reportedly sacked 400 members of its workforce. For all his posturing on the economy, placed side by side with his inability to implement ideas, which would save jobs, it means if the former Vice President had found himself in power as president, he would have at the slightest pretext sent many Nigerians to unemployment market.

While it is understandable that the times are precarious economically, it is also crucial for all employers to use this moment to put people ahead of profits, especially as this is a pandemic no one prepared for. It is similarly critical for organized Labour to end its current armchair activism, and mobilize workers across the country to defend their rights. The working-class people of this country did not cause the pandemic. We, therefore, see no reason why it is the workers, whose sweat builds the wealth of the nation, including the ones being looted, would be thrown under the bus, and left to bear the brunt of a pandemic which was not their making. CHRICED, therefore, calls for an end to arbitrary sackings right in the middle of this pandemic. We believe what should be done is to think of creative ways to preserve existing jobs, and even create new ones to tackle the enormous problem of unemployment, which the country has always faced.
Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

Comrade Dr. Ibrahim M. Zikirullahi
Executive Director

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