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Labour canvasses interventions for vulnerable groups

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Organised labour has stressed the need for the three tiers of government to design intervention packages to help vulnerable groups escape hardship during the shutdown.

Immediate past General Secretary of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson, said it was important for public and private sector employers of labour not to rush to withhold salaries or sack workers, insisting that the emphasis must be to sustain a long-term view and keep their workforce.

“For those in the informal sector, government must come up with interventions that will provide some assistance. The challenge is that the country does not have reliable data or database that can be used to target those people.

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“But even with those challenges, part of what government must work out is how to reach the most vulnerable people.”

Urging government to reach those in the informal sector through their trade associations and organisations, he said, “Those people have market associations through which government used such platforms to tax them.

“If government has been targeting them for taxation, it means government knows them. Therefore, government should identify with them in a time like this and support them. I think we need to find a creative way to support such people.

“Overall, something need to be done urgently for these people. This is not limited to the Federal Government, but the states and local governments as well in order to get to the grassroots level. Everyone must get involved in this,” he stated.

On his part, a former President of Trade Union Congress (TUC), Peter Esele said government should now focus on the informal sector to achieve an inclusive assistance to every segment of the Nigerian society.

With data proving challenging, Esele explained that tax payment register could be used to reach the informal sector, saying, “I believe government across board should bring out their tax payroll and anybody found to have evidence of tax payments, whether in the formal or informal sector, should get grants.

“This is the time for government to show those businesses or people that they are there for them. When government needed money to run its programmes, they contributed money to make that happen, and now that they need help, government should be there to show empathy and support.

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“This kind of interventions will do two things. First, it will show that government is responsive to the yearnings of the people and secondly, it will encourage more people to pay taxes voluntarily. They are assured that when it is sunny, government collect money from them and when it is raining government is there to provide financial assistance to the people.”

Speaking, President of NLC, Ayuba Wabba, cautioned that as more shutdowns of critical sectors of the economy seem imminent, workers should not be made cannon fodders for the 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 grants through their associations to enable them cope during this difficult time,” he said.

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