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Experts seek artisans’ inclusion in FG’s COVID-19 palliatives

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As the Federal Government intensify fight against the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19), with the extension of the lock down to two weeks, professionals in the built environment have called for the extension of government announced palliatives to artisans.

These daily paid artisans comprising plumbers, masons, carpenters, electrician and other ancillary workers form the critical mass of the labour force in the built environment, which are one of the worst hit businesses by the pandemic.

With the disruption of their daily income in Lagos, FCT Abuja and Ogun state, where the presidential directive for lockdown are more effective, the artisans are limbo because of the nature of their income.

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Left without money and food to cater for their families, many whom could not even travel because of the lockdown have turned to beggars without any hope in sight.

Although, various Governments have announced several palliatives for certain cadre of the society, artisans, mainly young people are often left out of these reliefs thereby heightening security fears.

In some areas like Abuja, there are reports of protest by Nigerians who are daily income earners.

But professionals in the built environment want the Federal and State Government to capture artisans in the palliative including food and money to enable them cope with the lockdown over Coronavirus pandemic.
Since the lockdown, many of them have not been allowed to work and are finding it difficult to feed their families.

This, experts said, will help in addressing the needs of artisans and help achieve the objective of the lockdown.

According to the president, Nigerian Institute of Estate Surveyors and Valuers (NIESV), Roland Abonta, artisans are part of the groups most affected by the lockdown and therefore should be included in the palliatives.

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Also, former president, Nigerian Institute of Architects, Tonye Braide, said there is need to capture artisans because most of them earn money on daily basis.

According to him, although, they do not all work 25 days per month but on average, they are busy on a minimum of 15-18 days.

“A 28 day lock down is like taking 60 days from their lives. The palliatives could be tied on credit and could use two months to repay.

Braide stressed that if artisans are registered in guilds and come under the tax umbrella, it will be easy to give them palliatives. But when there is no database where do you start?

“The Great Fire of London brought about an organized private artisanship particularly in carpentry. Before this event masons were organized in guilds and you just could not stand up and declare to be an artisan. There are unions and palliatives can be shared through the artisan associations”, he added.

On the issue of organisation, an artisan and Chairman, Lagos State Plumber Association, Mr. Shina Ogunkoya, said, artisans are one of the most organized groups in the country and should benefit from the palliatives because of the nature of their works.

”We heard from the media that the government is sharing money to poor people in other parts of the country but we have not received anything here in Lagos,” he lamented.

According to him, because of the lockdown, artisans have continue to struggle without work in the past 14 days and need to be captured to ease their challenges.

“ During the last exercise, we did not benefit, we are without works, no business the shops are locked, if there is any palliatives, we should be captured”, he said.

Ogunkoya said artisans are well organized because their data is ministry for wealth creation.

“ They know how to reach us. Last time, we were invited to Ministry of Agriculture, Oko oba for government palliatives, about 27 associations, were there, after some shoddy jobs; they said they have settled all.

“ That was wrong. We did not benefit any thing. What they did was to give some to the aged, which is just about two per cent of the population. We are praying that they remember us during this period”, he added.

For the Lagos State chairman of Nigeria Institute of Builders, (NIOB), Wusu Sunday, there is need for artisans as members of the society to benefit from the palliatives.
He however urged government to imbibe the use of direct disbursement of palliatives through vouchers or payment through the banks.

Sunday also said the payment should be community focused and not through associations as some can outsmart others.

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“Artisans should be captured, capturing them from their areas and community and not from associations to avoid the duplication of efforts”, he added.

Also, the president of Architects Registration Council of Nigeria (ARCON), Sir Dipo Ajayi said, it is important to include artisans in whatever palliatives government is bringing on board to cushion the effect of the lockdown.

Ajayi, who was recently appointed as a member of Ekiti States COVID-19 resource committee, pledged to incorporate artisans, daily paid workers and casual workers to benefit from the fund.

He however said, they will naturally need to register somehow.

The ARCON president said, he will be leading the team to appeal to the high net worth individual in his state and country to donate in kind or cash to the fund.

This, he said, will cover food, isolation centres, equipment in the already existing hospitals and general hygiene of the state.

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