SPN SALUTES WORKERS ON MAY DAY
WE WARN THAT RELAXATION OF LOCKDOWN WITHOUT ADEQUATE PLAN FOR MASS TESTING AND REPOSITIONING OF THE HEALTH SECTOR COULD LEAD TO DISASTER
The Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) felicitates with Nigerian workers both in formal and informal sectors on the occasion of this year’s international workers day which has come at a period the world is facing one of the greatest crises in modern history. We especially salute health workers who have been making sacrifices on a daily basis to fight the highly infectious COVID-19.
The depth and the spread of novel coronavirus, which has sickened over three million and claimed about 240,000 lives despite the advancement of medical science and technology, have exposed the weakness of capitalist governments everywhere to prepare for the need of humanity. This is as a result of the long years of neo-liberal capitalist programme which entails among other things the poor funding of healthcare in order to promote private profits at the expense of people’s needs.
In Nigeria, in response to the pandemic, Buhari government ordered the lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun while some state governors also imposed similar lockdown in their states. However, the lockdown was imposed without providing adequate palliatives for the working people who mostly work in the informal sector as artisans, traders, transporters etc or as casuals and precarious workers.
We of the SPN had called for payment of N50, 000 as a special allowance as well as distribution of adequate palliative to every working people household in order to ensure an effective lockdown. This was not done by the government and thereby left the working people with options of choosing between the threat of virus infection and the reality of hunger. We strongly hold that it is possible to impose the lockdown in order to contain the spread of the virus and at the same time provide basic needs for the working people. Buhari and the state governments have been unable to do this because they are anti-poor capitalist governments.
The SPN condemns the decision of the Federal Government to relax lockdown at this stage when the virus is still spreading fast and without an adequate plan for mass testing and repositioning of the health sector. We believe it is a reckless decision and an unacceptable risk of the lives of workers and poor masses.
We strongly hold that an alternative approach should have been to extend the lockdown while ensuring adequate and regular distribution of palliatives including food and cash grant to every household through the trade unions and other democratic organisations and communities. This would have immediately resolved the problem of hunger while also mitigating rising insecurity. With these steps, workers and poor masses would have been more ready to stay at home a little longer until it is safe. The key to ensuring the lockdown is to increase testing, equip the hospitals, recruit more hands, provide adequate palliatives, and ensure improvement in the pay and conditions of health workers and frontline staff.
A possible consequence of this rash decision is that the virus will burn through the population like wildfire, infect many and kill more people. This is an unconscionable risk of human life that we cannot agree with.
As a Party, we insist that the Federal Government’s decision is not based on science. Advisories from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Nigerian Medical Association (NMA) and a host of others warn that there would be heavy consequences for exiting lockdown without flattening the curve. Rather this decision was motivated first, by the shameful inability of the state to make adequate provision for workers and poor masses to be able to stay at home for all the time needed to contain the virus. Consequently, the government feared that a revolt could break out if it should extend the lockdown. Then secondly, this decision was motivated by the desire to satisfy the bosses and businesses. Once again the capitalist state has shown its readiness to sacrifice workers for profit interest. This is no doubt a reckless decision.
We recognise that due to widespread hunger and insecurity caused by the lockdown, many people are glad to be finally freed to move around to fend for themselves. Unfortunately, this could be a recipe for disaster. An exit of the lockdown at this stage is only justifiable if the rate of infection was in decline.
It is unfortunate that the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and trade unions seem to support this tragic decision. The SPN urge the labour movement to withdraw this support and be prepared to lead the working people to compel the government to provide adequate palliatives for the working and poor masses and also ensure mass testing, provide adequate decent isolation and quarantine centres, improve pay and conditions of health workers and reposition the health sector. The labour leadership must also be prepared to defend wages, salaries and safety of workers during and after the pandemic.
The working people must realize that we are in this mess because of profit-first capitalist agenda of the successive governments in Nigeria and the world over. Therefore, as we struggle with demands placed on the government on the best way to contain the virus we must appreciate the need for a mass working people party on a socialist programme that will combine intervening in elections and building a mass movement to overthrow capitalism and form workers and poor government. Such a government will implement socialist planning including nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers control and management in order to use the human and material resources of the society for the benefits of all including free and strong health care system, decent mass housing, free and quality education, employment for all etc. As a step towards such a government, we call on the workers, artisans, the poor masses, and youth to join the SPN and build it.
Once again, we say Happy Workers Day!
Acting National Chairperson