The Nigerian federal government ordered the lockdown of Lagos, Abuja and Ogun State as a measure to contain the spread of coronavirus, with effect from March 31, 2020. Lagos is the epicentre of covid-19 in Nigeria, followed by Abuja. There was also a lockdown order in Osun State, which was declared by the state government.
However, as it is characteristic of anti-poor capitalist governments, especially in a neo-colonial economy like Nigeria, the lockdown was imposed without making any serious provision to help the ordinary people survive the period.
The majority of the working people have to labour in the vast informal sector of the economy as artisans, traders and transporters, as well as casuals and precarious workers in factories or private businesses. These categories of working people cannot earn living during the lockdown.
Where limited relief materials were provided, they were stolen and diverted by pro-capitalist politicians in the ruling party-the APC.
We first intervened in this situation with a poster of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) which was produced on 2 April. The poster contains proposals on the relief for the working people, as well as on allowance and safety measures for health workers.
Specifically, we call for payment of N50, 000 ($116) relief allowance to workers and the poor and N100, 000 ($232) hazard allowance, life insurance and safety gear for health workers in the frontline. These are in tandem with a list of other demands we call on the working people and trade unions to fight for or support in order to defend their interest both in the immediate term during the lockdown and also in a long term.
Due to the lockdown, we could not circulate the posters to every community that our comrades reside in Lagos and Ogun. We were only able to post it on walls in Agege, Agbado and Alimosho areas of Lagos, and Ifo, in Ogun State. Some of the people who saw the poster called to inquire about the demands and how to fight for them.
In order for these demands to get to trade unions and a wider audience, we developed them into a document we call “Alternative Action Plan for Lockdown” which was sent to trade union leaders at both national and state levels, and issued as a press statement and circulated widely on social media. We were able to discuss the document with some labour leaders.
With the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN) we held a discussion online on covid-19 vis-à-vis the failure of capitalism and our alternative program for containment of the virus. Eighty-seven people participated in the discussion. The discussion was replicated at the state level in Lagos and Osun.
As a result of the lockdown and general restriction of movement, practical activities have been very limited. Nonetheless, in addition to the poster, we have produced and circulated leaflet in Ifo state, and Ibadan, while we regularly issue press statements and circulate our demands on social media.
Following the outbreak of violence and looting by some gangs of youths in some communities in Lagos and Ogun as a result of the lockdown, some comrades are involved in vigilante activities in their communities. This development has provided an opportunity to reach out to the community people with our demands and an alternative socialist programme.
The struggle for effective containment of Covid-19 in Oyo State
It was another successful intervention again on Saturday 25th, April 2020 within and around Mokola Roundabout, Ibadan. After a brief meeting with Eleven(11) comrades, including new members, in attendance, the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Right (CDWR), Oyo State Chapter, continued its public campaign on the list of demands that trade unions and the public must continue to place on the Makinde-led government towards an effective containment against the ravaging coronavirus.
Amidst the growing mass anger against leadership misrepresentation that is constantly bedevilling the Oyo state people, especially with the window-dressing approach the State Government is employing in combating the virus, the ordinary people still took time with us. They expressed how they are being ignored and denied palliatives by both the State and Federal Government.
The public audience and acceptance which we gained through patience and friendly gesture, afforded us the opportunity to further explain to them our aims and objectives as an organization. More than a thousand copies of leaflets in English and Yoruba were circulated.
The intervention will be continued on the 1st of May, 2020, at the Challenge area of Ibadan, Oyo State.
Below is the leaflet text:
FOR EFFECTIVE CONTAINMENT OF COVID-19 SPREAD IN OYO STATE, HERE ARE THE DEMANDS WE MUST FIGHT FOR AS A PEOPLE FOR ADEQUATE PROTECTION AND DEFENCE OF OUR INTERESTS:
(1) A lockdown of the state for 14 days in the first instance with a prior provision of financial support of N50,000 for every household and supply of food items in order to guarantee effective compliance without repression or police brutality.
(2) Payment of N100, 000 hazard allowance, provision of life insurance and safety gear for all the health care professionals and other workers on the frontline.
(3) Distribution of relief materials, including the provision of free face masks, hand sanitizers and clean water for the people must be done through democratic committees that will include representatives of workers, youths, students, community including the media but not corrupt politicians and their agents.
(4) All donations of funds and relief materials must be subjected to public accountability such that Labour, health workers, and youth and religious organizations will be part of the control and management.
(5) For mass non-discriminatory testing.
(6) No to arbitrary arrest and assault by police, soldiers and security operatives.
(7) No to increases in electricity bill, now or later.
(8) All sectors responsible for the provision of social services like education, health care must be publicly owned and adequately funded under workers and poor people democratic control such that it can be accessible to all Nigerians regardless of the economic status.
(9) The Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, and United Labour Congress, must be ready to defend job and pay security.
(10) All key sectors of the economy and institutions must be subjected to public ownership under democratic control and management of the elected representatives of workers and the poor.
WHAT WE MUST DO TO ENSURE DEMANDS ARE MET:
(1) Form an Action Committee in your community or workplace to enforce effective compliance with safety rules and stage walkout or strike where necessary to press for our demands.
(2) For the self-organization of the working masses and youths to check unjustifiable price increases and ensure that all relief materials are distributed without any forms of discrimination.
(3) Organize yourself in your community or workplace to join and help build a mass working masses’ party like Socialist Party of Nigeria, SPN, to struggle for a workers’ and poor peoples’ government with socialist policies.