By Tabitha Ekere, Abuja
Federation of Informal Workers’ Organization of Nigeria (FIWON) has said the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the vulnerability of workers in the informal sector to many health risks.
The General Secretary of the Association, Gbenga Komolafe, in a statement also lamented that various palliative funds provided by the Federal government to cushion the effect of the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic are not easily accessed by informal workers.
He said in light of the extreme vulnerabilities suffered by informal workers in the wake of the recent lock down imposed by government to curtail the spread of the rampaging Covid-19 Pandemic, FIWON embarked on a Covid -19 impact assessment on informal workers generally but with special emphasis on the waste picking and recycling, domestic work and street vending sectors because of the special vulnerability and precarity of workers in these sectors.
He disclosed that, unable to work and without access to any palliatives during the lockdowns, at least 20 waste workers died in Lagos alone.
According to Komolafe investigation shows that daily income of Waste pickers and recyclers is as little as 500- 1,800 Naira daily
He said, “Waste pickers are subject to fear of eviction form waste dump sites and the itinerant pickers are subject to arrest, street vendors persecution in the hands of the law enforcement agencies including the policie, environmental task force, local government staff, etc while they are meant to pay a battery of taxes and levies
“The street vendors comprising peddlers, little shop owners, food, drinks and water vendors, cobblers, barbers, vulcanizers etc also suffer immense persecution in the hands of the state law enforcement agencies including the police, environmental task forces, local government staff etc while they are made to pay a battery of taxes and levies. They also suffered a lot of hunger while rape of women including underaged and elderly women, was also reported apart from the constant illnesses suffered. We also discovered that street vendors who tried to operate skeletally in their neighborhoods were harassed and sometimes arrested, during the lock downs.
“Thirdly the categories of worker focused on in the course of recent survey are the domestic workers who despite the ease on the lock down are not allowed to return home by their employees, there fore not being able to see their family. Historically they suffer low pay, physical and emotional abuse, long hour of work as well as insecure long work tenures.
“While we recognize government effort to provide financial lifelines to vulnerable Nigerians in the wake of the Covid -19 challenge, we also want to point out the fact the various palliative funds are not easily accessed by informal workers.
We therefore call for more simplified, informal worker focused financial interventions by state and federal governments that would be more easily accessed by informal sector, where these interventions are most needed.”