The COVID-19 pandemic has marred the celebration of the 2020 International Workers’ Day globally owing to order for people to strictly observe social distancing as a way of curtailing spread of the virus.
The day is in memory of the comrades who lost their lives in the Haymarket in Chicago, the United States during the struggle for an eight-hour working day in 1885 while COVID-19 burst in Wuhan, China in December 2019.
In Akwa Ibom State, this year’s workers’ day was partially observed at Workers Solidarity Centre, Atan Offot, Uyo with less than 10 persons while Nigeria Labour Congress and Trade Union Congress were represented by their chairpersons.
In the previous years, the day was usually marked by pomp and pageantry amidst scintillating musical tunes offered by a band set, followed by march past by different labour industrial unions, traditional dances and solidarity speeches at Uyo Sports Stadium.
But in this year’s celebration, there was no march past except delivery of a few consolatory messages from a few government functionaries including Governor Udom Emmanuel.
In his solidarity message, Governor Emmanuel hailed Akwa Ibom workers for their resilience and cooperation with the government over the years and during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown.
Governor Emmanuel who was represented by Elder Effiong Essien announced that his administration has sponsored some civil servants to go on trainings and workshops and expected them to replicate the knowledge for a better and improved civil service.
The Head of the Civil Service, Effiong Essien represented by Mrs Ekaete Ekanem, a Permanent Secretary in the office, thanked the governor for the payment of New Minimum Wage, regular payment of salaries to workers and pensions to retirees, advising them to reciprocate the gesture by working hard to reposition the civil service.
Victor Inoka, the state commissioner for Labour and Manpower Training, noted, “The implementation of national legislation called Minimum Wage Act and its payment of arrears and salaries to all workers in the state public service up to date will remain indelible in the mind of workers.”
Inoka, a professor reiterated “It is in the light of this that we call on all our workers to unite beyond our differences and show unalloyed solidarity and support to the state government to fight the virus and help us resume our lives and secure our return to normalcy.”
Earlier, Sunny James, the chairperson of Akwa Ibom Council of NLC, had saluted all workers in the state for holding tenaciously to the vestige of hope in the midst of challenges posed by the novel coronavirus.
Comrade James observed “This would be the first time in peacetime wherein the annual International Workers Day celebration would be held without the usual pomp and pageantry. Sad as this situation is, it reinforces the reality that this is not peacetime as the entire world engages in battle with a disease which threatens not only those infected by it, but every other human being, the economy, the social systems as well as the natural environment.”
The state Chairman of Trade Union Congress Chairman in Akwa Ibom, Dominic Abang said in line with the theme of this year’s celebration “60 years of Nationhood, Insecurity, Wage, Poverty and the Future of Workers in Nigeria,” the body joined other unions in celebrating the sacrifices, dedication, and resilience in working for the betterment of humanity.
Abang noted “This year’s commemoration is being observed in a usual way, that most economies, including Nigeria, remains in the lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Movements have been restricted and social gatherings banned. Social distancing is being observed. The implication is that labour groups cannot celebrate this year’s memorial day in a traditional way of solidarity assemblage, public lecture and thanksgiving.”
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