ABOLISH COVID-19 TESTING FEE: NO TO A PRIVATE CASH-COW MADE BY GOVERNMENT TO ENRICH BIG BUSINESS
The Movement for a Socialist Alternative (MSA) condemns in concrete terms the unethical infringement on the right to bodily autonomy of the Covid-19 vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers (my body, my choice.) We demand the abolition of the unjust and exploitative Covid-19 testing fee in Nigeria of N39,500 and N79,500 for both inbound and outbound passengers respectively.
We are not unaware that the government has made resources available for this same test, received donations and funds for the same exercise both from inside and outside the country. We favour a program of enlightenment and reassurance of safety to assuage the fears of the unvaccinated to encourage them to get vaccinated.
While we are not opposed to any safety measure. We do not however agree that the question of our collective safety and health be subjected to a question of cash and carry, and the making of cash cow directly handed out to Big Business. This simply means that those that can’t afford it and if already infected; will simply walk away unable to know their health status. This, we think is endangering the health of the whole of society.
The MSA on this account calls for an end to the continuous exploitation of the inbound and outbound passengers in Nigeria in the name of the COVID-19 test, and the outright abolish of the atrocious fees for the Covid19 test. This is not with a new variant designated as Omicron now rowing all over and confirmed to be more deadly.
We regard this payment imposed on the passengers by the NCDC, Federal Ministry of Health (Port Health Services), the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19, and the Federal government as extortion, exploitative and insensitive. With hurriedly established private laboratories for COVID-19 tests purposefully put in place to enrich Big businesses in most cases fronting for government officials and their cronies.
We insist that Nigerian hospitals and laboratories should also be approved to carry out testing of Covid-19 for both the inbound and outbound passengers at little or no cost. However, we demand improved Funding of the Healthcare Sector and nationalization/re-nationalization of the Covid-19 testing centers. Added to this, the test centers should be taken over by the government to enhance its maximum capacity in conducting the COVID-19 test.
The activities in these testing centers should be controlled and managed by the mass of the working people, the concerned health and workers’ unions, professional medical health workers, and elected community Reps and organizations. This will make the centers work effectively without paying exorbitant fees and this will help in reducing the rate of COVID-19 in Nigeria.
We strongly hold that this must be the responsibility of the government. We, therefore, call for the proper funding of the healthcare sector and its democratic management by the elected representatives of staff and members of concern unions to make it possible to tackle the regime of corrupt practices by government officials and political office holders, who often mismanage the paltry amount allocated to the health sector.
We call for adequate payment of Hazard allowance for workers of the Port Health Services and other entry points into the country and every other — working as the front line workers who daily endanger their lives before this disease to keep the rest of us safe. We are not unmindful that they earn peanut salary and these salaries are not paid as at when due. We also insist on compensation to children and families of these frontline workers who meet their tragic end at work.
Painfully, the 16th of December, 2021 marks a year after a frontline worker named Sanitarian Obi Chidebere E. died as a result of COVID-19, which she contracted during discharging her duty as a frontline worker, yet her family was never compensated nor celebrated for laying her life for others during the curse of her duty. The same applies to many unnamed and unmentioned health and frontline workers.
Painfully still, the country still lacks basic equipment in treating or adequately testing for Covid-19. It is a case that individuals can now pay their way through without having to conduct any test. This is evident when some passengers who have Covid-19 (omicron) were caught in London by the UK health officials, even with all of the documents at hand certifying them not to be positive. This is the immediate reason for the UK ban on Nigeria. For us in the MSA, we demand that concerned Nigerians, the Medical and Health Workers’ Unions, Nigeria Trade Union Congress (TUC), and the Nigeria Labour Congress (TUC) should with immediate effect join us in demanding that the Covid-19 test in Nigeria be accessible at little or no cost whatsoever. And all private laboratories to be nationalized under democratic control and management of workers and the working masses.
We, hereby, call on leaders of FAAN, TUC, NLC, and the medical and health workers union in Nigeria to take up this struggle in solidarity with passengers of whom most of them are poor Nigerians, who are on the daily basis paid exorbitant fees on Covid-19 test while traveling out for their schooling and business purposes. It is only by our united struggle can victory is attained.
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Signed by:Dagga Tolar,Secretary-General,Movement for a Socialist Alternative (MSA), Nigeria.