December 3, 2020

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Labour laments imposition of taxes, levies, extortion by law enforcement agencies

6 min read
Labour,
Labour

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru

ABUJA-THE Federation of Informal Workers’ Organizations of Nigeria, FIWON, has lamented that its members are subjected to wanton exploitation through indiscriminate imposition of taxes and levies as well as extortion by law enforcement agencies through arrests and seizure of goods and equipment of work.

The group also said that the informal sector in Nigeria is defined by a lack of access to basic social protection services especially old-age care and support, maternity care and support as well as accident and disability care and support systems.

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Addressing journalists in Abuja, weekend, the General Secretary of FIWON, Comrade Gbenga Komolafe, noted with dismay that the COVID-l9 pandemic has impacted terribly on informal workers with members reporting widespread hunger and ill health during the lockdowns imposed by the federal governments.

He further stated that members of the informal sector reported hundreds of deaths attributable to the inability to feed self and family members during the lockdown, adding that palliative measures announced by the government at different levels were grossly inadequate.

“Indeed, the COVID-l9 intervention and mitigation measure has sharply amplified the vulnerability informal workers and the least protected,” he said.

Comrade Komolafe said that the situation has highlighted the deep economic and social inequalities and inadequate health and social protection systems.

He said,” Scores of millions of poor working people engaged in the agriculture, food production and supply chains, household materials supply and processing, artisans engaged in petty manufacturing, fabrications, repairs and construction, shoemakers, including those engaged in footwear, clothing and garment making, transportation and vehicle repairs, waste picking and recycling, market vending and retailing, etc, have been severely impacted.

“Months after lockdown measures have been eased all over the country, a lot of informal workers find it difficult to get back to business as costs of basic inputs and transportation have skyrocketed while meagre working capital has been exhausted during the lockdowns.”

Continuing, he said FIWON, which is a national network of informal, self-employed working people was committed to the advancement of the working and living standards of working people in the informal sectors of the Nigerian economy.

According to him, “FIWON engages government, the private sector, local and international development agencies at all levels to promote knowledge-driven initiatives to advance the socio-economic rights of informal workers. Over 170 organizations of informal workers across 21 states of the federation are affiliated with FIWON.

“The informal economy in Nigeria comprises of self-employed, own account – working people often working in unregulated work conditions marked by a lot of precarity, income instability, makeshift work environment.

“Over 80% of the Nigerian working population including those engaged in agricultural production are engaged in the informal economy. The workers and operators in the informal sector are often inadvertently excluded from public decision-making processes.

“This results in a lot of policy gaps and sometimes, not very effective government intervention programmes aimed at providing development services to the informal sector.

“Historically, the informal sector in Nigeria is defined by lack of access to basic social protection services especially old-age care and support, maternity care and support as well as accident and disability care and support systems.

“To worsen the situation, informal sector operators are subjected to wanton exploitation through indiscriminate imposition of taxes and levies as well as extortion by law enforcement agencies through arrests and seizure of goods and equipment of work.

“Particularly, the COVID-l9 Pandemic has impacted most terribly on informal workers with our members reporting widespread hunger and ill health during the lockdowns imposed by the Federal and State governments in Nigeria as part of COVID-19 mitigation measures.

“Our members also reported hundreds of deaths attributable to the inability to feed self and family members during the lockdowns as palliative measures announced by the government at different levels were grossly inadequate.”

“Indeed, the COVID-l9 intervention and mitigation measure have sharply amplified the vulnerability of informal workers and the least protected.

“It is highlighting deep economic and social inequalities and inadequate health and social protection systems. Scores of millions of poor working people engaged in the agriculture, food production and supply chains, household materials supply and processing, artisans engaged in petty manufacturing, fabrications, repairs and construction, shoemakers, including those engaged in footwear, clothing and garment making, transportation and vehicle repairs, waste picking and recycling, market vending and retailing, etc, have been severely impacted.

“Months after lockdown measures have been eased all over the country, a lot of informal workers find it difficult to get back to business as costs of basic inputs and transportation have skyrocketed while meagre working capital has been exhausted during the lockdowns.

“Unfortunately, most of the intervention plans announced by federal and state governments have failed to specifically target the informal sector despite its macroeconomic importance, employing over 80% of the working population and contributing close to 60% to the national GDP.

“The reason is very simple. Though, the informal sector constitutes the micro end of the Macro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) schema, the sector employs the overwhelming proportion of working people on a self-employed, own account basis with very limited capacities.”

He said that the ‘micro’ end of the MSME schema, employing an overwhelming number of working people is easily lost in the implementation of several government intervention programmes.

He said, “For example, most informal workers do not even own the cheapest android phone and so find it difficult to access the funds given the digital methods of applying for and accessing the funds.

“The National Social Safety-Nets Coordinating Office in the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs office responsible for building the National Social Register & coordinating livelihood support to extremely poor & vulnerable households in Nigeria has the most relevance to the informal sector at this time but needs to work more closely with FIWON and other informal sector organizations to access those desperately in need of urgent assistance.

“While we acknowledge the existence of several intervention funds to address the challenge of development financing in the informal sector, especially the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Fund, one of the CBN intervention funds but note very sadly, informal sector operators find it near impossible to access these funds as managed through the NIRSAL Microfmance Bank because of the digitalized, centralized methods of application, assessment and disbursement.

“We call for an urgent remedy to this situation such that those at the base of the economy, the grassroots economic operators in the informal sector can access these needed funds in a more open and transparent process. These can be achieved through the intermediation of informal workers’ organizations and coooperative societies.

“We also use this opportunity to call for a comprehensive inclusion of the informal sector in the national social protection policy framework which must recognise that the challenge of targeting beneficiaries is better achieved through intentional deliberate involvement of the ultimate beneficiaries in the policy formulation and implementation of social protection schemes.

“We also call for the review of the National Pension Commission (PENCOM) Guidelines to incorporate the need for government part-funding of informal workers’ contribution to the pension fund.

“The present arrangement of the Micro Pension Scheme which is designed to take care of informal workers’ old age support is not working because informal workers alone bear the burden of contribution unlike in the more advantaged formal sectors that enjoy government part funding.

“Government part-funding of informal workers’ pension contribution will encourage participation, obviate the impact of an inflationary spiral on the worth of the contributions and engender wider coverage.”

Nigeria News Nigeria

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