March 27, 2020

COVID-19: Miners’ President tasks members to maintain high-level hygiene

Hospital shuts down 3 wards as 4 doctors test positive to COVID-19

Calls on FG to release miners’ N5bn to cushion effects

By Gabriel Ewepu

The President of Miners Association, MAN, Kabir Kankara, yesterday, tasked members to maintain high-level hygiene to prevent infection by the deadly coronavirus, COVID-19, currently ravaging the world.

Kankara who gave the charge in a chat with Vanguard said the sector is grossly affected by the virus globally and for now no member in Nigeria has been infected by it, hence they should adhere strictly to all health precautions given by the Nigerian  Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, in order to curtail the spread of the virus.

He said: “I want miners to stay safe and stay at home because this period of the raging coronavirus is not a period of mining and we want to save lives. It is only when you are healthy you can go and do mining, and I wish everybody the best from the bad situation and we pray God to help, and for Nigeria and the rest of the world get out of this bad catastrophe as soon as possible.

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“Our members are taking precautionary measures, which is universal. We still want our members to observe the caution signs this period which include continuous washing of hands with soap and running water, avoid crowds, maintain social distance, get hand sanitizers, and other alcohol-based diluted medications to take care of their environment where necessary, avoid traveling, stay at home, and also enlighten their families to take precaution and continue to comply with government rules and regulations that are being introduced to make sure that the country is safe from this catastrophe.”

On concerns about foreigners who operating in the sector who are particularly from countries heavily affected by the virus, he expressed fear and called on the government to strictly screen them.

“I have fear and I don’t have because it is a two-way system. If by chance we have somebody that came not quite long into the country and has the disease on him or her it is going to be disastrous, but with the arrival of coronavirus in Nigeria by that Italian man who was first detected through Ogun State axis, I think the government has been proactive.

“Now if somebody comes into the country he or she is going to be screened to make sure he or she does not come with the virus. I will advise the government to go after foreigners who are working in sectors like mining whose operation is mostly in the remote areas, and also call them out for thorough screening and possibly quarantine them, most especially those who have to be in the country for the past two or three weeks, but somebody who has been in the country for over a month will be assumed as not being infected.”

On the issue of job losses in the mining sector as seen in other countries currently ravaged by the virus the miners’ boss said the only way to avoid it from happening in the Nigerian mining sector is for the government to make available the N5 billion fund approved for miners.

“The mining sector has been hard hit in terms of job losses even before the advent of coronavirus. We have been under-funded and we have been yearning to climb up higher, and being realistic in business activities.

“Definitely, with what is on the ground now it has hit us hard and it is not going to be easy for us to wake up again. Even after the pandemic in Nigeria, it is not going to be easy for us to get back to normalcy.

“Unless the government comes to aid and that is to release the money we are yearning for. The N5 billion we supposed to have is still not with us, nothing has been released to us, and the money is there.

“So this is the right time the government should release this money to us so it will cushion the devastating effect that coronavirus has inflicted on our business activities in the sector.

“I will want a situation where the government will be so responsive to release this money and make sure the fund goes round to get to artisanal and small scale miners as soon as possible so that the effect of stay-at-home order and business collapse which is global will be cushioned in order for our people to wake up again. So that is my expectation from government.”

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He also assured members not to panic as there will be an end to the raging virus as all is being done to ensure the sector bounce back.

“To cap it all I want to give my kind assurances to my brothers and sisters in the mining industry that despite the situation we are in, economic turbulence that is affecting the globe by coronavirus pandemic keeping away everybody from business and sites we are still on our feet and we are up and doing to see that the sector does not go down and collapse.

“Instead of it go down we are making sure that the sector climbs up by reaching out to relevant bodies to see that financial support is given to our association.

“Also in terms of health, sanitation is carried out in our operational sites, and we are doing capacity building to stay safe not only on coronavirus.  Definitely, when the pandemic is over the mining sector will bounce back”, he said.

He also said the association cannot do anything financially to assist members but needs support from the government and other development partners who can come to their rescue.