Waste and scrap pickers in Nigeria on Monday asked the federal government to consider them among the frontline workers to first get the COVID-19 vaccines as Nigeria receives the first consignment Tuesday.
The waste pickers under the aegis of the National Association of Scrap and Waste Dealers' Employers of Nigeria (NASWADEN) said they were more vulnerable to COVID-19 than even the health workers.
President of NASWADEN, Friday Oku, spoke with Daily Trust on the sidelines of the waste pickers' workshop to commemorate the International Waste Pickers' Day held in Lagos with the support of Food and Beverage Recycling Alliance (FBRA).
Oku lamented that despite the strategic importance of waste pickers to recycling and 'waste to wealth' initiative, the waste pickers are less recognised by government at all levels.
Rather, what they get, he stated, has been harassment by agents of government.
Oku said while virtually every sector of the economy got COVID-19 palliatives, waste pickers were not considered despite their vulnerability.
According to him, even the items used by the COVID-19 patients would still end up in dumpsites and in the hands of waste pickers.
This is why he asked the federal government to consider them among the first set of people to receive COVID-19 vaccines.
He stated that as an affiliate of the Global Waste Pickers' Alliance, they are not getting similar attention and support their counterparts are getting across the world.
Oku emphasised that rather than harass waste pickers, the government could take advantage of their huge number to boost its internally generated revenue (IGR).
General Secretary of the Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria (FIWON), Comrade Gbenga Akomolafe, said self-employed youths in the informal sector are facing a very critical situation worsened by the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said despite the several COVID-19 intervention programmes reeled out by the government, none has gotten to informal workers.
According to him, FIWON had written several letters to the federal government to consider the plight of informal workers without positive responses.