Edo government bars unvaccinated workers, others from offices

From Tony Osauzo, Benin

State workers and other people who could not present proof of vaccination have been refused entry into the Edo State Government Secretariat as the Obaseki administration begins the enforcement of restrictions on large public gatherings for persons without evidence of COVID-19 vaccination into government offices across the state.

The enforcement began before 7 am Wednesday with the state Head of COVID-19 Enforcement Team, Mr Yusuf Haruna, manning the main gate opposite the Zonal EFCC office, while others took charge of other entry points. Those who provided their vaccination cards were allowed entry, while others who could not were told to go back home.

The monitoring team also scanned the cards to be sure that they were genuine before allowing holders into the secretariat.

Some civil servants who spoke to Daily Sun said they were taken by surprise and did not bring their cards with them while those who had it in their offices had to send their colleagues to bring them to the gate before they were allowed in.

Some of the workers who refused to go home despite being refused entry were seen loitering around the perimeter fence discussing the action and the effects on them.

‘I didn’t know that the order will take effect as I have not had electricity in my house for over one week. I have been vaccinated and I will be back with my card tomorrow,’ one of them said.

On how the government would be able to sustain the action, Haruna stated: “What is important is that where there is a will, there is a way. Governor Godwin Obaseki had demonstrated that the state wants to save lives by dishing out this directive.

‘We expect little hitches at the takeoff but there will be an improvement as we move on. I am also sure that the people will also want to see if the government is serious about the directive. And with what we started today (Wednesday), we are demonstrating that the government is ready to save lives in the state.

‘I am sure that those who did not come with their vaccination cards today (Wednesday) and were sent back home to bring them will not do a similar mistake tomorrow. It is clear that many of the workers have taken the vaccine but they are yet to get used to the practice of going about with their cards.

‘With the media giving what we are doing here the necessary publicity, people will know the need to comply with the directive,’ he added.

The state Chairman of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Sunny Osayande, reacting to government action, said he has directed the Vice Chairman and the Secretary to meet with the Secretary to Edo State government.

‘The SSG said it is a directive from the governor that anybody that hasn’t been vaccinated can work from home and will not be sacked.

‘There will be a Congress on Friday and we will take decisions on the way forward.

‎’We are in a country where is lawless and people take laws. So, I even tried to ask whether we are infringing on the right of workers. What they told me is that it is the workers that are infringing on the right of the people because they don’t want anybody to be infected.

‘We don’t succeed by violence but by peaceful negotiations. I will encourage workers to go and vaccinate and will not be forced,’ he said.

‎Also speaking, his Trade Union Congress (TUC) counterpart, Marshall Orhue, said to be vaccinated is a personal decision.

‘Government is concerned about citizens by telling them to get vaccinated but, at the same time, you cannot infringe on the rights of the people you are trying to vaccinate.

‘It is nice to be vaccinated but it is not enough to lock workers out because it is a personal issue; they have the right to say they will take or will not.

‘Looking at it from that angle, we are planning to meet with the government immediately because before this decision was taken, we were not put into cognizance. We are also trying to see how we will see the government resolve the said issues and also relate with a government that it is a personal issue to take the vaccine.

‎’Every right-thinking person knows that it is for the good of the people but the government should not force anybody to take it. Be that as it may, the government has a right to tell people to take it but they do not have the right to force people‎,’ Orhue stated.

Related: Labour unions urged to pressure Obaseki to rescind ‘proof of vaccination’ policy

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