-new conventions to be deposited with ILO by March 2023, says Minister
BY MICHAEL OCHE
Nigeria is the latest African country to ratify ILO Conventions 143, 181 and 190 which aim to eliminate exploitation of the human and labour rights of workers and migrant workers.
The approval for the ratification of these important Conventions by the Federal Executive Council (FEC), Nigeria’s highest decision making body of the executive arm of government, followed years of sustained campaigns by Trade Unions led by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).
The National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) during its last meeting in 2021 recommended the ratification of four International Labour Conventions: Convention No. 143 – Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions); Convention No. 181 – Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181); Convention No. 187 – Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health Convention, 2006 (No. 187); and Convention No. 190 – Violence and Harassment Convention 2019 (No. 190).
The NLAC, which was established in 1955 is the highest tripartite body on labour matter, during the 2021 session recommended that the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment should forward to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) Memoranda for the ratification of the conventions.
Dr Sunday Onazi, Director, Employment, and Wages at the Ministry of Labour and Employment, confirmed on Monday that three of the four conventions have been ratified by the Federal Executive Council (FEC).
He said, “Yes, the three Conventions have been ratified and awaiting domestication. One is convention 181 on Private Employment Agencies. The other one is convention 143 on migrant supplementary provisions and Convention 190.”
He said the newly ratified conventions will be sent to the Ministry of Justice, before they can be deposited at the ILO.
He said, “Because when it comes to ratification, Ministry of Justice has a lot of work to do. But for us now, we can begin to implement the necessary provisions of the Conventions.
“So yes, these three Conventions have been approved by Federal Executive Council (FEC) and the letters have come back to us at ministry of labour.”
In his reaction, Comrade James Eustace, the NLC focal person on Labour Migration described the ratification as another victory for organised labour.
While commending the government for ratifying the Conventions, he said trade unions will now commence advocacy to ensure the applications and implementation of the Conventions.
He said, “For us in the NLC, it has been a very tedious journey because we have engaged in a number of advocacies and activities with several visits to the various state actors for the ratification of these instruments. We can only speak of better migration governance if those international standards are ratified and now that they are ratified, it is a boost for the organised labour because we have international instruments to leverage on.
“One of the challenges we’ve had is that when you want to do anything on bilaterally labour agreements with other countries, they will ask you, have you ratified this convention? And if you haven’t, it draws you back. But now there is a morale boost.
James said following the ratification, organised labour will now commence advocacy to ensure the applications and implementation of the Conventions.
He said, “Now that the instruments have been ratified, it is about them writing, to the ILO to domicile it and formally report that Nigeria has ratified these conventions, then the process of implementing the reporting line will start.”
He also urged other countries to speed up their ratification of the various ILO standards that encourage safe, orderly migration.
Reacting, Comrade Joel Odigie, Deputy General Secretary ITUC-Africa, described the news of the rectification as exciting, saying it is a show of Nigeria’s commitment to protect the rights of its migrant workers.
He, however, said that beyond ratification, Nigeria must quickly move to deposit the instrument of the ratification with the ILO.
He said, “First is to say we are very, very elated with the ratifications. Three of them, like we have been told. They are Convention 143, 181, and 190, Convention on harassment at work. And like you know, all categories of workers would benefit from this, especially migrant workers. So, it’s a welcome development. It speaks to Nigeria’s show of commitment to contribute to the improvement of the rights of migrant workers. This is good.
“Of course, as you are aware, the situation has been pathetic, of recent. So seeing these developments is a welcome one. What we are advising is that the Nigerian government should quickly move to deposit this ratified conventions with the ILO. And then as usual, we encourage them to seek for technical assistance which should come administratively upon every ratification for them to be given the capacity to undertake effective implementation, and application as well as enforcement of the conventions.
“As ITUC-Africa, this has been one of our campaign, our ratification campaign as African trade union migration network. Ratification is one of the areas of engagement we have prioritised and so far, we have not done badly. We have achieved in less than two years over 18 ratification, and we are not slowing down, we want to continue to do so.
“We do that because we know that ratification instruments are good for the protection of migrants and if you really want to demonstrate willingness to protect your people, you shouldn’t be shy about your work about that. This is what we have seen Nigeria do, and we are really excited about it. We will support them to do more. Ratification also strengthens our hands as trade unions. It makes our advocacy much easier. We know that once they ratify, we have some kind of expectations from government. Our job is to always hold government accountable for their words and actions.
“We want to use this opportunity to encourage other governments to also copy from Nigeria. This is what we signed, we hope others can take a take queue and join in this process.
“But as you know, ratification is not the end, but the genuine commitment to the application of provisions basically makes the difference. We’d like to see Nigeria sincerely commit to implementation and then of course to get them to give the necessary capacity to social partners. And so, my emphasis on capacity is because once the people sufficiently trained and capable, the excuses for non application become more of a political willingness and not the inability to be able to do so.”
Meanwhile, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige on Tuesday in Geneva Switzerland also confirmed the approval of the ratification by the Nigerian Federal Executive Council.
Ngige made the disclosure during the presentation of two new Conventions which Nigeria ratified, to the Governing Body of the organisation. Conventions – C187 (2006) Promotional Framework on Occupational Safety and Health and C 190 (2019) on Violence and Harassment.
The minster assured that the Nigerian government will accelerate the process of depositing the Convention with the ILO.
He said, “More ratifications are on the way, especially those on Labour Migration and its supplementary conventions; and Private Employment Agency Convention N0. 181, which are the topical contemporary issues in the world of work today, and these conventions will hopefully come up for deposition on or before the next the Governing Body session in March 2023.”