Ngige Boosting Work Condition Through Labour Policy

Optimism has been raised for the microscopic number of employed, gigantic number of unemployed and underemployed Nigerians by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige (Onwa) on August 16 2016; he made public a new national policy on labour migration. The policy if sustained would give Nigerians proportional leverage in the labour market.

This policy is essential in these times when cry is everywhere that Nigerians have not been treated favourably at their different work places; it’s of note that the insecurity that characterises the workforce in the country has compelled a lot of people to leave the shores of the country legally and illegally in search of secured job opportunities elsewhere.

The thinking Ngige who had proved his leadership mettle beyond doubt as Governor of Anambra State and later Senator, can be seen is much engrossed in the new labour policy in order to curtail any underhand dealings that has been pummeling labour in the country. In making sure that Nigerians no longer die trying to cross the Sahara and the Mediterranean Seas, Ngige did not only expose the Policy on Labour Migration, but also unveiled two committees: Technical Working Committee and Social Partner Advisory Committee for implementation of the policy.

In the words of Ngige, “This is of utmost concern to the present administration as no responsible government will sit back and watch the depletion of its human resources which is the most critical factor of production and national development.’’

Little did some Nigerians believe the federal government when it partnered the International Centre for Migration Policy Development (ICMPD) in Abuja on April 18 2016, to build migration-related knowledge and database, but many Nigerians who believe in Ngige knew that (while addressing a team of experts from the ICMPD) whatever that he touches becomes gold under any circumstance. The labour policy was coming after Ngige’s disclosure at Abuja, in December 2015, saying that the leadership of the ministry had plans to revive the National Labour Advisory Council, NLAC.

Before the Labour Policy was exposed to the public on August 16 2016, the elated Ngige had said before the team of experts from the ICMPD, “Up-to-date evidence and information about labour market needs and migrant workers’ profiles, including their origin, citizenship, age and sex composition, education and skills, qualification, labour force participation are irreducible variables for mutually gainful labour migration.

“Sector of work treatment, conditions of work and extent of integration are necessary for effective labour administration, policy implementation, impact assessment, monitoring and evaluation, but most of the needed information are lacking in Nigeria. The ministry has to therefore partner the ICMPD to bridge the data gap.”

Having a data base for workers in Nigeria would help a lot; and this is what Ngige had told Nigerians that the ICMPD had agreed to support Nigeria as instrument for national survey on labour migration and development. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) defines Labour Force Survey as a standard household-based survey of work-related statistics. Many countries and territories make their Labour Force Surveys available online, with different labour statistics and meta-data for over 200 countries and territories found and are available from the ILOSTAT database.

While Ngige has brought up this policy, there is the EU LFS which is a large household sample survey that gives quarterly results on labour participation of people aged 15 and over and persons outside the labour force in Europe, unlike Africa.

Eurostat, a key to European statistics, informed, “The European Union Labour Force Survey (EU LFS) is conducted in the 28 Member States of the European Union, 2 candidate countries and 3 countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) in accordance with Council Regulation (EEC) No. 577/98 of 9 March 1998. At the moment, the LFS microdata for scientific purposes contain data for all Member States plus Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.”

Since this policy obtains in other climes, it’s not out of place that the Project Manager, ICMPD, Mr. Naozad Hodiwala, said the connoisseurs came to Nigeria for technical assistance on migration management because the Federal Government requested. The most heartening was the wise advise by Ngige, saying, “While we create these jobs, we also need to support people who have the desire to migrate their expertise to other countries where they are needed, so that we don’t have excess labour force here. But we must do this in consonance with the international best practices so that our skilled people going out of the country do not become an embarrassment to their host countries. So we want them to be guided as legal residents and accorded all rights for decent jobs in conformity with ILO convention.”

It is weighty that the labour policy is being championed by Ngige and if well managed would abate the increasing casualisation of labour in the country that cuts across practically all sectors of the Nigerian economy such as oil and gas, telecommunications, banking, construction, mining, among others.

In May 2015, Mr. Igwe Achese of the Nigeria Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers, (NUPENG), at a rally to mark the 2015 May Day in Abuja, said, “Issues on casualization in the country must be properly looked into to ensure workers are not cheated by employers. The menace is rather on the increase especially in the oil and gas and financial sectors of the nation’s economy.”

Recently, the Nigeria Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) disclosed the high moments of frauds and forgeries ongoing in the banking system and the use of contract and outsourced staff, during its examination exercises of that sector. Pundits said that contract employment and casualisation of labour contravene Section 7 (1) of the Labour Act, Cap 198, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990; adding that “not later than three months after the beginning of a worker’s period of employment with an employer, the employer shall give the worker a written statement, specifying the terms and conditions of employment.”

Ngige could as well look into the statement of the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) Rivers State Chapter. Comrade Chika Onuegbu of the union at this year’s International Workers’ Day, said, “The joint leadership of the organized labour in the country had proposed and presented a new minimum wage of N56,000.00 (Fifty-six thousand naira) to the Federal Government.”

However, in July, 2016, while represented by the Director, Trade Dispute and Industrial Relations, Mrs Chinedu Dike, at the International Trade Union Congress (ITUC-Africa) Regional Conference on “Advancing Decent Work in Global Supply Chain in Africa”, held in Abuja, Ngige said that government was committed to job creation, social protection and promoting social dialogue which would be given top priority in the present administration. It is believed that with the Labour Policy, Ngige who was accused of not making much effort to lengthily address the casualisation palaver would arrest the situation.

Odimegwu Onwumere is award-winning journalist based in Rivers State. Email: [email protected]

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