Nigeria tasks ILO on poverty, social disruptions

From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja

To enable the country to tackle the rising incidence of poverty and social disruptions in Africa, Nigeria has called for a radical change in the development programmes of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige made the call while receiving a delegation of the France candidate for the office of the Secretary General of the ILO, Muriel Penicaud, who came to request for Nigeria’s support in the election, Thursday in Abuja.

This was contained in a statement issued by the Ministry’s Spokesperson Mr Charles Akpan.

Muriel was accompanied by the French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuel Blatmann, Secretary General of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) Emmanuel Ugboaja , Tommy Edwin, First Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress(TUC) Celine Oni representing NECA among others.

The Minister compared the current effort of the ILO in tackling development challenges in Africa to a drop in the ocean, urging for a drastic intervention to mobilise donor agencies and institutions to the root of the prevailing social upheaval on the continent.

According to Ngige, “There is a scourge of massive unemployment and under-employment . So far, the intervention of the ILO in this direction is like a drop of water in the ocean . We need ILO to assist mobilize global donor agencies so we can effectively tackle this.

“There is every need for the ILO to be on the ground as you said. When you talk about child labour, it revolves around income. Low income makes families push out their children to the farms , to hawk in the streets. So, we are talking about poverty. The ILO is in the best position to assist developing countries like ours create a system to reduce poverty.

“Our social security system is poor and for the ILO to make meaningful intervention, it needs to shape up and align with other global agencies for impactful assistance .

“Yes, recently, there was a joint effort by the ILO, the UNICEF and Global Fund towards social security, social assistance and the rest of it all . But I looked at the funds being talked about, again, it was a drop of water in the ocean.

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“ So the ILO ought to draw up new programmes to tackle social malaise, whether it is child trafficking, child labour , illegal migration , banditry and other crimes induced by poverty and in turn, caused by unemployment or low income. Efforts must be directed at their roots .

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“We reduce poverty through job creation and improvement in welfare. We need schools and hospitals in the areas prone to child labour and trafficking . The ILO can help bridge the gaps and that is the only way to nip them in the bud.

Ngige further noted that negative growth indices were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic but stated that Nigeria was leaving no stone unturned in the path of progress.

“ Inequality has been made worse by COVID-19 scourge, which has displaced many working persons , especially in the informal sector , those who earn their living by working daily. The majority of the population in Africa abound in this bracket and when you talk about Africa , Nigeria takes 60% of whatever you are talking about.

“ As a government, we are battling to make up for the job losses, and to cut poverty induced crimes. But even as we do this , we also face a great youth bulge that has led many of them into crimes. So the ILO needs a different approach than it currently does.

He added that Nigeria has come a long way in the ILO as all her tripartite constituents of Government, Labour federation and Employers are currently members of the Governing Board , with the government group and the labour as titulars.

“So you can see that Nigeria is not a pushover with our three votes intact. The good thing is that the ILO has a tradition that enables it to elect quality leaders and incidentally, all of you in the contest are all products of that tradition with vast experience working over the years in the ILO. So whoever emerges, the ILO gains.”

Earlier in her speech, Muriel Penicaud said she was contesting to lead the ILO to bring about a new “tripartism of multi-country inclusion” so as to “bring the ILO to the ground, to change life for the people,” saying that only inclusiveness can bring the desired change.

She said her experience over the years in the ILO had prepared her adequately for the job, with her focus also on mobilization of social partners for social inclusion and protection against extreme poverty, child labour among others, in order to “show the world that something is changing for the best.”

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