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Absentee legislators embarrass Nigeria at ILO

By Funmi Komolafe
*Arrive for confab on last day

The recent 98th conference of the ILO was historic in many aspects. It not only coincided with the 90th anniversary of the ILO, it adopted the Global Jobs Pact designed to overcome job losses that people all over the world have experienced. It was also the first time that the ILO had nine presidents or heads of government address the plenary session. Nigeria was a part of the events in a very positive way.

However, the conduct of our legislators sent tongues wagging. Some were too scared to talk about it, others were simply irritated.

The question is “ who will watch our lawmakers who spend all the time conducting sometimes questionable oversight functions.

The press of course.

The encounter below tells the story.

Readers reactions are welcome.

Our legislators according to reliable sources are entitled to $500 per night ( about N 85,00 per night for 20 days including travel days) . A total of about N 1. 7 million per person to attend the ILO conference from June 3 to June 19 but only showed up on the last day of the conference.

Immediately, the two legislators, Ibrahim Dogo and Senator Wilson Ake sighted reporters they became uncomfortable but we insisted on taking them up.

This was how it went.

You are here on the last day of the conference, may we know your mission here?

From right, Hon. Ibrahim Dogo, Senator Wilson Atake and Dr. Sunday Okpanachi of NDE.  The two legislators were at the conference for hours. Photo: Funmi komolafe
From right, Hon. Ibrahim Dogo, Senator Wilson Atake and Dr. Sunday Okpanachi of NDE. The two legislators were at the conference for hours. Photo: Funmi komolafe

Senator Wilson Ake, chairman Senate Committee on Labour “ Well our mission is to really demonstrate our committment to this very conference because we are unfortunately disappointed at the first instance the day we would have been here but as God would have it, we were able to find our way here today.

What is the use of coming on the last day of the conference. Don’t you think that is a waste of tax payers money?

Well, I think em , what happened today seemed to be the most important thing. Adoption of a document that is going to be also be adopted by Nigerian legislation so, it is an important thing.

( Meanwhile, the implementation of the Global Job Pact, which the Senator kept calling a document is to be implemented by the executive)

May I ask you what do you know about the document?

The document they have today seem to speak largely on what we have been canvassing as legislators in Nigeria.

And what is that? They are not very strange things. They are issues of employment . They are issues of the crisis today globally. They are issues of Child Labour, they are issues of skill acquisition, these are issues that have been very traditional in our country, issue of unemployment, issue of how to create jobs. These are issues that have been very common in our country. This is just an opportunity to bring them together and produce a document globally. So, we are part of it.

You came here and you made a statement. Are you no longer part of the federal government? Government is one at this conference ( Senator interrupts reporter ) “Yes” and the minister of labour has spoken what is the essence of your statement?

This is an adoption, it is an argument that is supposed that … a document has to be adopted and support has to be given . So even if the minister has spoken the previous day, today is the key day, in the case of … in this work of legislation , that is what we have just done. There must be voices to support what they are doing ( as if the conference which had over 4,000 delegates from 183 countries was ever short of voices in support) and that is why …. so, speaking today was very critical. ( The ILO is made up of three social partners. Government, Employers and Workers.One representative speaks for each side at the plenary and this is not compulsory. Some countries do not address the plenary)

I’m not convinced because government is one here and we have spoken twice. The question is are you no longer a part of this government?

We are complementing each other the legislature and the executive. We complement each other. Where we can give additional voice … there is nothing wrong about it . We have just given additional voice to what the minister has said.

( Senior officials of the ministry of labour looking very worried because they fear the legislators would not approve their budget rushed in to stop the interview but I insisted, they must answer my questions)

Senator Ake – Ok give your last question.

Reporter: Since the former chairman, Senator Ewa Henshaw left as chairman of the Senate Committee on Labour, we have not really felt the impact of the national assembly. Why?

Ake “ Are you talking about the conference? This is the first time I have been invited to this conference and like I said, we were supposed to be here on Monday ( June 15) ( but the conference started on June 3 ) but unfortunately, the aircraft that we would have followed that accompanied the vice-president was a very small one and we have to dash around to see how to make a booking. At this moment, my p.a. ( personal assistant) is still battling with Lufthansa how to recover my money I paid to them and there was no flight for us. That is why we used economic flight (sic) .

(They travelled in the economy class) and I seating almost at the last of the this thing. That is to tell you how important we regarded this conference and why we have to be here at all cost.

Away from this . It is clear from this conference that the ministry of labour is grossly underfunded. What are you going to do about it because if you compare what our ministry has to do …. in fact if you came earlier you would have seen how we were dragged to the Application of Standard Committee for not complying with Factories Inspection and this was all about money, so what do you intend to do for the ministry in terms of budget?

This is an issue we have been battling with. In fact, last year, we practically fought the ministry of finance for the under funding of the ministry of labour. My colleague is here ( Ibrahim Dogo, chairman House of Representatives Committee of Labour. He stood by. Not uttering a word but speaking to a journalist in Hausa language that if the press made too much noise, they would refund the estacode) and we are still thinking that something must be done because err… we come from the people and the employment of the people is paramount to us .

Its like government don’t seem to look… if you look at the whole thing is a concern to us that is why we are going to have a summit in a very short time on job creation and casualisation in job places so these things are of importance to us but unfortunately, we dont have the power to appropriate funds that have been brought to the national assembly . It is if the funds come to us from the executive definitely we are going to be behind them.

Are you not in a position to make a case …..

Interruption by Senator Ake, “ We have been making cases. What happened . You know the budgeting system of Nigeria. They give you envelope and the ministry has to decided what is priority to them. So, if it comes that way, what do we have to do and they put a ceiling. So, it has always been a problem for us but the pressure is on us that come from the people but unfortunately, that is the way it is. I think we have to start seeing reasons.

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