By Funmi Komolafe
Barely 48 hoursÂ before he was redeployed to the ministry of justice as attorney general of the federation, Prince Adetokunbo Kayode spoke to Pension and You on factory accidents, the role of government and measures being taken in the interest of injured employees.
Essentially, he gave an insight into the Employees Compensation Bill which has passed its second reading in the House of Representatives and the Senate.Â Though, redeployed from Labour to Justice ministry, Prince Kayode (SAN) still has a role in ensuring that the bill is signed into law.
Minister, it appears not much is happening in the area of factory inspection .Â I present to you pictures of injured workers in our factories, as a minister how do you feel looking at these pictures? Health and Safety at work is a very cardinal mandate of our ministry and what have we done.
I have already gotten the approval of government for the employees compensation bill which has now been sent to the national assembly.Â You see you need to move from policy to law to implementation.Â Yes, there are serious challenges in the work place.Â Â Â Health, Safety, Injury, Accidents they will happen .
The old legal regime was based on the Workmenâ€™s Compensation law which has become completelyÂ non responsive, primitive in the circumstance. So, we have developedÂ a new legal regime and that one will strengthen us and what is that legal regime?Â That regimeÂ Â is that from now on, anybody who is injured does not need to even talk to his employer .Â They would just go to Nigeria Social Insurance Trust FundÂ Â immediately this law is approved, theyÂ will be compensated.
Does that mean the employer will no longer have responsibility for the injured employee?
Not reallyÂ because employersÂ will be making contribution to NSITF .Â For instance yesterday,Â Â there was a case in which I intervened.Â A 21 year old lady lost limb in a company in Ota, Ogun state and they wrote to me.
So, I summoned the director of Inspectorate and he told me yes, he knows about the matter that the girl started work about 14 days earlier and while she was operating a machine , she was busy talking and laughing and looking elsewhereÂ Â until the machine took her hand and chopped it off.
So, you can understand that there are so many issues involved.Â Yes, the companies must compensate.Â Workers must be properly trained when they are operating machines.Â Safety managers must be employed.Â That is why we have directedÂ Â all companies that have these type of machines to employ safety managers.Â I have directed my director of inspectorate to organise some seminars for safety managers and alsoÂ organise some seminars on health and safety at work.
There is huge work to be done but what is happening?
The directorate of Inspectorate or what you call the Inspectors of factories, they do not have a single car .Â Â Â Â No logistics to enable them implement their mandate.Â Can you imagine, a person wants to go and inspect a factory and it is the factory that provides a car for him, is he not compromised right from the beginning?
This ministry has never been properly funded and it is a shame.Â We have to fund it.Â We must notÂ look down on this ministry as ministry of labour… they are just to carry placards.Â No.Â There are more issues there and since I came in, you are my witness, the press is my witness, even the unions are myÂ witness that I have been campaigning that we must fund this ministry.Â There are serious issues to attend to.
By the time we have more power and the factories begin to work, we are going to have an epidemic of this kind of situation.Â Serious accidents at work because the more people you put at work, the more the tendency of accidents to happen.Â What are we doing? Are we laying the foundation now?
How do we lay the foundation whenÂ Â the average factoryÂ Â inspector has not received any serious training in the past 15 years.Â They have not updated their knowledge, they have not developed their capacity, they donâ€™t have any logistic to do their work. The ministry is the least funded ministry in this country.Â It is a shame. In fact the ministry is regarded as a third class ministry.
Iâ€™ve been making some noise about this but the media has not keyed into my vision in this matter to join in adding voiceÂ to those who decide on who gets what to know that this is a ministry of service and they must fund it.Â Even the unions they havenâ€™t done anything to lift a finger to helpÂ this ministry . All they do is to raise complaints about what has happened or what has not happened. The tripartite ( Government, Labour and Employers )Â must work for the mandate of this ministry.It is very important.
On the issue of employment of safety managers by companies, are you working with NECA to ensure its success?
I have issues with NECA. .Â I have challenged NECA to show that the tripartism we are talking about is not a one way traffic.Â They should work with us.Â They should partner with us.Â They should cooperate with the ministry.Â It is not enough for NECA to be involved in everything we do, when we are not involved in everything they are doing.
Thatâ€™s one side.Â Secondly, yes of course, if we inspect the factories and we see that there are safety issues, we will direct them to provide safety managers , people who are properly l trained on safety issues so that they can make sure that they maintain a minimum standard of safetyÂ within the establishmentâ€.