By Johnbosco Agbakwuru – Abuja
The Federal Government, Tuesday, expressed sadness over the alarming rate of casualization in the nation’s workforce and vowed to put a stop to it.
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige conveyed Federal Government’s commitment at a One -Day Public Hearing on three labour bills by the Senate Committee of Labour and Employment.
The bills include the National Directorate of Employment Act 2004, Labour Act Cap L1, LFN 2004 (Amendment bill 2021(SB.469), Prohibition of casualization in Nigeria (Establishment Bill 2021(SB,329)
Ngige said his Ministry was committed to a seamless amendment of the labour laws to bring them at par with the international best practices, insisting that casualization was a vexed anti-labour practice which the Federal Government has been addressing since 2016.
“Casualization is a very volatile issue. Recall that during the Eight Senate, we appeared before this committee over the same issue, when some banks and financial institutions casualized and sacked workers unilaterally in 2016. We are not sitting idle. The time has come to stop casualization of any form in the labor force. The private entrepreneurs must make gains to keep the business afloat but must not enslave their workers.
“However, it is not just about tackling casualization, it is more about uprooting the problem. There is a yearly youth surge into the labor market. 1.2 million graduates from the universities and polytechnics move into the market yearly to look for work in the already over bloated public service. This is not inclusive of those with NCE and School Certificate.
“Since over a year now, public servants below level 12, as part of the COVID-19 protocol have been at home, some working from home, yet the public service goes on. What does it show you? Less work for more persons. In spite, the Federal Government keeps faith and takes the burden as part of the social protection scheme of the administration that is pro-people.
“However, we must intensify efforts in job creation. That is the solution. We need a fundamental restructuring to take care of the surge.
Ngige, therefore, urged the National Assembly to grant the Ministry more time to liaise within the tripartite community to make fruitful contributions, towards a seamless enactment of an act on the Prohibition of casualization in Nigeria, in a manner that will stand the test time.
“The Federal Government can no longer close its eyes to casualization. We must seek a cure and an end to this. We must nevertheless ensure that any law so enacted will stand the test of time and not one that can be circumvented ab initio. We need a law that will elicit buy-in from the employers of labor, the workers, indeed every member of the tripartite.
“Before now, we have been working to redress casualization in the oil and gas sector, and already set up a tripartite committee comprising the Nigeria Labour Congress(NLC) Trade Union Congress (TUC) Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) the NNPC, PENGASSAN and other related affiliate unions.
“The assignment of the committee is to draft a guideline on contract staffing in the oil industry which will later be transmitted to the Federal Executive Council and the Attorney General of the Federation.
The Minister however cautioned that with the Petroleum Industry Act, all propositions in the guidelines must be in tandem with the provisions of the PIA.
“ We need to modulate the guidelines to fall within the provisions of the PIA as anything that goes to the contrary is null and void,” he said.
On the bill to amend the NDE Act 2004, the Minister admitted it was well-intended but pointed out that the proposal to remove the Minister as the Chairman of the Board of the agency was antithetical to the very nature of the NDE as a special purpose vehicle.
“The amendment is well-intended but not appropriate for the NDE as a special purpose vehicle which is inter-ministerial, tripartite, and federated. Its board cannot be effectively chaired by an outsider who does not have enough insight and without strong influence as the minister would in control of the agency.
He further gave examples of similar agencies such as the Customs under the Ministry of Finance and chaired by the Minister of Finance as well as Immigration under the Ministry of Internal Affairs, also chaired by the Internal Affairs Minister. He further asked for more time for the tripartite to meet over the proposed amendment.
His position was supported by the Nigeria Labour Congress and the Trade Union Congress. The Senate committee, however, gave the Ministry and the other tripartite members two months to meet on the bills and revert to the Committee.