By Victor Ahiuma-Young
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, has said that Nigeria will support the best candidate for the post of the Director-General of the International Labour Organisation, ILO.
Ngige spoke while receiving the Australian candidate for the post and incumbent Deputy Director-General of ILO, Greg Vines, in his office.
Vines was accompanied by the Australian High Commissioner to Nigeria, John Donnelly and the Secretary to the High Commission, Annabelle Simpson.
Also present at the event were the President of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Ayuba Wabba, NLC General Secretary, Emmanuel Ugboaja, representatives of Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, TUC, and President of Association of Senior Civil Servants of Nigeria, ASCSN, Dr. Tommy Etim and official the Abuja office of Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association, NECA, Adenike Adebayo.
A new D-G of ILO is expected to emerge through a secret ballot at the 344th session of the Governing Board in March 2022.
Nigeria has three votes in the Governing Board.
A statement by the Deputy Director, Press, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Charles Akpan, said after listening to the manifesto of the Australian candidate, Ngige noted that from inception, ILO had made tremendous success in sustaining the world of work and therefore everything possible should be done to support, energise and re-energise the organisation, especially in this post-COVID-19 pandemic era.
According to the Minister, the COVID-19 pandemic had left the economy of many nations very debilitated, distorted the world of work and inflicted loss of income on the working group, particularly those in the informal sector.
He said, “With that blow, the informal sector of the working group has been debilitated very badly. In Nigeria here, the people in the informal sector constitute about 60-70 per cent of workers and entrepreneurs in the working economy. Therefore, what this means is that the ILO should lookout for the best in choosing the next Director-General. I am happy that you pointed out that tripartism is working in Nigeria. I want to assure you that the tripartism is here and we are working and social dialoguing well in the spirit of decent work agenda.
“Nigeria occupies a prime place in the Governing Board of ILO. We had to get back to the Governing Board in 2016 after 10 years of exit. What is spectacular about our return is that we came back in full force, ranging from the government side, the workers represented by the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, and the employers’ federation, represented by the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, NECA.
“Again, we were elevated. On the government side, we moved from titular to a full regular member of the Governing Board. Even before we did this movement, recognizing the role of Nigeria in the Governing Board, I headed the Government group as the President for two years. So, it is a very big honour.”
Ngige thanked Mr Vines and the D-G, Guy Ryder, for superintending the election that gave Nigeria that elevation and assisting her to discharge the functions of that office creditably.
He described the visit of the Australian candidate to Nigeria as a step in the right direction, assuring that the country has no problem with his manifesto.
The Minister said “The manifesto shows somebody who has deep knowledge of the workings of the ILO. So, on behalf of the Nigerian tripartite partners, I want to inform you that we have received your manifesto and we are going to consult further on it.
“It is a manifesto that gives hope for the resurgence of the ILO, especially in this Post Pandemic period. As a country, we are not oblivious of the fact that five candidates are going for this position. I can tell you that the five of you that are so far in the race are eminently qualified, starting from your humble self to the French lady, the Korean, the South African who is coming out from the employer’s and the Togolese, our next-door neighbour, who like you, has worked in ILO and presently at the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO. We want to assure you that as a country, we have decided that we will give our votes to the best candidate. We look forward to getting others to sell their manifesto to us like you.”
He congratulated Vines for scaling the hurdle of the screening committee to emerge as a candidate for the job and extended Nigeria’s good wishes to him in the race.
He prayed that other countries should toe the path chosen by Nigeria by voting for the best among the candidates aspiring for the plum job.
Earlier Mr Vines assured that if elected, he would tackle the challenges facing the world of work including gender inequality, youth unemployment, child labour, employment insecurity, inadequate social protection, amongst others.
He said ILO needed strong leadership to address these challenges, the reason his country was pushing him forward for the job.
Vines noted that he has a background spanning decades on labour matters working in government, trade union and ILO.
According to him, if elected, he would be seeing ILO from the eye of a constituent, being the Deputy DG in the past nine years.
The Australian candidate promised to pursue reinvigoration of social dialogue in ILO, international labour standards that are relevant and applicable to the world of work, gender equality and inclusiveness in the workplace to accommodate people with disabilities.
He pledged to pursue a strong relationship with the United Nations and World Bank, in building capacity in labour administration and social protection.