Onyebuchi Ezigbo in Abuja
As President Muhammadu Buhari prepares to inaugurate his ministers, the United Nations agency on labour, the International Labour Organisation (ILO), has advised the incoming cabinet to concentrate on implementing existing policies and plans rather than rushing to draw up new ones.
Although the body said that it does not want to meddle in the lingering negotiation for the implementation of the new minimum wage, it advised the federal government to try and establish a national advisory council on labour in order to ease tension and build better understanding among the bodies in labour administration.
The Director General of ILO, Mr. Guy Ryder, who spoke at a press conference marking the end of a three-day Global Youth Employment Forum held in Abuja, said that a lot depends on the ability of the incoming ministers and the level of political will by government leadership to execute right policies needed to generate employment and create peaceful labour relations.
Speaking on policy direction with regards to labour issues and job creation, he said it was true that ILO had collaborated with the federal government in putting in place plans.
“Over the years, the ILO has helped to put in place a large part of government plans. There is a national employment plan, migration plan and safety at workplace. There is also a draft plan on youth employment. The important thing now is not to draw up new plans. I think what is important is to see to the implementation of the existing plans,” he said.
Ryder said that ILO believes strongly that the successful implementation of these plans require the political will from the government leaders.
“I think that it requires both the political attention on the part the ministers, those in government and a certain degree of investment to make things work out fine,” he said.
Speaking further on how to improve on the youth employment drive, the DG said that government must do something about the standard of the basic education in the country.
According to Ryder, despite the growing interest and attention on the acquisition of new technologies and digitalization, ensuring that students get good basic education is a starting point to helping them develop employable skills.
He said that most of the problems associated with lack of capacity and employable skills that deny access to good jobs can be traced to poor educational standards starting from basic education.
Ryder also offered advice to government on the issue of privatization, which often trigger resistance from labour, saying that honesty and sincerity should guide the parties in arriving at modalities for its implementation.
On the issue of setting up a Labour Advisory Council by the federal government, he said that the council when put in place can help in advising government on job creation strategies, better workers’ welfare scheme and in rebuilding confidence among different segments of the tripartite body, namely government, workers and private employers.
The Director General, who earlier met with the leadership of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the Nigeria Employers Consultative Council (NECA), said that he believes that by reactivating the labour advisory council, the government will be able to re-energise the confidence so that things can move in positive direction.
“Let me reiterate the point here that when you have the ministers in place, the ILO will like to impress it on the need to do more to promote tripartite cooperation. The ILO is an organisation with an international clout which insists that government relates well with its workers. So wherever I go, I always try to encourage that tripartite cooperation and I see no reason why I should do any less in Nigeria,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. William Alo, had in a speech read on behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari at the opening of the youth employment forum requested assistance of the ILO to raise the status of its country office to a regional technical training centre.
Alo also requested ILO’s assistance in strengthening the Labour Inspectorate system in the country by providing technical assistance for the review of Labour Bills which were withdrawn from the National Assembly in 2017.
However, the ILO boss assured the audience that the organisation will consider the request of scaling up the status of its Country Office in Nigeria.
He said that the matter will be given due consideration in line with what ILO budget can accommodate.