Senate Okays Bill, Seeking Protection for  Domestic Workers, Employers

Sunday Aborisade in Abuja

The Senate yesterday passed a bill seeking proper documentation and protection for domestic workers and their employers in the country.

The bill, when signed into law, will serve several purposes, including keeping full records of the identities of domestic workers.

It would also respect their fundamental human rights and safety of their employers.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Hussaini Babangida-Uba (Jigawa North-West), was titled: ‘A Bill for an Act to Provide for the Documentation and Protection of Domestic Workers and Employers and for other Matters Connected Therewith, 2024’.

Babangida-Uba told his colleagues that  the bill would safeguard the interest of both the domestic worker and the employer by addressing recurring abuses and tragedies such as home helps killing their employers and disappearing with their valuables.

In Nigeria, he said, the absence of defined processes for recruiting domestic workers has led to such workers facing mistreatment, abuses and in many reported instances, tension between the parties resulting in the house helps resorting to criminality, including murder.

The Nigeria Police Force frequently warns Nigerians against indiscriminate recruitment of domestic workers in a bid to cut down the number of ugly incidents involving the workers and their employers.

Babangida-Uba, while leading the debate on the general principles of the bill, said most domestic workers in the country were unregistered and not supported by labour laws.

He also noted that the country did not have a codified set of laws to cater for various cadres of domestic workers, some of whom were non-Nigerians.

The senator said: “The bill seeks to protect both domestic workers and their employers.

“It will reduce and deter domestic workers from conniving with criminal elements to do harm to their employers. Both parties can have proper access to justice.”

In his contribution, Senator Sani Musa observed that in the United Kingdom for example, the law did not allow for the recruitment of a domestic worker without following a laid down procedure.

“In the UK, you don’t just bring in anybody to serve as a domestic worker. In Nigeria, their fundamental rights are always abused,” he said.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Interior, Adams Oshiomhole, expanded the argument further, saying that domestic workers suffered abuses like rape, harassment and murder, most cases going unreported.

On the other hand, Oshiomhole observed that employers too faced the risk of becoming victims of criminal plots hatched by such house helps.

“Some of us employ security guards that we don’t even know where they come from, and sometimes, it doesn’t end well,” he stated.

The former labour leader raised the issue of appropriate remuneration for such workers, saying the practice of paying them slavery salary should be regulated.

Also, the immediate-past Minister of Labour and Employment and Productivity, Senator Simon Lalong, described the bill as timely.

President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, who presided over the plenary, while rounding off the debate, however, disapproved of the establishment of a commission by the bill to regulate the recruitment, documentation and protection of the rights of domestic workers and their employers.

Akpabio recommended that a department in the Ministry of Labour and Employment should be saddled with that responsibility. The bill received unanimous enforcement by senators and was referred to the Committee on Labour and Productivity.

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