In Geneva, Onyejeocha Echoes Tinubu’s Commitment to Upholding Labour Standards

Emameh Gabriel writes about Nigeria’s take-home from the just concluded 112th Session of the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland

Last week, the global community watched as Nigeria’s Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Hon Nkeiruka Onyejeocha demonstrated her outstanding diplomatic prowess and leadership abilities on the world stage, when she delivered a remarkable address to a gathering of world leaders at the 112th Session of the International Labour Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland, showcasing her country’s commitment to upholding labour standards and promoting decent work for all.

 Before she left the country for the conference, the stakes were high, and expectations were keenly focused on her report on the country’s adherence to international labour standards amid ongoing wage negotiations between the government and organised labour in Nigeria. 

So, prior to her departure, the Minister was faced with a daunting task, juggling both domestic and international responsibilities. Back home, negotiations with organized labour were at its peak, and some quarters anticipated discord within the Nigerian delegation at the ILO conference. She was tasked with facilitating a dialogue between the government and labour unions to establish a fair and realistic wage structure for Nigerian workers. This assignment came with a tight deadline, adding to the pressure.

However, the Minister’s adept leadership and diplomatic prowess ensured a united front, as she effectively communicated Nigeria’s commitment to promoting social dialogue and enhancing favourable work conditions for employees in the country. 

Under her able guidance, the Nigerian delegation presented a cohesive and compelling case, garnering international recognition for the country’s efforts in promoting decent work and fair labour practices, among others. 

In a landmark address at the plenary, Onyejeocha reiterated President Bola Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda, which prioritizes repositioning Nigeria as a prime global investment destination, aligning with the conference theme, “Towards a Renewed Social Contract.”

The Minister’s speech was a masterful articulation of Nigeria’s commitment to social cohesion, economic resilience, and political stability. She painted a vivid picture of a nation poised for transformation, driven by the “4-D Diplomacy Strategy” and eight Priority Areas. The agenda’s focus on economic prosperity, food security, poverty eradication, job creation, and access to capital is a testament to the government’s dedication to building a more just and equitable society.

Her emphasis on social dialogue, labour law reforms, and tripartite cooperation highlighted Nigeria’s progress in creating an enabling environment for workers’ rights and decent work. The establishment of Job Centres and Migration Resource Centres demonstrated the government’s proactive approach to addressing unemployment and labour migration.

The Minister noted: “…. the Nigerian government has provided enabling environment for social dialogue with the tripartite constituents to advance social justice and has solicited tripartite plus cooperation to align with government’s agenda in the labour sector to promote workers welfare and boost national productivity. 

“The Federal Government has made giant strides in the following areas:

Implementation of the Decent Work Country Programme III;

Ratification of the 10 ILO Fundamental Conventions and most recently ratified 4 additional Conventions, including Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment;

Revival of the National Labour Advisory Council, Nigeria’s highest tripartite consultative structure; 

Tremendous progress in the review of our Labour Laws. 

“Establishment of Job Centres across the country; Upgrading Skill Acquisitions Centres across the six geo-political zones; Establishment of Migration Resource Centres, as part of government’s commitment to providing good governance for Labour Migration; Reducing child labour to the barest minimum by promoting universal basic education and encouraging school enrolment of minors, especially for the girl child; Granting direct loans to farmers in the agricultural sector geared towards food security; and 

Provision of portable water, energy and massive road infrastructure, just to mention a few.

“Furthermore, the Federal Government is currently negotiating through its tripartite committee to review the National Minimum Wage as part of its efforts to promote decent work for workers in both the public and private sectors”.

Onyejeocha’s speech also underscored the importance of skill acquisition and youth empowerment. She noted that the recently launched Labour Employment and Empowerment Programme (LEEP) is a clear expression of the government’s commitment to equipping young Nigerians with entrepreneurship skills, revitalizing the economy, and reducing unemployment and insecurity.

The Minister’s address also resonated with the global audience on the need for international cooperation to address technological challenges and climate change. Her call for sustainable practices and green jobs echoed the urgent need for environmentally conscious policies in the world of work.

Nigeria’s commitment to social protection and establishing a comprehensive social security system is a significant step towards ensuring the well-being of its citizens. Onyejeocha’s acknowledgment of the challenges posed by climate change and its impact on the world of work demonstrated Nigeria’s willingness to engage with global partners to find solutions.

“We must continue to work together to mitigate the challenges of technology and its related threats to the world of work, while charting a more productive, resilient, equitable and more inclusive society for future generations”, the Minister made the call in her closing remark.

On the margins of the International Labour Conference, the Minister seized the opportunity to pay a courtesy visit to the Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in Geneva. The meeting was part of her effort to leverage Dr. Okonjo-Iweala’s vast expertise and explore potential collaboration between WTO and Nigeria in the areas of economic policy development and technical assistance.

During their discussion, Onyejeocha sought to tap into Okonjo-Iweala’s wealth of knowledge and experience, recognizing the WTO’s critical role in shaping global trade policies and promoting economic growth. 

By fostering closer ties with the WTO, Nigeria aims to enhance its economic development and strengthen its position in the global landscape. This meeting underscored the Minister’s commitment to exploring innovative partnerships and harnessing international expertise to drive Nigeria’s economic progress through the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and in line with the President’s Renewed Hope Agenda.

“Seeking such a partnership is in line with the federal government’s commitment to exploring all avenues, both domestic and international, to address economic challenges and foster a more robust economy.

“The visit was a step in leveraging global expertise and partnerships to drive economic growth and development in Nigeria”, the Minister said in an interview with journalists after the meeting. 

Onyejeocha’s success on the global stage has reinforced Nigeria’s position as a responsible and engaged member of the international community. 

As the conference ended, it was evident that Nigeria is poised to embrace a brighter future, driven by its commitment to social cohesion, economic resilience, and political stability. 

Onyejeocha’s speech was a powerful testament to the nation’s resolve to transform and become a prime global investment destination.

• Gabriel, media adviser to Minister of State for Labour and Employment, writes from Geneva.

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