From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige has decried the exclusion of his Ministry in the Draft National Social Protection Policy.
Ngige demanded that the policy be reviewed to include his ministry and the informal sector which makes up a large chunk of the labour market.
The Minister stated this Thursday at a meeting with the delegation of the United Nations and key stakeholder Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), to discuss the Draft National Social Protection Policy and the Draft Harmonised Social Protection Coordination Bill.
According to a statement by his Spokesperson Mr Charles Akpan, Ngige convened the meeting based on a request by the Director of International Labour Organisation (ILO) Country Office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Ngige maintained that it was improper to designate the Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning, and the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs as chairman and co-chairman in the draft policy, without any mention of the Labour Ministry which should drive Social Security.
He insisted that the Labour Ministry should occupy the driver’s seat as most of the issues involved are Labour based.
He said, “My Ministry is not mentioned at all. And they (Ministry of Budget and Planning) now made themselves and the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, the Chairman and Co-Chair.
“There is no way you can do social security in a country without the Labour Ministry. The force or gravitas you are using comes from Labour all through. Even if it runs through ten ministries, it is the Labour component that drives the entire thing.
“If you are talking about old age, it is a person who has worked before and is on retirement or pension. If you are talking about employment benefits for not working, it is also because of unemployment or underemployment. If you also talk about injury at work, it is also a labour issue.”
Ngige noted that Nigeria has a law on Social Protection, operational since 2010, known as Employee Compensation Act (ECA) 2010 that replaced the old Workmen Compensation.
He said the ECA established the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) by which employers make contributions for workers both in the public and private sector to cover them for injuries sustained in the course of work.
“We are going to write and point it out to them. We are going to co-chair. They will now give us any other Ministry between them (Budget and Planning) and Humanitarian Affairs to Co-chair with us.”
“The Labour Ministry developed all the conventions and has all the communications. We know when it is done properly and when it is not done properly. It is one Government but if we are doing a policy, we should do a policy that will outstay us. We don’t do it because of me or whoever. Policies are policies and they are going to last.”
According to Ngige, the thematic areas for social protection covered under convention 102 of the ILO goes into even medical care, old age benefits, unemployment benefits, compensation for injury at work, disability and even maternity to cover women who are doing child bearing and their children
He said Nigeria has not ratified Convention 102 but is implementing a lot of the provisions piecemeal like most other countries.
“We are doing them piecemeal because we can’t take them at the same time. Here our social protection policy tries to do that but I must admit that we have not gotten to where we should be as a country because of our level of development and of course, our finances.”
Ngige also stressed the need to pay attention to the informal sector in putting up a policy on Social Protection, and even going into the bill.
“A large chunk of our population is in the informal sector. They are up to 60 percent and are vulnerable. COVID-19 has taught us now to have an informal group. They earn as they work. If you don’t work, you don’t get money. So, it is really a very serious situation for Africa, not only Nigeria.
“More so, when you now look at the population configuration of the continent and our country, we have a youth budge of 65 percent and 35 percent of them are unemployed. So, we are sitting on a tinder box.
“That is why you have this restiveness all over the place, banditry, insurrection, Boko Haram tendencies, armed robbery, kidnapping and the rest of them. This is a group of unemployed persons and they now took to informal way of earning their money. They kidnap people and ask for N10 million ransom. Even the people doing insurrection in South East, their recruits are people who have no jobs and no hope that the country can give jobs to them so that they can have houses of their own, eat three square meals and train their children.
Ngige further stressed the need to look at our Social Protection policies again to see how it could be made more beneficial to the states, since most of the people live in villages, wards and local governments, aggregating to the states.
Earlier, Director of Social Development, Federal Ministry of Budget and Planning, Sanjo Faniran said the Technical Working Committee came to intimate the Minister on where they are on the revision of the policy.
Faniran told the Minister that there was an arrangement by the UN system that is expected to enable Nigeria to accelerate the achievement of the SDGs by 2030.
“It is on the basis that there was a joint fund in support of the government of Nigeria for the revision of the National Social Protection Policy and also support to Social Protection Policy and programmes across MDAs in Nigeria both at the Federal and sub-national levels of government.”
“It is on the basis that we commenced the revision of the National Social Protection Policy that implementation started in 2017 and expired in 2020 but because of COVID-19, we did not start revision on time. So, the revision did not commence until August 27 2020 when the Multi-sectoral Technical Working Committee was constituted by the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Budget and National Planning who is also the chair of the Technical working group, cutting across 36 key stakeholder MDAs including development partners who played a key role in the implementation process.”
He added that they came to intimate the minister on the step to harmonise all the laws supporting social protection in the country.
Also speaking, Chief of Social Policy, UNICEF, Hamidou Poufon commended the Ministry of Labour for its contributions to the bill on Social Projection and developing financial mechanisms to it in the country.
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