Inauguration Of 2021 National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) In Owerri
SPEECH BY HIS EXCELLENCY, MUHAMMADU BUHARI, GCFR, PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, DELIVERED BY HIS EXCELLENCY, PROF. YEMI OSINBAJO, SAN, GCON, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA AT THE INAUGURATION OF THE 2021 NATIONAL LABOUR ADVISORY COUNCIL (NLAC) IN OWERRI, IMO STATE ON MARCH 23, 2021
I am specially honoured to present to you today, the opening speech of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, so I will be reading his speech.
It is my pleasure to join you at this opening ceremony of the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) 2021. This day has certainly been long coming as the NLAC has been dormant for the past seven (7) years. But there couldn’t be a better time for the resumed convocation of the Council especially given the grave challenges and the new opportunities in the world of work today.
I note that NLAC has its roots in the 1976 International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 144 on Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) which has been designated as a Governance (Priority) Convention due to its importance to the functioning of the International Labour Standards System that provides benchmarks for best practices in labour and related matters.
Also, this Convention promotes the application of a founding principle of the ILO which established the bringing together of governments, employers and workers through tripartite social dialogue to develop, implement and promote international labour standards governing all aspects of the world of work. I am pleased to note that Nigeria has ratified this convention and is today practising its provisions.
So, we can without equivocation assert that Nigeria supports tripartism in labour relations as a fundamental pillar of good governance.
The benefits of the NLAC are enormous. First, they provide a chance for the tripartite actors to take advantage of the culture of dialogue promoted by the NLAC in the world of work and use the Council to strengthen the span of workplace cooperation and entrench social peace.
Perhaps this could reduce strikes as the default mode in trade disputes. Strikes have proved to be disruptive and notably dangerous especially on account of the fragility of our economies in the wake of COVID-19 fallouts. Besides, strikes inflict an adverse spiral effect on job retention and creation, all of which we simply cannot afford now.
Also, by its structure and mode of operations, NLAC compels informed decisions based on social concertation which is anchored in cooperation between trade unions, governments and employers in public policy-making. Clearly, such a process will lead to an end result that would meet less resistance from stakeholders in implementation.
NLAC also presents a platform for genuine consultations about International Labour Standards and several other issues many of which are areas of divergence that lead to trade disputes.
I am proud of Nigeria’s standing at the ILO and her adoption of all the eight (8) Core/Fundamental Conventions, two (2) of the four (4) Governance (Priority) Conventions, and thirty (30) Technical Conventions. I encourage you as a unified body to use this medium to advance the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Agenda particularly goals 1, 5, 8, 10 and 16 with their relevant subsumed targets as well as Agenda 2063 of the African Union.
I also strongly believe that the composition of the council presents a unique opportunity to build trust and to find a common cause in labour and ancillary matters for the good of the Nation. This tripartite constituency should also ensure that the nation complies with the provisions of Articles 19 and 22 of the ILO Constitution on Reporting by Member States to ensure that the problem of report arrears does not become a reoccurring issue before the ILO.
I also want to thank the social partners immensely for their cooperation especially as the fallouts of the pandemic devasted our economy in 2020. The incidence of retrenchment and declaration of redundancy was not as much as was initially feared and workers also showed understanding in their demands. Our government has always been and we remain resolutely committed to the welfare of workers. Indeed, one of our first actions in office was the massive bailout to States the majority of which were owing workers salaries in many cases for between 6 and 12 months.
As Federal government, we ensured that despite two cycles of recessions in six years, and severely dwindled national resources, no jobs were lost for this reason.
Indeed, we not only implemented a new national minimum wage but we also last year, put forward legislation that was passed by the National Assembly that ensured that minimum wage earners would pay no income tax.
As most are aware, we established the largest Social Investment Programme in sub-Saharan Africa and we have since expanded many of its component programmes including the Conditional Cash Transfers for the poor from 2.6 million households (13 million persons) to 7.2 million households (about 30 million persons) and COVID-19 Rapid Response for the Urban Poor which now has 4 million households (20 million persons).
Through the Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment, there is the Entrepreneur Support Programme which includes vulnerable workers amongst the urban poor; we also have the Artisan Support Fund, Payroll Support Fund for small scale businesses, Business Formalization also aimed at encouraging micro, small and medium enterprises by offering free registration for upcoming businesses by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). We also have the Guaranteed Off take Stimulus Scheme for Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), government guarantees to buy off an agreed number of items such as masks, PPEs and packaged food to encourage MSMEs in light manufacturing. Also, the National Youth Investment Fund (NYIF) for young entrepreneurs of N75billion all aimed at supporting the young labour for 3 years, all aimed at supporting the labour force.
We also intend to expand the N-Power programme from the present 500,000 to 1million persons and the Central Bank of Nigeria has activated its programmes in Agriculture and Manufacturing. In addition to these remedial policies, we will continue to consider and utilise the four pillars of ILO policy framework to tackle the COVID-19 crisis in our journey to build back better, that which was destroyed by the pandemic. Pillar one (1) to stimulate the economy and employment; pillar two (2) to support enterprises, jobs and incomes; pillar three (3) to protect workers in the workplace; and pillar four (4) which refers to tripartite gatherings such as these – to enhance and utilise social dialogue for solutions.
As I close, I must mention that perhaps we could take the opportunity of these meetings now and in the future to consider the implications of the rapid and fundamental changes to the world of work occasioned first by technology, disruptive innovation and lately as a result of the COVID-19 induced changes to the way we work. These issues will fundamentally define the future of work and the relations amongst social partners in the coming years. Predictive social concertation might be the way to go.
I congratulate and commend the Hon. Ministers of Labour and Employment and their team for their insightful planning and organization of this meeting and for all their very hard work and diligence in the handling of the numerous labour and employment issues that have come to them in the cause of their work.
It is now my special pleasure to declare this conference open. The Honourable Minister of Labour and Employment will inaugurate members of this Council on my behalf.
I wish you all fruitful and happy deliberations.