By Anthony Okosun
As Nigeria has embarked on wholesale privatization and liberalization of the economy, and massive capital from around the globe is flowing in from investors around the world, it is very important that laws be put in place for the protection of Nigerian workers. Nigeria’s Labor Ministry must enforce the labor laws in the books to protect Nigerian workers and ensure that Nigerian workers work in safe environments, and are not abused in any manner whatsoever. There must also be laws to ensure that when Nigerian workers suffer harm, they are adequately cared for and compensated. Nigeria’s Labor Ministry should have Supervisors who physically visit factories to ensure that safety standards meet global standards, and to also ensure that Nigerian workers are not exploited in any manner whatsoever.
The Nigerian Labour Congress and other related and relevant groups should also be actively involved in ensuring the proper protection of the interest of the Nigerian worker. The Nigerian Labor Congress in partnership with the Ministry of Labor should regularly organize teaching and enlightenment seminars for Nigerian workers, especially those who are most vulnerable and ignorant of their rights as workers. There are several reports of Asian factory bosses calling their Nigerian employees Gorillas, Monkeys et al. Such abuses must not be tolerated. The workers need to receive training on how to handle all such abuses. There are reported cases of Nigerian workers in factories established by Asians, who suffer abandonment when they suffer harm in the course of their employment. Such workers and other vulnerable Nigerian workers must be trained in seminars on how to properly seek redress for the violation of their rights and for other legal injuries suffered in the course of their employment.
The National Assembly must also be very deeply involved in the protection of the Nigerian worker. Nigerian law makers must ensure that Nigerian citizens are not merely employed to fill only low level jobs. Nigerians should also be hired to fill top level jobs. Laws must be put in place to ensure that Nigerian workers are not only hired to do low level jobs and dropped off casually; but fair employment mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that Nigerian workers are able to climb up to the pinnacles of their careers, even in Manufactories established by Asian investors in Nigeria. The unencumbered pathway for Nigerian workers to move from the lowest jobs to the topmost jobs must be protected by Nigerian lawmakers through appropriate legislation. The Nigerian Constitution guarantees the dignity of all Nigerians. Asian employers of labor must not be allowed to debase, denigrate, dehumanize and or degrade Nigerian workers.
During the second coming of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as Nigeria’s President, billions of dollars were sunk into the power sector. Nothing remarkable was achieved despite the heavy government investment in that sector. If power generation and power supply were up to par, stable and reliable; many Nigerians would be able to create and build commercial enterprises and become employers of labour or at the very least become self employed. Lack of stable and reliable power supply makes it extremely financially cumbersome for many would be Nigerian entrepreneurs to start and nurture commercial concerns. The overwhelming bulk of American and Japanese exports like in other advanced societies, are the products of small businesses. When Nigerians are empowered to create their own businesses, there will not be any need for Nigerians to become victims of Indian, Chinese and Lebanese established slave labour factories in Nigeria.
Federal and state governments must critically engage in introspection and find out areas where money can be saved, and all such saved funds must be re-directed to poverty alleviation. Government must focus on improving the lot of the masses, to give vulnerable Nigerians alternatives to slave labor in Asian slave labor factories in Nigeria. In the United States, there was a government agency known as the United States Information Agency. The agency was formerly known as the United States Information Service and was founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The agency existed between 1953 and 1999, and its function was public diplomacy. The agency has since become defunct and the U. S. State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors have since shared the agency’s functions. In a manner pursuant to the above example, the Nigerian government needs to urgently phase out many government agencies and ministries that are duplicating functions. The funds saved thereby should be channeled to the provision of durable infrastructures and welfare programs that would introduce dignity to the lives of Nigerians.
Nigerian citizens working under brutally terrifying conditions in Chinese, Lebanese and Indian owned and managed slave labor factories in Nigeria, are forced to remain bound to such humiliating circumstances due to the guaranteed monthly salary of between N12,000.00 – N15, 000.00. We must not forget that many of these workers are not just High School graduates, many are University graduates. It is against the background of this gross societal dysfunction that one begins to wonder how Nigerian leaders can sleep with a good conscience knowing that many Nigerians with equal right and entitlement to Nigeria’s common wealth are enduring such ruthlessly bitter challenges, while such leaders squander billions of the people’s wealth.
Anthony Okosun via tonyOsun@Yahoo.Co.Uk