Nigeria has solicited the assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to lobby for a waiver on global intellectual property rights so that developing countries could produce COVID-19 vaccines and effectively check the wave of the pandemic.
Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, stated this while welcoming the new ILO Country Director for Nigeria and English speaking West Africa, who is also the ILO liaison for ECOWAS, Miss Vanessa Phala in his office yesterday.
“Nigeria is in the league of countries who want the intellectual property rights as it relates to COVID-19 vaccines be waived so that developing countries can manufacture them to fight the pandemic,” Ngige said.
In a statement issued by the ministry’s Deputy Director Press and Public Relations, Charles Akpan, the minister also said that more assistance from the ILO would be needed by Nigeria in the area of job creation to enable it to recover from the disruptions caused by COVID-19 pandemic.
Ngige who traced the history of Nigeria as a pioneer member state of the ILO, with country office opened in Lagos in 1956, also commended the ILO Africa regional team, especially the immediate past Country Director, Mr. Dennis Zulu for the efforts towards the emergence of Nigeria as a Regular Member of the ILO Governing Board on June 11, 2021.
“We want to put on record the assistance and the working relationship we enjoyed with your predecessor, the Director General and the Regional Director for Africa. Their unceasing support all through the years was instrumental to the election of Nigeria into the Governing Board of the ILO.
“It is quite heartwarming that after nearly seven years absence, we came back to the Governing Board as a titular in 2017 under my tenure. While serving as the titular, they found us worthy to be the President of the Government Group of the ILO Governing Board between 2019- 2021. And now this year, barely a fortnight ago, we were voted in again, this time, to the highest membership of the Governing Board as a Regular.”
The minister also told the ILO team that Nigeria was adapting to the changing dynamics in the world of work, the reason the country domesticated the ILO conventions and repealed some of the obsolete labour laws, currently undergoing review. He asked for technical assistance towards legal finesse and early completion of the amendment.
“We have moved from retreat held in Lagos, where the tripartite partners participated and now, further working on the outcome of that retreat and harmonising in-house, before transmitting to the Federal Executive Council and finally, to the National Assembly.”
“We have got everybody, the lawmakers on board after initial setback through adequate liaison with the National Assembly Committee on Labour. We are hopeful that after the recess of the National Assembly, final legislative work on the review will commence.”
The Minister further said the National Labour Advisory Council previously dogged by budget constraints has been successfully inaugurated, with its first sitting already held. He stated that the body would sit twice yearly.
“After budgetary constraints over the years , this 2021, we were able to weather the storm and inaugurated the body in Owerri. We have no doubt that the council will meet up with the enthronement of an equable labour climate.”
Ngige solicited specific assistance of the ILO towards the creation of jobs to curb rising unemployment in the country.
“We are hopeful the ILO will carve a special place for Nigeria so that we can make an impact in the area of job creation. We need to create jobs here. We are battling unemployment and the figure of 33% is mind-boggling. By the time you add the underemployed, you are getting about 35%.”
Earlier, the ILO Country Director, Miss Phala said her mission was to familiarise herself with the internal workings and challenges of the Ministry, which she said was cardinal to the ILO.
“Over the years, the ILO has enjoyed quite a favourable working relationship and collaboration with the Ministry and it is my intention to maintain such. The purpose of our visit beyond courtesy call, is to touch base on a number of issues so that we will be able to respond accordingly to the technical requirement of the Ministry.”
She said the organisation would like to be updated on the efforts Nigeria was making towards the review of her labour laws as well as the progress that had been made with the inauguration of the National Labour Advisory Council.
She pledged the support of the ILO towards solving specific challenges of labour in the country.