By Omololu Ogunmade
The Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, yesterday dismissed the seven-day ultimatum given the federal government by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) to reverse the new fuel price or face industrial action as invalid.
Answering a question from State House correspondents after a virtual Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, Ngige described the ultimatum as misplaced because it was wrongly directed.
He said the ultimatum was addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, in contravention of labour laws which authorise labour bodies to address such an ultimatum to the labour minister.
“The TUC issue, the seven-day ultimatum was misplaced because they were writing the president and issuing ultimatum to him.
“The president is not recognised by ILO. The competent authority for this nature of dispute in Nigeria resides in the man who oversees them, which is whoever is the Minister of Labour and Employment,” he said
Ngige also said FEC yesterday approved a new national policy on occupational safety and health, tagged National Policy on Occupational Safety 2020.
He also explained that the policy was a derivative of the provisions of both the 1999 Nigerian Constitution as well as the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) convention.
He said: “The Federal Executive Council today (yesterday) approved a new policy on occupational safety and health 2020. This policy is designed to make for safety and health of workers at work
“It derives from the the 1999 Constitution as amended, which in Section 17 (3c) prescribes that the Nigerian state shall make laws and by-laws for preservation of the health and well-being of workers in the work places; men and women at work.
“It also derives from the ILO Convention 155, which Nigeria has also domesticated. Again, that talks about making the work place conducive and ensuring the health and well-being of workers.”
Ngige who said the last time the policy was reviewed was 14 years ago, added that this new 2020 policy would be reviewed every three years.
He said such a periodic review had become imperative because the world had gone digital.
“The last policy we have was approved in 2006 ,which makes it exactly 14 years since that was approved by the Federal Executive Council and that is the policy we have been working on. But you know that 14 years is a long span in the life of any law so in the course of operations certain issues have been thrown up.
‘’The world has gone digital, work place mechanism and hazards have been changing and it was therefore necessary that we do a new policy.
“This policy we did now is what you call repeal and replace and it takes care of all that is needed for now, for the health of Nigerian workers,” he said.
The minister explained that the new policy gives specific roles to some agencies of government, including National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA), Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Standards Organisation of Nigeria and the Federal Ministry of Health.
“Everybody has his own role now because it’s a cross-cutting situation as most ministries, departments and agencies of government are involved,” he said.