President, National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) Justice Benedict Kanyip and Femi Falana (SAN) have urged workers to enforce their rights as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and other international laws, conventions and treaties, which Nigeria has domesticated.
They spoke at the yearly public lecture and national dialogue organised by the Michael Imoudu National Institute of Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin.
Justice Kanyip, who was chairman of the lecture, said rights inured to workers, especially under the fundamental objectives and principles of state policy under Chapter II of the Constitution, are now litigable.
Represented by the Presiding Judge, Port Harcourt Division of NICN, Justice Iyabode Kola-Olalere, Justice Kanyip said the National Industrial Court had jurisdiction over ratified conventions, treaties and protocols.
He, however, said such litigation must be made through the normal court processes such as complaints.
Falana, in his paper, urged workers to take advantage of the revolutionary constitutional amendment to enforce their rights as guaranteed by the constitution, African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights as well as International Covention on social, economic and cultural rights.
The senior lawyer, who was the guest speaker at the event, stated that the third alteration to the constitution, carried out by the National Assembly in 2011, vested the NICN with the jurisdiction and power to deal with any matter connected with or pertaining to the application of any international convention, treaty or protocol ratified by Nigeria with respect to labour, employment, workplace, industrial relations or matters, as well as international labour standards.
According to Falana, Section 254 (C) of the constitution radically amended and created a new labour law regime in Nigeria, adding that Section 12 which provides that treaties have no force of law in Nigeria unless they are domesticated and enacted into law by the National Assembly has ceased to apply to ILO conventions and other labour related treaties.
The Acting Head of the Civil Service of the Federation, Dr. Folasade Yemi-Esan, in her address, said the provision of decent jobs to meet human rights needs, in terms of employment, could enhance the economic fortune of a nation.
Yemi-Esan, who described the theme of the lecture as timely, reassured participants that the government was working to put in place appropriate policies and strategies to meet human rights needs.
Commending the institute for its commitment to engendering industrial peace and harmony in the public service, she reiterated the readiness of her office to partner with relevant agencies and professional organisations on human rights needs of workers. She noted that the step would ensure that issues on human rights in employment relations were accorded top priority and treated passionately.
“I want to reassure that government is on track in addressing the issues in relation to employment in Nigeria. To achieve this, my office has initiated various programmes to transform and reposition the Federal Civil Service into a modern public service organisation that provides world class service for sustainable national development,” she said.
In his welcome address, the Director-General/Chief Executive of MINILS, Alhaji Ishaq Saliu Alabi, said human rights were key elements in transforming employment relationships and achieving workplace best practices.
“There is increasing consensus that the workplace is a critical platform upon which development processes could be fostered, at both strategic and operational levels. Therefore, it is our hope that this activity will assist the process of evolving progressive social models in which workplace issues and industrial relations actors are given prominence”, he said.
Alabi said the institute’s research was being reinvigorated, as the it was being repositioned to enable it carry out its mandate. He further said the institute had successfully articulated research domains and forged strong partnerships with international research and learning centres.
He re-emphasised MINILS dedication to improving the quality of its profile in human resource and physical infrastructure while aiming to improve capacity building initiatives for staff members.