By Henry Odeh
The Federal Government has been urged to ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 190 which seeks to eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work.
Making the call is an International Non-Governmental Organisation called the International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW), Nigeria Chapter.
The group emphasized that the call became imperative as the world on Friday, 19th June, commemorated the International Day for the Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict.
In a statement signed by an Ibadan-based labour activist and human rights lawyer, Femi Aborisade, for and on behalf of ILAW (Nigeria) said Nigeria would be making history if it promptly ratifies the Convention.
Aborisade said that an adopted ILO Convention came into force 12 months after ratification by two member States.
Aborisade said: “Convention 190 was adopted in June 2019. In January this year, Uruguay became the first country to ratify it and as at today, it remains the only country that has ratified the Convention.
“Ratification by Nigeria would make Nigeria the 2nd ratifying country and it would enable the Convention to come into force, twelve months after.
“Is Nigeria ready to make history and be counted among ILO member States that set the pace for establishing a framework for human progress and scoring victory for humanity on an international basis? This is the critical historical challenge that ratification or non-ratification of Convention 190 poses to the current Federal Government of Nigeria”.
It would be recalled that the ILO C190 was adopted by Member States at the centenary of the International Labour Conference, which held in Geneva, Switzerland in 2019.
“In the context of the combined provisions of Article 19(5) of the ILO Constitution and Section 254C(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, ratification of an ILO Convention is an executive function, which excludes the prescribed legislative role of the National Assembly under Section 12(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
“By Article 19(5) of the ILO Constitution, an adopted Convention is to be brought “before the authority or authorities within whose competence the matter lies, for the enactment of legislation or other action.
“In other words, depending on the legal framework in individual countries, ratification may involve domestic legislation or, alternatively, “other action” by the Executive arm of Government”, the group said.
Under Section 12(1) of the Constitution, international treaties require domestication before they can be acted upon or enforced.
Aborisade however said that Section 254C(2) of the Constitution has made an exception for ILO Conventions by excluding the requirement of prior enactment into law before they can be enforced, provided they are ratified by “other action” of the Executive.
He emphasied that the National Industrial Court of Nigeria (NICN) has given judicial approval to the provisions of Section 254C(2) of the Constitution, which has neither been challenged nor set aside on appeal.
“The International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (Nigeria Chapter) identifies with organized labour in Nigeria in calling on the Federal Government to speedily ratify the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 190 on Violence and Harassment in the world of work as one of the most effective ways to mark this year’s International Day for the Elimination of sexual violence in conflict”.
The Organisation noted the benefits of Violence and Harassment Convention No.190 and the accompanied Recommendation No. 206 as the first international standards, which seek to protect the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment.
The Convention recognises that behaviors that subject the other person to violence and harassment constitute human rights violation issues. It thus provides a framework to prevent, remedy and eliminate violence and harassment in the world of work, including gender-based violence and harassment.
ILO Convention 190 defines “violence and harassment” in the world of work as “…a range of unacceptable behaviors and practices, or threats thereof, whether a single occurrence or repeated, that aim at, result in, or are likely to result in physical, psychological, sexual or economic harm, and includes gender-based violence and harassment”.
The Convention therefore protects against abuses such as sexual harassment, rape, physical abuse, verbal abuse, bullying, mobbing, threats, stalking, and so on.
The Convention also protects everyone who works, irrespective of gender (male or female) or contractual status, i.e. worker or employer:
“This Convention protects workers and other persons in the world of work … as well as persons working irrespective of their contractual status, persons in training, including interns and apprentices, workers whose employment has been terminated, volunteers, job seekers and job applicants, and individuals exercising the authority, duties or responsibilities of an employer.
“Indeed, the scope of coverage includes all sectors of the economy, private and public, formal or informal, urban and rural areas, in physical or virtual work settings, including work related internet communications.
“Given the phenomenally rising rate of conflicts, crises, violence, multiple forms of socio-economic and political tensions, Boko Haram insurgency, abuses in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps, wanton and arbitrary police killings, and particularly the alarming incidents of rape and killing of rape victims, the most auspicious time to ratify Convention 190 is now”. Mr Aborisade stressed.
The International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network ILAW is supporting the Nigeria Labour Congress NLC and women /young workers across Nigeria to lend their voices for the ratification of the ILO Convention 190.