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COVID-19: Federal Government seeks ILO’s support to address poverty, unemployment

Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment

*The Federal Government of Nigeria solicits assistance of the International Labour Organisation, and urges the body to initiate meaningful intervention through alignment with other global agencies for an impactful assistance on the African continent

Alexander Davis | ConsumerConnect

In regard to the far-reaching implications of the outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) across Africa, the Nigerian Government has called on the International Labour Organisation (ILO) to develop more radical programme to help in tackling the rising incidence of poverty and social disruptions on the continent.

It was learnt the Federal Government especially urged the UN body to assist Nigeria in addressing the problems of unemployment and economic disruptions caused by the damaging COVID19 pandemic.

Sen. (Dr.) Chris Ngige, Honourable Minister for Labour and Employment, stated this in an address while receiving a delegation of the France candidate for the office of the Secretary-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Muriel Penicaud, who came to request the West African country’s support in the election, in Abuja, FCT.

French Ambassador to Nigeria, Emmanuel Blatmann; Secretary-General of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Emmanuel Ugboaja; Tommy Edwin, First Deputy President of the Trade Union Congress (TUC) Celine Oni, representing NECA among others, accompanied Muriel to the Minister’s office, report said.

Sen. Ngige, who described the ILO’s current effort at tackling development challenges in Africa as a drop in the ocean, urged the organisation to mobilise donor agencies and institutions to address the prevailing social upheaval on the continent.

The Minister also said: “There is a scourge of massive unemployment and under-employment. So far, the intervention of the ILO in this direction is like a drop of water in the ocean.

“We need ILO to assist mobilise global donor agencies so we can effectively tackle this.”

Ngige further noted: “There is every need for the ILO to be on the ground as you said. When you talk about child labour, it revolves around income. Low income makes families push out their children to the farms , to hawk in the streets.

“So, we are talking about poverty. The ILO is in the best position to assist developing countries like ours create a system to reduce poverty.

“Our social security system is poor and for the ILO to make meaningful intervention, it needs to shape up and align with other global agencies for an impactful assistance.”

According to him, the negative growth indices were worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic but stated that Nigeria was leaving no stone unturned in the path of progress.

“Inequality has been made worse by COVID-19 scourge, which has displaced many working persons, especially in the informal sector, those who earn their living by working daily.

“The majority of the population in Africa abound in this bracket and when you talk about Africa, Nigeria takes 60 percent of whatever you are talking about.

“As government, we are battling to make up for the job losses, and to cut poverty induced crimes.

“But even as we do this , we also face a great youth bulge that has led many of them into crimes. So the ILO needs a different approach than it currently does,” said the Minister.

Ngige also submitted although there was a joint effort by the ILO, UNICEF and Global Fund towards social security, social assistance, that impact is like a drop of water in the ocean.

Ngige further stated: “So, the ILO ought to draw up new programmes to tackle social malaise, whether it is child trafficking, child labour , illegal migration , banditry and other crimes induced by poverty and in turn, caused by unemployment or low income. Efforts must be directed at their roots .

“We reduce poverty through job creation and improvement in welfare. We need schools and hospitals in the areas prone to child labour and trafficking . The ILO can help bridge the gaps and that is the only way to nip them in the bud.”

Candidate Muriel Penicaud, in her remarks during the visit said she was contesting to lead the ILO to bring about a new “tripartism of multi-country inclusion”, so as to “bring the ILO to the ground, to change life for the people,” saying that only inclusiveness can bring the desired change.

Penicaud also noted that her experience over the years in the ILO had prepared her adequately for the job, with her focus also on mobilisation of social partners for social inclusion and protection against extreme poverty, child labour among others, in order to “show the world that something is changing for the best.”

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