My name is Ehi Iden, I am the Chief Executive Officer of Occupational Health and Safety Managers Ltd, a co-founder of Centre for Preventive Health and Advocacy, an NGO whose main focus is on Preventive Health and Occupational Safety.
In Occupational Health and Safety Managers, we have been involved in a wide variety of capacity building and development programs in Nigeria where we have been able to train a good number of people in Occupational Health and Safety. This is very core in our operational focus and it is a continuous program for us in our entire existence as an organization.
In as much as we train people to be able to primarily practice Occupational Health and Safety and also know how to draw and formulate policies in the area of safety in their workplaces, we are still bedeviled with a frustrating problem of not having enabling laws to base our practice or having a constitutional reference to enforce safety principles in workplace. The absence of such enabling laws have made organizations in Nigeria to expose workers to high risk levels to the extent that workers get maimed and even die on a daily basis in Nigeria in such a careless abandoned nature. There are no injuries reports, no statistics and the organizations are not even willing to draw up corporate safety policies because there has not been any law in Nigeria that has placed a responsibility on them to do so. The factory act and the workmen’s compensation act is an empty document in Nigeria and cannot secure the safety of Nigerian workers in their workplaces, we have visited some of organization to solicit for opportunities to allow us train their employees in Occupational Health and Safety and they bluntly tell us they do not need it. The few companies we have in Nigeria who recognize Occupational Health and Safety are the big multinationals who are running the policies constituted in their parent country of origin. The Asian companies have invaded Nigerian economy and they are killing Nigerians in their multiplied numbers through workplace accidents and it is becoming a situation where we are thinking we would have no future the way the Nigerian workplaces are being exposed to hazards of all kinds.
I will at this point give kudos to the modern day thinking Governor of Lagos State who summoned courage to call for a stakeholders conference on workplace safety in Lagos State sometime ago and he publicly declared the intentions of Lagos State Government to set up Lagos State Safety Commission which we have waited for to no avail but that move was a respite to most of us. I would not be shocked if we discover that the delay in getting this proposed safety commission set up is hinged on the absence of local enabling laws to operate the said commission.
I am most dismayed with the fact that Nigeria was among member countries that signed the Occupational Health and Safety Law in the Geneva convention of 1981 and why it is taking so long for this same law to be domesticated in to our local laws, we are yet to know. What help can the ILO render inthis direction to enable us secure the future of our dear country by influencing the Nigerian Government to sign the Geneva law in to our local law content?
A bill on Occupational Health and Safety was initiated almost 4 years ago at the floor of the Senate by Senator Chris Anyanwu and nobody has talked about that bill and it is not even given attention. What do we do? Nigeria is our country, we can keep rolling out graduates from Universities only to get killed and maimed in their workplaces due to the absence of enabling laws to provide safety and security for workers in workplaces. Parents lose their children on daily basis to this ill situation, most women enter early widowhood because of the loss of their husbands to workplace accident which ultimately leaves the children fatherless to face harsh life’s situation that has directly or indirectly contributed to the turnover of criminality and other socio vices in our Nation.
This is an appeal to International Labour Organisation, as an arm of United Nations to please offer every help necessary to Nigeria in ensuring Occupational Health and Safety Law is in place. Our heart bleeds, we do not even know how we got here, we need you to help us out of this lawlessness in workplaces and put us on a right track to enable us go on that Nigeria may have hope and a future. The future of this Nation lies in the youth who die daily in their workplaces due to high exposure to hazards without necessary controls.
I strongly believe you will act on this cry for help.