Nigeria needs new occupational safety laws

Chris Ngige 
The Nigeria Labour Congress has called on the National Assembly to initiate a new Occupational Safety Health Bill to ensure the safety and health of the Nigerian workforce.

The Head of Occupational Health and Safety, Mrs. Maureen Onyia-Ekwuazi, made the call in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja on Friday.
She said that the enactment had become imperative to protect workers in case of injury or sickness that might arise in the course of their employment.
Onyia-Ekwuazi explained that a previous attempt to pass a similar bill failed in the 6th National Assembly.
She said, “The previous National Occupational Safety Health bill suffered a lot of setbacks in the Sixth Assembly.
“In fact, the House of Representatives had passed the bill from the first to the third reading, including holding a public hearing on it.”
She, however, said that the bill was later abandoned in the senate.
“Then precisely 10 to 11 months after the House of Representative had passed it, the
House of Representatives then reverse itself, saying that the bill could not be passed into law.”
Onyia-Ekwuazi stressed that all over the world, construction companies had the highest accident rates in the workplaces and those workers suffer greatly in the sector.
She said, “Nigeria is even worst and I know that a lot of complaints come to the NLC through the National Union of Engineering, Construction and Woodworkers’ Union and we have always taken up their complaints.
“We also received serious complaints from the chemical union and most of the time we settle out of court by ensuring that the company involved pays compensation to the workers concern or to their families in case of death.
“Sometimes when we go to court, it takes a number of years and the worker may even die before the compensation gets to him.
“That is why we prefer to settle out of court and get compensation for the worker.
“So, I think that the first thing to be done in Nigeria is to have a standard law to regulate occupational safety health in the country.”
She said that Nigeria was still operating on the revised edition of the 1960 law on the issue, adding that it was important for the country to follow the best practices in line with the provisions of the International Labour Organisationconstitution as it affects occupational safety and health.

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