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As Lagos plans to regulate domestic workers

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It is heart-warming that the Lagos State government plans to regulate the activities of domestic workers and security guards.

Governor Akinwunmi Ambode will soon send an executive bill to that effect to the state House of Assembly to prescribe regulations for these classes of workers, as well as, monitor their activities, that of their employers and agencies involved in the process.

Generally, domestic workers have low pay and work long hours, have no legal protection; 45% have no legal rest periods or paid annual leave and often have unlawful contracts; earn less than the legal limit; and work under unfair terms and unethical job descriptions.

Many get payment as food and a place to stay.

Also, there are many other problems such as late pay, deductions, unpaid overtime and no pay for times they are not working.

Domestic work can lead to slavery, sex trafficking and imprisonment. They are often victims of crime, rape, forced labour and physical violence. So, Lagos State government is taking a right step in the right direction.

Domestic workers can be adults or children. As for children, the ILO approximates that about 15 million children under the age of 14 work to earn a living in Nigeria.

The high level of diverse and tedious jobs that these children execute in dangerous circumstances is worrisome.

In rural areas, they can be found performing hazardous work and using dangerous tools.

In urban settings, they are most often street vendors, scavengers and beggars, car washers or shoe shiners. Others work as apprentice mechanics, hairdressers and bus conductors while a large number work as domestic servants.

Girls mainly work as domestic servants and many have been forced into commercial sexual exploitation in houses, port cities and refugee camps.

Although, it is against the law to employ children, child labour remains a major source of concern in spite of existing legislative measures. Ignorance and poverty of the mind are major factors fuelling child labour.

Other facilitating factors are the desire to migrate to the urban city and abroad; violent conflicts; and weak legal system.

The child domestics wake up too early; are exposed to sexual abuse; labours endlessly; have no time for self-development, are denied happy childhood and some are trafficked.

Hence child labour remains a major source of concern in Nigeria because it is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children.

Apart from the negative effects on the domestic worker; the domestic workers have been abusing their employers lately, which account for why Ambode is poised to tackle this social problem, having seen that it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

According to him, “There is no room for child abuse or under-aged workers.

It has been discovered that domestic workers are largely undocumented and pose a grave security threat in the state. The recruiting agencies must be licensed and regulated henceforth. Our safety is now non-negotiable.”

So, once again, it is gratifying that the Lagos State government plans to regulate the activities of these workers; to prescribe regulations for them as well as monitor their activities that of their employers and agencies involved in the process.

Since this bill is still in the mill, it would be useful to draw from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention No. 189 on Domestic Workers, which is yet to be ratified by Nigeria.

This proposed bill hopefully will build protection to ensure that domestic workers are formally recognised through an accessible system and have basic labour protections, have minimum wage, working conditions and working hours.

Nonetheless, the legal framework should be iced with enforcement framework and structures, because for instance, Lagos State has a Child Rights Law derived from the 2003 Child Rights Act; and a Domestic Violence Law, both of which provide protections for persons in many of these situations.

But one of the real problems has been limited enforcement of these laws.

Also, the Lagos State government should consult broadly with those working with the urban poor, the Nigerian Slum/Informal Settlement Federation, the Federation of Informal Workers of Nigeria, among others, to develop a legal framework and mechanisms that can actually help curb abuses and improve working conditions for vulnerable workers in these sectors.

Again, there is the need for the media, relevant MDAs and NGOs to raise awareness about the criminal aspect of domestic labour, provide information about support services and protective laws and encourage citizens to break the culture of silence by reporting cases of violations and pursuing criminal litigation to punish offenders.

This is aimed at serving as a deterrent to perpetrators to ultimately prevent and protect people against domestic violence.

The sensitisation messages should appeal to the emotions and humanity of persons to gain the full support of the populace in this crusade. In addition policies focusing on prevention should deal with the underlying causes of poverty, ignorance and lack of family planning.

Furthermore, there should be capacity building for police officers to reskill on handling cases of domestic workers’ abuse, to strengthen their effectiveness and give victims the confidence to report violations, rather than trivialise the offence.


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Akinwunmi AmbodeLagos
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