Poor social security system and ILO intervention
That Nigeria of the 21st Century has no credible social security system to buffer unemployment, vulnerable children, offer disability benefits or food assistance to the deprived is harrowing.
It is worse than the government of the day keeps looking beyond internal mechanisms for foreign assistance to local problems. But, if the call for assistance must be taken seriously, Nigeria must work out the foundation for welfare and put its money where the mouth is.
The poor state of Nigeria’s social security system was highlighted the other day by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, when the French candidate for the Office of the Secretary-General of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), Muriel Penicaud, visited to request for Nigeria’s support in the election.
Ngige had called for the assistance of the ILO in the mobilisation of donor global agencies to tackle the scourge of massive unemployment and under-employment in the country, which cannot be addressed by the very weak social security system prevalent in the country.
Conceptually, social security is rooted in welfarism and it has come to be accepted even in capitalist societies as a means of providing some form of social safety nets for the less privileged in the society. The downturn in the economic circumstances of the average Nigerian has brought to the fore the urgent need for enhanced social protection in the country.
With the spate of job losses and growing unemployment to the tune of over 33 per cent of the labour force, mass impoverishment has increased vastly and the social inclusion programme of the Buhari administration under the erstwhile Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) has largely failed to address these issues, as originally projected.
Presently, many Nigerians have been left out of the economic welfare equation and a greater focus on social security and social protection is very much necessary. Hence the intervention sought from the ILO in this regard may not be misplaced. However, the government itself would need to enhance the growth of the economy through the inclusive participation of the vast majority of the people to enhance job creation and poverty alleviation.
Largely, social security represents some forms of social justice entailing that all persons have a claim to an equal share in all those things or advantages, which are generally desired and are conducive to their wellbeing.
Globally, social security has come to be regarded as a human right as attested to by a number of international instruments and declarations, first established as a basic human right in 1944 in the Declaration of Philadelphia of the ILO, wherein it recognised its obligation concerning the extension of social security measures to provide a basic income to all in need of such protection.
This was pivotal to the ILO Income Security Recommendation 67 of 1944 and the subsequent drafting of the ILO Social Security (Minimum Standards) Convention 102 of 1952. This right to social security is also embedded in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 (Universal Declaration), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. There is also the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights which addresses the issue of social security.
In Nigeria, this right to social security has remained an illusion to the majority of the population as most of them operate in the informal sector without specific laws to protect their right as most of these laws apply to workers in the formal sectors of the economy. Though the right to social security is recognised in Section 14 (2)(b) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, providing that “the security and welfare of the people shall be the primary purpose of government,” it has invariably remained aspirational and not a binding legal commitment.
Hence, a major challenge in the promotion of social security is the non-justiciability of the right and the Nigerian laws on social security are inadequate in their content and scope of application. But the spirit of the provision of that law should be more remarkable to our leaders.
Therefore, instead of merely seeking the intervention of the ILO in the enhancement of social security in Nigeria, the authorities should work toward enacting an all-encompassing social security law, which would have commensurate budgetary provisions for the enhancement of the welfare of the less-privileged in the society.