Case study on the ratification of Convention 181: ILO in Nigeria

How ILO missions supported the ratification of C181 in Nigeria

Actualité | 12 décembre 2023

With the aim to upgrade Nigeria's labor market and address the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the government has turned its focus to International Labor Standards (ILS), particularly Convention 181 for private employment agencies, Convention 143 for migrant workers, and Convention 189 for domestic workers to upgrade the labour market situation in the country.

In response to a formal request from the Nigerian government through the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment (FMLE) in 2020, the ILO has been facilitating the ratification process for the said conventions. As part of this process, a comprehensive Gap Analysis was conducted in 2020 to assess the existing legislative, regulatory, and policy measures in Nigeria. The analysis provided country-specific context and included detailed recommendations to guide the ratification of the aforementioned conventions.

The journey towards the ratification

Ahead of ratification, the ILO proactively engaged with constituents through various platforms, including a National Sensitization Workshop on the Ratification of ILO Conventions 143 and 181 in Nigeria. The workshop was attended by representatives from workers, employers, recruiters, and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs). This stage also involved finalizing the gap analyses conducted in 2021 and presenting a draft during a virtual stakeholders' meeting in September 2021. Additionally, the ILO provided support through its FAIRWAY Programme, focusing on training and capacity-building for Private Employment Agencies (PEAs) in the application of the revised Code of Conduct, specifically aligned with C181.

Challenges and opportunities during the ratification process

Nigeria’s National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) has been facing challenges in protecting migrant workers. Over the period, the ILO office constantly provided technical guidance and support to constituents. These include sensitization, awareness raising, and social dialogue through DC projects which consist of the Initiative for Labour Migration, Employment and Reintegration in Nigeria and Ghana (LMER), and the FAIRWAY Programme. This consultation also supported the observation and recommendations during the National Voluntary Review of the Global Compact for Migration and preparation for the International Migration Review Forum (IMRF).

Restrictions and progress during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic added additional restrictions to the engagement and consultation process. In-person interactions with stakeholders were limited, and the quality and availability of technology posed challenges for some participants. To overcome these obstacles, the ILO team dedicated resources and efforts to ensure constituents could provide feedback and contribute to the consultative processes.

Working together with other stakeholders

Recognizing that the ratification requires engagement from various stakeholders, the ILO worked closely with social partners, such as the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN), who are considered as the umbrella body of PEA in Nigeria. These two bodies were engaged through a tripartite consultative and participatory process, and have started the advocacy for the ratification of the conventions.

Post-ratification Support

Following the ratification of C181, the ILO continued its support through awareness and sensitization for recruiters and affiliate members under the umbrella of the recruiter association on the provision of the Convention. A framework is developed as a guideline for international recruitment as well as facilitating social dialogue relating to the implementation of C 181 and closely linked conventions on labour migration governance. Moreover, ILO supported technical assistance in the implementation of the revised NPLM with detailed guidance for the import of the normative provision of the policy.

The ratification of C181 has been considered a game-changer for Nigerian migrant workers. The ILO office will be assisting Nigeria in developing a bilateral labor agreement with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. As Nigeria undergoes changes in leadership, the country will require technical support from the ILO to fulfill reporting obligations, raise awareness, and train stakeholders to ensure the effective implementation of C181 and its accompanying conventions, such as C143, under the new administration starting in May 2023.