With President Goodluck Jonathan's signature on the Employees Compensation Act 2010, it can be safely said that the country has taken a significant step towards achieving a better life for its workers. However, diligent, comprehensive implementation of its provisions is required to ensure that the expectations it has raised are not dashed.
This Act which repeals the Workmen's Compensation Act of 2004 is potentially redemptive and capable of boosting the morale and productivity of workers in both the public and private sectors. As Special Adviser to the President on Public Communication, Mr. Ima Niboro, put it, the new law was designed to deliver a platform for "guaranteed and adequate compensation for all employees or their dependants for any death, injury, disease or disability arising out of or in the course of employment." The law, passed by the National Assembly late last year, also seeks to enforce occupational health and safety conditions in work environment. Also, it provides for the setting up of a compensation fund which will be administered in the interest of employers and employees.
Ordinarily, the fact of the president's assent should bring joy to Nigeria's teeming workforce. But with the nation's record of comatose policies and unimplemented ideas, the enthusiasm the new law has generated may be short-lived if the assent is not followed with decisive action. This is where the Nigeria Social Insurance Trust Fund (NSITF) comes in. As the administrator of the Employees Compensation Act and the fund established under Section 56 of the law , NSITF, an offshoot of National Provident Fund (NPF), a social insurance scheme that became operational in 1994, now has another opportunity to re-invent itself and live up to its name.
Interestingly, its Mission Statement is "To be proactive in providing social protection for members from the loss of employment income arising from the inevitable hazards of old age, death and invalidity" while its Vision is to "Be the best provider of social security services in Africa and one of the best in the world as well as the leading financial service organization in the Nigerian financial market."
There is no cogent reason why NSITF should not realize those targets if it rises to the occasion. To begin with, it has at its disposal the largest working population in Africa. All the challenges that come with that huge quantity can be matched with the equally robust estimated revenue profile. The real task before the Fund, therefore, is, having been armed with the enabling statutes, to seize the moment. The best way to fast-track that is to engage in a massive, effective sensitization drive aimed at enlisting the co-operation of workers and employers alike.
Convincing the relevant stakeholders to imbibe the spirit of this Act should not be too hard to accomplish. Countless cases of workplace dangers exist in Nigeria, like many other parts of the world. And because accidents are usually unexpected, adequate preparations are hardly made to cushion their effects on the victims, whether individual or corporate. So, with the right persuasive strategies, and the proper communication of the consequences of non-compliance
with the law to the various establishments and their staff, the Fund will go a long way in actualizing the essence on this vital labour enhancement law.