Aborisade’s new Labor/Law book calls for urgent reform to Nigeria’s adversarial Law against “Workers’ Right to Work” not being a fundamental right – Tola Adenle

March 19, 2015

Nigeria

ABORISADEs BOOK COVER

This is not an attempt to review Femi Aboriṣade’s Determination of Contract of Employment in Nigeria, South Africa, Zimbabwe – Contract of Employment – necessary to the public presentation of the book that will take place in Lagos today that such may call for because I come encumbered by considerable inadequacy in the two areas it covers: law and labor practices.

As I will not be able to attend the public presentation, this write-up serves two main purposes: to offer my congratulations to one who has become like a much younger brother that I admire a lot for the tenacity he brings to his self-appointed role of championing the causes of the common man in his own little way. Like Soyinka, the late Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana and others who have fought in the trenches for decades for equity in various areas of life and in the fight for Human Rights in Nigeria, Aboriṣade commits his time and resources to the betterment of Nigeria through advocacy for workers’ rights. A single example: Aborisade was one of the lawyers who pleaded the cases of the twelve soldiers charged with mutiny in the recent past.

ABORISADE

Femi Aborisade, Esq., Author, Lawyer, Human Rights Advocate

I am also submitting this write-up to draw attention to Aborisade’s contribution to two fields in which he is eminently qualified:

As a former Education Officer of Nigeria’s premier labor organization, The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC), as a one-time lecturer and Departmental Head at the Ibadan Polytechnic – my alma mater; no, Femi could not have been there when I was Secretary-General of the Students’ Union in ‘67/68! – AND as a Solicitor & Advocate of Nigeria’s Supreme Court, he combines three fields that must have made writing Contract of Employment a pleasure even if not an easy task. He is a Labor insider whose book, written to show what is legally achievable if government would reform labor practices in the public and private sectors; teaching generations yet unborn using his book is a probability.

Despite my inadequacies, I cannot but show that it is a book I actually read through more than once – the defacement of my copy with notations attest to that!

Although Contract of Employment looks specifically at labor issues pertaining to Workers’ Right to Work in the three stated countries, it does make references to other countries as far afield as Colombia in South America, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, et cetera.

While Nigeria may claim to be “Africa’s largest economy”, however in recognizing the rights of her workers, it seems to exist in a parallel universe to South Africa which it recently supposedly supplants as Africa’s largest economy. Zimbabwe, too, has moved away from a past of Common Law practice in which “there is no protection for the employee who perceives that his employment has wrongfully or unlawfully been terminated.”

In fact, Aborisade quotes a World Bank research finding used by UNCTAD – the UN agency – that “notes that of seven selected key African countries, Nigeria has … the most repressive labour regime among the selected countries … [Emphasis mine.]

In fact, it is worthy of note that Nigeria’s Law concerning Workers’ Right to Work – despite the Constitution specifically guaranteeing in its Preamble –
“… to provide for a Constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice …” in one breath,

the country’s Apex Court “has gone further to warn that it would henceforth start awarding cost against counsel personally for filing appeals in master-servant cases on the ground of seeking the remedy of reinstatement –

Ọṣisanya V Afribank. With another stroke of the pen, so to say.

Contract of Employment brings up examples from not only Zimbabwe and South Africa but also from many countries on the legal framework supported by cases on the rights of workers to fair employment practices.

For example, South Africa has developed its Labor Laws to the point that even though at Common Law, there is no protection against unfair dismissal – a stuck-in-the-past thinking that apparently still holds in Nigeria –
ILO-modification to the Labor Laws in that country has made it possible for –
“… a person who has accepted an offer of employment can claim unfair dismissal relief under the LRA, if dismissed before actual commencement of work”, the rationale being that

“… not only employees as defined in S.213 of the LRA have a right to fair labour practices but also everyone with whom a contract of employment has been concluded …”

Aborisade cites the case of Wyeth SA (Pty) Ltd v. Manqele & Others in which the Labor Court held that –

“Persons in these circumstances may well have reigned from their existing employment and put themselves at considerable financial risk in the expectation of commencing work in terms of an agreement that is binding on both parties at common law …”

Nigeria definitely has a lot of ground to cover to be at par with South Africa, Zimbabwe and other countries, including those referenced in Africa that signed the ILO Convention as well as live up to the promise of its Constitution for the betterment of its citizens, especially the millions of unemployed youth who are roaming the streets of every town and every major city.

As Contract of Employment is presented in Nigeria at the Ondo/Ogun Hall of the Lagos Airport Hotel today, I send congratulations and best wishes to Femi for this much-needed addition to scholarship on a vital subject that is not getting the much-needed attention or interest from the country’s legislative or judicial arm as the Court System seems bound to ancient pre-Medieval Common Law legal norms even as the country continues to live with a ratified ILO Convention on fair practices.

This is a book which all can enjoy as I did. It is written in very simple Language, and lack of legal/labor knowledge cannot therefore stand in the way of anyone who not only enjoy good books but those who would want to know what Nigeria must do to rise to the challenges before it in the area of equitable, humane and fair labor law practices for the country’s citizens; They should not just buy a copy – or hundred – but should read it.

THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 2015. 1:40 a.m. GMT

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