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CISLAC Working to Promote Business and Human Rights in Nigeria

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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By Isiyaku Ahmed, Abuja

Abuse at work places typically occur in the form of inadequate wages, late payment of salary, high risk for the health of employees, harassment, exploitation, intimidation and outright sack by factory owners, construction companies and other public or private businesses in Nigeria.

The Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is a non-governmental advocacy, information sharing, research and capacity building organization; it is implementing a project that aims to promote human rights agenda in Nigeria’s business sector through the collaborative promotion of a National Action Plan for Business and Human Rights (NAPBHR) with support from the Open Society Foundation through Global Rights.

The Executive Director, CISLAC, Auwal Ibrahim Rafsanjani says the project seeks to address various human rights violations experienced by workers in work places as they suffer double exploitations arising from difficulty to protect their rights in business places through due diligence legislation; they work under poor conditions, inadequate salary or wages, reduction or deduction of salary and sometimes, outright sack with no justification.

Right now, nothing protects the rights of workers in government, factory, construction companies, mining industries or any form of businesses in Nigeria.

The NAPBHR is a United Nations guiding principles providing an authoritative global standard for prevention and addressing the risk of adverse human rights impact linked to business activities.

Rafsanjani says his organization is working to see to it that the NAPBHR is not only adopted and implemented but also ensure that it is obligatory to all businesses, private or public.

He also says one of strategy his organization is adopting is to have a broad stakeholder consultation, get buy-in and input to finalize the draft due diligence legislation, carry out advocacy to multiple government agencies to pass it into law for the implementation of the NAPBHR policy to rescue workers from inhuman and poor working condition.

Bathsheba Tagwai is Legal Officer at CISLAC, she says the due process legislation to complement the NAPBHR is gender sensitive, it protects the rights of women, children and people with disability in all businesses and upholds environmental standards; where such rights are violated it seeks remedy different forms, including apologies, restitution, rehabilitation, financial compensation and punitive sanctions as well as the prevention of harm through, for example, injunctions or guarantees of non-repetition.

Jaye Gaskia is Director at Praxis Center, he says the due diligence legislation is a step in the right direction to the response of the global guiding principles on the steps a company must take to become aware of, prevent and address adverse human rights impacts while the NAPBHR talks about how its going to be achieved in Nigeria.

He also says though being developed to be a policy, the biggest challenge is that the NAPBHR is still in progress; it is not yet a government policy. In other for the guidelines to achieve the goals that they are set to achieve, there must be a legislation that can compel enforcement.

For instance, if we insist on certain processes that business would undertake to require a relationship with the state in terms of signing a contract, getting registered to start a business and being able to continue doing business, in all of these processes, we can make sure that these processes include mandatory compliance clauses for these guiding principles.

In other words, when incorporating a business and submitting financial reports, there must be a human rights due diligence framework policy in place and how to deal with human rights challenges when they do occur.

Gaskia says the role of government is to put in place practice procedures and direction to guarantee the rights of Nigerians as enshrine in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria while the civil society is to compel government to live up to its expectation, in doing so, citizens and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) must be knowledgeable. 

The Executive Director, Socio-Economic Research and Development Center – SERDEC, Tijjani Abdulkareem says a legislation to complement the NAPBHR is very fundamental because there are lots of violation of human rights by extractive industries and other organizations in carrying out their business activities in Nigeria.

He says there are recorded cases of exploitations, harassments and intimidations of employees because there are no fundamental due diligence guidelines that gives the employees opportunity to assert their views in line with their fundamental rights as enshrine in chapter 4 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Abdulkareem says citizens should ensure there is heightened participation in the processes and procedures leading to the passage of the due diligence legislation to complement the NAPBHR to push government to make decisions and act.

Experts say the due diligence legislation and the NAPBHR will help realize the advancement of human rights in Nigeria.

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