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‘MINILS helps build stakeholders’ capacity’
The Director-General, Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Dr. John Niyi Olanrewaju, spoke with labour correspondents on the mandates of the institutes and how far the mandates had been achieved after the 2nd National Women Conference of SSANU entitled: Building women for leadership positions, held at the MINILS, Ilorin, recently. Soji-Eze Fagbami, was there. Excerpts:
The DG, what is the institute, the MINILS all about?
This institute is Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies, also known as the National Institute for Labour Studies. It was set up by Decree Number 5 of 1986, now known as Act Cap 261 of the law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1990. The institute is a Federal Government agency under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour and Productivity, and of course we were principally set up to provide workers education on how to enhance the role of trade unions, policy makers, employers and government officials that are concerned with labour issues and contribute to the socio-economic development of Nigeria.
We are also to provide a platform for policymakers in industry, government and trade unions to interact from time to time and learn the act of negotiations and collective bargaining as a way of resolving work place issues that may develop in the course of their interaction. We are to arrange workshops, seminars and research that will further promote labour ideals and contribution to national development as well as link up with international and national agencies with the aim of putting labour issues at the front burner of national policies and development. In short, I will say that we are to build the capacity of stakeholders, namely, the employers, the trade union leaders as well as government officials that are involved in the day-to-day management of labour in this country. The purpose and aim of this mandate are to ensure industrial peace and harmony in the country. This is a summary of our mandate as stipulated in our enabling Act.
A speaker said during the SSANU women conference opening ceremony that the institute was the only one in West Africa. How true is this?
Yes, it is the only one of its kind in West African region.
As the head of such important institute, will you say that with the facilities on ground, you are able to achieve this set target?
Let me clarify that statement. Talk in terms of size or structures, we are unique and the only type because we have mandate to provide education for the tripartite group, that is, the three key actors in industrial relations system, the employers, government officials and the trade unions. We have labour colleges and labour institutions, even in Ghana, but may be with the focus on trade union alone. We have government institutions that deal with managers and employers. Only the international training centre of ILO in Turin that has a tripartite structure. This institute is another institution that has a tripartite structure that deals with the interests of the tripartite. And again, our governing board that is responsible for the policy formulation and labour education is also tripartite in nature.
We have representatives of government, of workers and we have representatives of employers. So, this unique structure makes us to be able to bring these three actors together to proffer solutions to workplace policy. Even though there are diverse interests among the actors in industrial relations, labour, employers and government, they still have the purpose of having a stable organisation by guaranteeing peace and harmony. All of them should be involved and everybody should learn the act of relating with one another and that is why this institute caters for these interests. Along the line, we tried to develop structures and courses that address specifically the needs of each of these tripartite. This makes us unique; it is about the only institute in the whole of West Africa that you could find. So, what we have done to meet the needs of these tripartite is to create structures and departments that address them. For instance today, we have a department of trade union education which deals with trade union administration, organisation, issue of trade union fund and account management. We have a department of labour management relations that deals with human resource managers, government officers handling labour issues and relating with labour matters. It is also good that if you relate with one another, you know a bit of each other’s functions. So, this institute tends to give a little bit knowledge of what each tripartite is all about, and what each partner is all about. So, in as much as we promote mutual partners, we also want a situation where these people have mutual respect for one another. This is what makes us unique. And in terms of reaching out, the institute has started to reach out to the West African sub-region by working with OATTU. We are very much involved in the curriculum development of the Kwame Nkuruma Labour College which is the OATTU College for Africa, and I wish to say that my institute has been selected as one of the regional centres through which OATTU will run some of its programmes. We are expecting that this year, when they commence, we are likely to partner with OATTU to bring labour leaders all over Africa to Nigeria. So that makes us unique.
Will you say that you have achieved the set objectives for setting up this institute?
Well, to a greater extent. It is an organisation that is growing, and we are in the world that is dynamic and changing. There are new challenges, there are new frontiers, but let me also say that this institute has been able to develop competence in certain core courses and certain areas like conflict management, issues of collective bargaining, social dialogue, occupational health and safety, labour administration, trade union organising and practical ways of organising trade union movement, administration of branch level, labour management relations, etc.
In fact, we have also developed issues on entrepreneurial development for small scale entrepreneurs. We deal with employment regulation as well as labour law and regulation.
These are the areas we have developed key competence in, and we do this for the sake of stakeholders. We have also been able to bring together issues of labour in national development for the purpose of governance. One of the things that this institute has achieved, which almost every stakeholder looks up to, is the platform where we can bring these three key actors together to discuss issues that are of national importance. That is what the institute’s annual national industrial relations summit has achieved. It has succeeded in bringing government officers, labour leaders and employers under the same umbrella where we look at topical issues. This institute has provided that platform that is acceptable.
Every year, we have been able to bring the president of NLC, the minister of labour and the employers under this same umbrella
to look at these issues that affect all of them. Issues of decent wage, employment are of concern to both workers and employers.
Again, we have been able to bring legislators and stakeholders to this environment to discuss with them, and I am sure that one of the programmes we have been able to bring about has led to the review of some of the labour laws. Here, we had a retreat for the House of Representatives where some of the laws that had remained, for sometimes, unattended to were brought up by the stakeholders, and I think it has brought a better working relationship between the social partners and the National Assembly Committee on Labour and Productivity.
On the basis of this, I want to say that since its existence (although we faced lots of challenges initially), we have trained over 28,000 labour leaders today including, employers and government officials in various sectors of the economy. Some of the sectors we have also trained people are very important to the Nigerian economy. We trained workers in the oil and gas industry, as well as those in the maritime industry, We also trained workers in the transport industry and virtually all the vital sectors. In the educational sectors, we have provided education training.