The Subject Of Equality And Non-Discrimination (7)

By Femi Bamisile

Continued from last week

(4) A disabled person shall not, by reason only that he is such a person, be subjected to any disability or conditions by any employer.

Accordingly, whilst sub-section (1) creates a duty on Government to take measures aimed at promoting the employment of the disabled, sub-section (2) imposes on employers the duty to reserve for the disabled not less than 10% of their workforce. Lastly, sub-section (4) prohibits discrimination against disabled persons.

International Legislation Affecting Disabled Persons in Nigeria

It is pertinent to note at this point that the rights of all disabled people, including those in Nigeria, have also been proclaimed in various international documents. The United Nations General Assembly Standard Rules on the Equalization of Opportunities for Persons with Disabilities of 1993, coupled with the Declaration on the Rights of Disabled Persons proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1975, consider the issue about disabled individuals both from a medical point of view and from philosophical concepts of disability in relation to the society at large.

These United Nations’ documents are characterized by their approach to the solution of the disability problem and are mainly focused on ensuring equal opportunities in the life and activities of the disabled. These proclamations require nations to apply their best efforts to furnish persons with disabilities the conditions that are conducive for their active participation in labor and life activities. These proclamations also require sovereign nation governments to take the issues regarding the rights of people with disabilities into consideration while formulating public policy by ensuring the inclusion of the disabled when considering issues directly affecting them.

Ratification of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Equal Remuneration Convention 1951 (No. 100) and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958 (No. 111)

Nigeria ratified the International Labour Organization (ILO) Equal Remuneration Convention 1951 (No. 100) and the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention 1958 (No. 111) in 1974 and 2002 respectively. These instruments contain provisions for the promotion of equal treatment and non-discrimination of all persons in employment.

Equality and Diversity in Recruitment: The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Code of Professional Conduct (2012)

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) is a professional association for human resource management professionals. Its head office is in Wimbledon, London, England and has over 135,000 (one hundred and thirty-five thousand) members across 120 (one hundred and twenty) countries, including Nigeria.

The CIPD Code of Conduct stipulates that the recruitment process should have an accurate and updated job description that does not discriminate against sex and avoid over inflated job criteria in terms of person specification. The Code also covers areas like interview process, selection criteria, training and development and promotions. Sub-section 4.1.6 of the Code provides that in all circumstances, CIPD members must:

“promote and themselves seek to exercise employment practices that remove unfair discrimination including but not limited to discrimination against all groups of individuals referred to in anti-discrimination and equality legislation”.

GENERAL OBSERVATIONS

As has been mentioned earlier, Nigeria either has laws that have some bearing on equality and non-discrimination of persons in workplaces or has adopted/ratified some laws having relevance to this subject. However, it can be observed that the country is yet to have a strong legal framework to protect employees against discrimination. What obtains are just a few anti-discrimination statutes.

Furthermore, in cases where there are laws in this area, these laws may not be adequate in the protection of employees’ rights to equality and non-discrimination. For example, unless a law is passed embodying the provision of Section 42 of the Constitution as discussed above, it may be impossible to rely on it as a basis for challenging any discriminatory practice in a court of law.

By the same token, Section 42(2) of the Constitution which provides that no citizen of Nigeria shall be subjected to any disability or deprivation merely by reason of the circumstances of his birth does not afford better protection either. The constitution does not define the phrase “circumstances of his birth”. The phrase is rather ambiguous.

Also, it is clear that discrimination is rampant in the workplace in Nigeria, perhaps due to the overbearing attitude of most employers. This may in turn be attributed to the arbitrary powers wielded by these employers in a country where there is a dearth of jobs, coupled with a teeming population competing for the available jobs. This situation is further complicated and encouraged where there are outdated and or unfair laws, corrupt trade union officials, illiteracy of the workforce, slow and inefficient judicial system, uncaring legislature, ruthless and conniving executives, oppressive and morally reprehensible law enforcement units, etc. Indeed, Nigerian Laws and institutions do not protect the citizens from discrimination in the workplace as such; incidents of inequality and discrimination are myriad, multifarious and multidimensional.

UNFAIR/OUTDATED LEGAL PROVISIONS

Nigeria Police Regulations CAP. 359, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (1990)

An example of an unfair provision of the law is Section 118 of the Nigeria Police Regulation CAP. 359, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (1990), which provides for the qualification required by a female seeking employment into the Nigeria Police Force. The Section requires that she must be unmarried before she can be eligible for enlistment as a recruit police constable in the Nigeria Police Force.

In the same vein, Section 124 provides that a woman police officer desirous of marrying must apply in writing to the Commissioner of Police of her command with the fiancée’s biodata. Permission may be granted if the fiancée is adjudged to be of good character.

Section 127 of the same regulation provides that an unmarried Police Officer who is pregnant shall be discharged from the Force and shall not be re-enlisted except with the permission of the Inspector General of Police.

Labour Act

Sections 55 and 56 of the Labour Act prohibit women from certain employment. Section 55(1) provides that:

“No woman shall be employed or might work in a public or private industrial undertaking or any branch thereof or any agricultural undertaking or any branch thereof”.

The aforementioned provision does not apply to women employed as nurses or holding responsible positions on management who are not ordinarily engaged in manual labour (Section 55 (2) of the Labour Act).

Similarly Section 56(1) excludes women from being employed on underground works in any mine. It is suggested that the discriminatory laws enumerated herein should be expunged from the statute books, because they do not serve any useful purpose.