In a powerful address delivered at the High-Level Forum on Business and Human Rights on December 6, 2023, the Honorable Minister for Industry, Trade, and Investment of Nigeria, Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, emphasized the imperative of prioritizing human rights within the business ecosystem. The event, a commendable initiative by the organizers, aimed to spotlight a holistic approach to this critical agenda, often addressed in a fragmented manner.
Dr. Uzoka-Anite elucidated the centrality of the human element in the business value chain, considering labor as the linchpin among the factors of production. Acknowledging the ever-increasing challenges faced by the working population, she underscored the responsibility to safeguard the rights, welfare, and dignity of the workforce across all sectors.
Drawing on the global standards set by the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Dr. Uzoka-Anite articulated the three-pillar framework—protect, respect, and remedy. Governments were urged to shield their populace from business-induced environmental and social impacts, while businesses were reminded of their responsibility to prevent and address such impacts. The third pillar stressed the obligation of both governments and businesses to facilitate effective remedies for victims.
Highlighting the role of the Nigerian government, Dr. Uzoka-Anite emphasized the duty to uphold these international standards, particularly through regulatory agencies supervising work rules and regulations. The minister acknowledged the existing legal framework but called for improvements in compliance, enforcement, and supervision to enhance the protection and preservation of workforce dignity.
Addressing the potential nexus between job scarcity and workplace abuse, the minister advocated for economic growth and job creation, citing President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s commitment to these goals. The ongoing “Industrial Revitalization” programs were highlighted as initiatives aimed at stimulating economic growth through industrialization, job creation, and overall welfare improvement.
In concluding her address, Dr. Uzoka-Anite expressed optimism that these programs, focused on boosting productivity and production, would demand and ensure the adequate protection, preservation, and advancement of the rights of the Nigerian workforce.
The minister’s comprehensive and insightful remarks reflected a commitment to fostering a business environment that prioritizes human rights, welfare, and dignity, aligning with global standards and national aspirations.