ILO Partners the Government of Nigeria towards Reforming Recruitment Processes and Standardizing Operational Conduct of Private Employment Agencies (PEAs)

Arising from observed institutional and operational challenges that pervades the recruitment industry in Nigeria, the Federal Government with support from the International Labour Organization (ILO) has successfully completed a revision of the Code of Conduct for Private Employment Agencies (PEAs), introducing revised guidelines to facilitate ethical conduct of licensed recruiters of outsourced personnel.

News | 26 November 2021
From 18 – 19 November 2021, stakeholders converged in Abuja to review and validate a revised Code of Conduct (CoC) for Private Employment Agencies (PEAs) in Nigeria. The event which was organized by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment (FMLE) in collaboration with the International Labour Organization (ILO) signaled the conclusion of a lengthy and extensive process of updating the previous CoC which was introduced in 2011. The revision process was led by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment and supported by the ILO through the FAIRWAY and ACCEL Africa projects.

While declaring the event open, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Dr Yerima Tarfa represented by the Director of the Employment and Wages Department, Mr. John Nyamali identified the Code of Conduct as an important guiding framework to promote fundamental principles and rights at work in Nigeria. Adding that the process has been highly participatory, providing opportunity for stakeholders’ inputs into the draft revised versions which was periodically circulated by the consultant, he noted that Article 2 (2) of ILO Recommendation 188 urges member States to supplement national laws and regulations applicable to PEAs with codes of ethics and self-regulatory mechanisms.

Identifying the daunting challenge paucity of resources play in monitoring activities of the recruitment industry, the Permanent Secretary reiterated the Ministry’s resolve to support effectiveness of licensed recruiters, thereby contributing to attaining the overall mandate of the Ministry as it relates to labour and commended the ILO for supporting the Government of Nigeria in this regard.   

Ms. Vanessa Phala, Director of the ILO Abuja Country Office during her goodwill message commended the collaborative and consultative approach adopted during the exercise, particularly applauding the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria (HuCaPAN) in providing very helpful insights and guidance to the national consultant who led the revision process. Highlighting the importance of ensuring recruitment processes are standardized, especially in the wake of the global pandemic occasioned by COVID-19, Ms. Phala further noted that the introduction of the revised CoC would signal a new dispensation in addressing issues bedeviling the recruitment industry, including persistence in operations of unregistered recruiters. She further appreciated the Swiss and Dutch Governments for supporting the FAIRWAY and ACCEL Africa projects respectively through which the process was facilitated.

Additional goodwill messages received at the event from Mr. Manuel Mühlebach of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Ms. Corneila Looije of the Netherlands Embassy and on behalf of Dr. Femi Ogunlowo, President HuCaPAN, reiterated the exigence of a Code of Conduct specific to the country context, which provides generally agreed principles on operational conduct for Private Employment Agencies.

While Mr. Mühlebach noted Switzerland’s commitment towards promoting safe labour migration processes as demonstrated through supporting targeted interventions in Nigeria for over a decade, on his part Mr. Tunji Balogun speaking on behalf of the President of HuCaPAN identified the evolution of the recruitment industry in the last decade as a significant justification for reviewing the Code of Conduct to accommodate the new and ever-changing demands and challenges of the business environment.

In 2020, the Human Capital Providers Association of Nigeria identified the need to update the existing Code of Conduct for recruiters as a priority activity, and in March 2021, a stakeholders’ meeting to initiate the review process was convened by the FMLE in collaboration with ILO.

Amongst other shortcomings of the 2011 document, the inception report of the exercise revealed limited awareness of the existence of the CoC across various stakeholders, inadequate adherence and application of the normative contents of the document, persistence in operations of unregistered recruiters as well as limited capacity to ensure utmost compliance with standardized recruitment processes.  

Through series of reviews and consultations, including technical comments from various experts, the fourth draft of the revised document underwent a clause-by-clause consideration upon which Mr. Tunji Balogun of HuCaPAN moved a motion for its validation which was seconded by Ms. Loyal Jefferson of NECA.   

The validation of the revised Code of Conduct signals the commencement of its operationalization, thus, introducing new and improved set of guidelines for recruiters in Nigeria, contributing to ensuring the advancement of decent work agenda as well as the protection and promotion of all working-class people, including migrant workers.  

An overview of the revised Code of Conduct shows an outline that covers guiding principles such as respect for laws, worker’s rights, professionalism of PEAs and observance of standards on eliminating recruitment fees and related costs, including recommendations of ILO Convention 181 and the General Principles and Operational Guidelines for Fair Recruitment. It additionally enumerates responsibilities of PAEs to stakeholders across the entire recruitment cycle, including during recruitment of migrant workers, disciplinary procedures arising from breaches of any part of the CoC, as well as the role of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment.