6th May, 2019
Sen. Magnus Abe (APC Rivers) has described domestic workers in Nigeria as endangered people, stuck in dark places where “nobody is looking and no light shines.”
Abe, who made this known in Abuja, on Monday, said many domestic workers in Nigeria were subjected to harrowing experiences without anyone to speak for them.
He said due to the fact that they belonged to the informal sector, their employees often maltreated them without being sanctioned.
He said: “There are spots in the Nigerian firmament where nobody is, the law is not there.
“If you are in those spots, you are practically on your own. These domestic workers are the Nigerians stuck in dark places where nobody is looking and no light shines.
“A lot of them are in those situations simply because their parents are poor and cannot feed them.
“So, they trade them off just to provide a meal for them basically and give them the opportunity to grow in life; but nine times out of 10 it becomes a point of stagnation.
“They cannot move anywhere. They cannot move forward they cannot move backward. They are stuck there for years without help.
“These situations are around us daily. We cannot pretend it does not exist. Typical of the black man, people see the sufferings of others and if it does affect them directly they just move on.
“Time has come for us to shine the light to all those dark spots in our nation,” Abe said.
The lawmaker said that in the Western World, domestic workers’ rights were being respected and protected.
According to him, rights of domestic workers under him are respected, noting that, “these people add value to our lives and should be treated fairly.
“When we took a vacation abroad. Of course, we applied for visa for our domestic staff and they went to the embassy with accounts that verified they are paid monthly. It was documented.
“Sometime later, I met somebody from the embassy and he mentioned to me that they discussed how we went extra miles to treat our workers in that manner.
“I recognise that the people who live with me are workers and that my house is their work environment and so like any other work environment, you need to make it conducive for them to work just as it is conducive for you who live there.
“So, I think that the critical missing link is our understanding of things in this country that people fail to recognise that dignity of labour applies both ways.
“Those who use labour must dignify it and those who offer their labour as services must also understand that they are doing a job and they desire not just to be compensated, but to be respected for the job that they do.
“I tell my domestic workers that nobody should compel them to work beyond a particular time of the day if they do not wish to oblige.”
He advocated for terms and conditions before any domestic worker would be engaged.
He added that all domestic workers ought to have work hour rules that governed their jobs.
He expressed concern that a lot of domestic workers, particularly those who were live-in staff and housemaids, did not have working hours.
The lawmaker said, “they usually work 24 hours a day. They do not have any day off.
“For a lot of them, even on Sunday, madam will still call you to carry the children and all that.
“Free human beings are entitled to time off work in any sector, but it is not so for a lot of the domestic staff in this country.
“People do not even realise that it is wrong to make another human work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and there is no sanction for it.
“That is actually modern-day slavery right under our noses.”
Abe said unless something urgent was done to ensure domestic staff formed part of an organised platform, the ripple effect would be devastating.
He said the fact that domestic workers were not organised to enforce their rights when abused by their employers was a dangerous trend.
According to him, recent news of persons being killed by their domestic staff was a pointer to the fact that even employers were not safe until domestic workers formed part of the organised sector.
The lawmaker charged all Nigerians to treat other human beings fairly irrespective of status.
He said, domestic workers, who were in their millions and largely undocumented, unprotected and unrepresented, needed to be documented to keep them and their employers safe.