Concerned with the state of human rights abuses especially within the business community in Nigeria, the International Network for Corporate Social Responsibility (IN-CSR), in partnership with National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), recently held a stakeholder consultative forum in Lagos with a special focus on business, to address issues related to business and human rights in Nigeria.
The forum, tagged ‘Business meets Human rights’ with stakeholders from the Organised Private Sector (OPS), sought ways on how businesses operating in Nigeria can incorporate human rights issues and community relations in dealings with their host communities.
Eustace Onuegbu, the President of IN-CSR said the reason for the stakeholders’ engagement was to make a policy document in the area of business and human rights in line with United Nation Guiding Principles (UNGP) of Business and Human Rights.
“What we’re trying to draft is the National Action Plan (NAP) on Business and Human Rights for Nigeria. So, we are consulting with the private sector operatives, especially with the listed businesses, to get their inputs on the document,” he said.
Highlighting the significance of the NAP, Onuegbu said there are a number of businesses that have issues with understanding their responsibilities with respecting individual rights of people; hence, it was important to “educate them.”
According to him, businesses need to know that they have a responsibility which transcends just paying of wages, to respect the rights of stakeholders and not just their employees; but also the host communities and all those involved in the operation of the business.
“There are quite a number of labour laws, but it’s not all-inclusive and comprehensive. So, we now need a comprehensive document that would include all the stakeholders; that would also educate or make businesses understand that they have a responsibility to respect people’s right,” said Onuegbu stating that businesses have to respect individual rights, people’s rights, health and safety, environmental and all the stakeholders.
The NAP was vigorously reviewed by stakeholders present at the forum making contributions intended to improve their organisations relationship with staff, and host communities of their business operations.
Onuegbu had earlier posited that the document would be binding on all companies listed on the Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE) by the time it goes through adoption level, while he recommended that the “final NAP document be subjected to rigorous review by the NHRC every two years.”
While some may struggle to find a connection between business and human rights, Obinna Nwakonye, representing the executive secretary, NHRC, explained that the nexus lies in the fact that both business and human rights were made for man.
“No human being can exist without business because it is through business that human beings are sustained. But if you do business without taking the import of human rights, the dictates of human rights, business will take human being away from human beings into animals,” Nwakonye said.
According to Nwakonye, though businesses make money for owners, there are other sub-practices in an effort to do business that can negate the import of human existence. “Business is meant to bring money to you, while money is meant to take care of human beings. So, if you are taking care of human beings; you must make sure that those dictates that make a human being are recognised and operated in every area of man.”