Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo
The Director General of Michael Imoudu National Institute for Labour Studies (MINILS), Ilorin, Comrade Issa Aremu has commended the leadership role of Nigeria in the recent emergence of the first African to direct the affairs of International Labour Organization (ILO) since its formation over 100 years of existence.
Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo from Togo, who currently serves as the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was elected by the ILO’s Governing Body, comprising representatives of governments, workers and employers, during the 334th meeting in Geneva on the 25th of March. He will be the 11th Director-General of the ILO, the first African to hold the post.
While declaring open a four-day week Trade Union workshop on Strategic Leadership in Ilorin during the week, Comrade Aremu disclosed that it was “the spirited efforts, cooperation and unity of purpose” of the Honorable Minister of labour, Dr Chris Igige, organized labour represented by the NLC, workers’ organizations and employers’ associations in Africa that led to the historic election of Mr Gilbert F. Houngbo.
The Director General who was also part of the government delegation to the 334th Governing Board in Geneva, Switzerland said, the election of Gilbert Houngbo attested to the Nigeria’s leadership in Africa in general and labour- friendly policies of President Muhammadu Buhari in particular.
Recalling the re-election of Akinwumi Adesina as the first Nigerian two- term President of the African Development Bank in 2020 and election of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of Nigeria, on 1 March 2021 as the first woman and the first African to hold the position of the Director-General of the WTO, Aremu said “positioning worthy qualified Africans” in strategic international organizations is a commendable “sustainable legacy” of President Buhari.
The keenly contested two elections ended with majority 30 votes for Mr Gilbert Houngbo of Togo with distant French challenger, Muriel Penicaud who polled 23 votes. There were five candidates for the post of ILO Director-General that included South Korea’s Kang Kyung-wha, Mthunzi Mdwaba (South Africa), formerly Employers, Muriel Pénicaud, former Minister of Labour of France and Greg Vines of Australia.
Speaking after his election, Houngbo said, “Although my origins are African my perspective is global. In an age, unfortunately of dividedness, my commitment to be a unifying Director-General stands firm… I will be the Director-General of nobody and the Director-General of everybody”. He promised to offer platform for the tripartite constituents of the organization, namely Governments, Employers and Workers. The new Director-General’s five-year term begins on 1 October 2022.
The current Director-General, Guy Ryder, from the United Kingdom, has held the office since 2012.
The ILO’s Governing Body is composed of 56 titular members (28 Governments, 14 Employers and 14 Workers) and 66 deputy members (28 Governments, 19 Employers and 19 Workers). The Employer and Worker members are elected in their individual capacity. The ILO is the oldest specialized agency of the UN. It was founded in 1919 and has a mandate to promote decent work for all.
It has 187 Member States. Nigeria joined the ILO at independence in 1960 and has adopted most of its core conventions and recommendations in the areas of hours of work, minimum wages, right to freedom of assembly and association among others.