By Bode Akinbode, Ibadan
The National Assembly substitution of “Nigeria Council for Social Work [Establishment] Bill 2019”, a bill which seeks to regulate the profession of Social Work in Nigeria, for Chartered Institute of Social Work Practitioners Bill owned by the Institute of Social Work of Nigeria (ISWON), has been kicked against by the Nigeria Association of Social Workers (NASoW), the umbrella body of all Social Workers in Nigeria.
NASoW in a press statement signed by its National President, Alhaji Mashood Mustapha, copies of which were made available to jnewsmen in Ibadan, the Oyo state capital on Sunday by the Public Relations Officer of the association, Mr Musliudeen Adebayo, also urged President Muhammadu Buhari not to sign any other bill apart from the Nigerian Council for Social Work Bill which will give the total control of Social Work profession in Nigeria to the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development.
It was gathered that the Senate recently reconsidered the Nigeria Council for Social Work (Establishment) Bill 2019 which is expected to be transmitted to President Muhammadu Buhari for his assent. The bill, has been in the National Assembly since 2012 before it was reconsidered and passed by the Senate on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019.
The bill had earlier been passed by the Senate in 2017, after which it was rejected by President Buhari in February 2018 due to some grey areas.
The bill was sent back to the Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development for correction.
“The areas which made President Muhammadu Buhari to reject the bill have been corrected with the support of NASoW, ministries of Justice, Labour among others and the bill was taken back to the Assembly for reconsideration,” the statement said.
Mustapha said however, that the association was surprised that the National Assembly, instead of transmitting the original Nigeria Council for Social Work Bill to President Buhari for his assent, abandoned and substituted the Nigerian Council Bill by given “Chartered Institute of Social Work Practitioners [Establishment] Bill 2019” accelerated hearing and concurrence passage and sent it to Buhari for his assent.
Mustapha lamented that, “The Association viewed this with suspicion, particularly the speed at which this was done and the glaring preference of the private business bill to a Government Controlled Council Bill. Chartered Institute Bill is alien to Social Work profession because Social Workers do not need chartered certificates to take care of the vulnerable and the voiceless.
“The chartered nonsense is highly ridiculous because there is nothing like Chartered Social Workers, chartered Nurses, Chartered Doctors etc in humanitarian professions.
“It would only make Social Workers a laughing stock n the committee of professionals. It is a primitive attempt to exploit and impoverished the Social Workers in Nigeria because the bill is seen by ISWON as a very lucrative business like oil and gold, hence the frantic and desperate struggle for the ownership of the bill and the attendant banditry. It is purely an economic struggle that is based on financial gains. The goal is profit and maximum maximization that would further impoverished our social workers and diminish the humanitarian ideals that we all stand for selfless service to humanity.
“The regulatory of Social Work profession in all over the world is always under the control of Government and not under the control of private Shylock organizations, just like it is done in other professions like medicine, law, pharmacy and nursing.
“It is very painful that the National Assembly cannot read between the line. The bill is not a genuine commitment to social work development in Nigeria, it is not an altruism because what would be welfare to ISWON in terms of economic gains would be ill fare to all social workers and clients.”
Mustapha continued, “Our attention has been drawn to reports that National Assembly has passed another bill on Social Work apart from the original Bill titled “Nigeria Council for Social Work [Establishment] Bill 2019, NASoW deemed it fit to lay the records straight and educate the populace and all relevant stakeholders on this matter.
“NASoW is a registered organisation with the Corporate Affairs Commission in Nigeria, founded on 16th October, 1975 and it is the only recognised professional Body for all Social Workers in Nigeria. NASoW is an affiliate member of the International Federation of Social Workers (IFSW) – world umbrella body for social workers with headquarter in Switzerland.
“In order to regulate and professionalise Social Work practice as obtainable in other developed countries, NASoW in conjunction with Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development sponsored a Bill which seeks to establish “The Nigeria Council for Social Work” (a regulatory arm of the Federal Government of Nigeria) which shall regulate the practice of Social Work in Nigeria. This Council shall have same powers like Dental and Medical Council, Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria.
“It is crystal clear in all the aforementioned professions that it is the Federal Government that regulates the practice while the practitioners come together to form association/unions that will cater for welfare of its members. Regulation of similar professions is done by The Federal Government of Nigeria which is the common practice in all countries of the world; and not by private individuals or organization.
“We are surprised that the National Assembly, can concurred a bill that did not pass through due process and left the Original bill that passed through the the constitutional process and requirements.
“Social Work profession suffers one of the highest brain drain in Nigeria due to unfavourable condition to practice. Social Work intervention is needed in the Justice system as prison welfare, parole and probation officers, after care and integration service, in health, as psychosocial therapists, resource mobilisers, advocates and rehabilitation officers among other services.
“The bill is the most important policy tool of the federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development. The time to get it rigth is now. In view of the foregoing, we are using this medium to call on all stakeholders and the general public to wade into this matter and advise Mr. President not to sign the chartered Institute of Social Work Practitioners Bill into law apart from the Nigeria Council for Social Work [Establishment] Bill 2019 that would be fully controlled by Government.
“Finally, we are urging all social workers in Nigeria especially registered NASoW members to be steadfast and continue to render their services to their clients in a professional manner they have been doing. The Association is confident that President Muhammed Buhari will not sign the Chartered Institute Bill in error.”