Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 July 2014, 14:54 GMT

2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Nigeria

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 8 June 2011
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2011 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Nigeria, 8 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4ea661efc.html [accessed 24 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 154,700,000
Capital: Abuja
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Anti-union attitudes persisted in the oil industry, where union members lost their jobs as part of cost-cutting exercises and members of a newly elected union executive were sacked. Collective bargaining obligations were ignored in different sectors. The Oyo state government starved the teachers' union of fees after its candidate failed to get elected to the union leadership. Electricity workers were arrested for protesting against privatisation plans. In addition, trade union rights are not adequately protected in law.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN LAW

Despite the repeal of some of the anti-labour decrees from the military era, many restrictions still remain. To register a union, the organisation must represent at least 50 workers, and a union cannot be registered where another union already exists. Workers in essential services do not enjoy freedom of association, and organising in the country's export processing zones is virtually impossible. Furthermore, the Registrar has broad powers to supervise the trade union accounts at any time.

Although the law recognises the right to collective bargaining, every agreement on wages in the private sector must be registered with the Ministry of Labour, which decides whether the agreement becomes binding or not. The right to strike is likewise restricted, as the Trade Disputes Act imposes compulsory arbitration. In addition, strikes that concern conflicts of interest or economic issues, including the government's social or economic policy, are prohibited. Also, strikers may not block airports nor obstruct public highways, institutions or premises of any kind. The penalties for participating in an illegal strike include fines and imprisonment for up to six months.

TRADE UNION RIGHTS IN PRACTICE AND VIOLATIONS IN 2010

Background: In May, President Umaru Yar'Adua died after a long illness, and Vice-President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded him. The financial crisis continues to have repercussions, and the year was marred by violent attacks. Sectarian violence in the city of Jos left over 150 dead in January, with clashes between Christians and Muslims leading to 120 deaths in March. The killings continued throughout the year. In October, celebrations in Abuja marking 50 years of Nigerian independence were overshadowed by bomb blasts. Violent attacks and kidnappings continued to threaten workers in the oil-producing Niger Delta, including two workers from a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) who were kidnapped and murdered in March. In Bauchi State, the Boko Haram, an Islamist sect, continued to wage war against the state and its citizens, fighting to make the country a Muslim state.

Anti-union attitudes persist in oil industry: On 3 and 4 February members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) and the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers (NUPENG) shut down two worksites operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria (MPN), ExxonMobil's subsidiary in Nigeria, to protest against the sacking of casual workers by Mobil's contractors and the company's failure to address the matter with unions first. Since September 2009, up to 100 Nigerian nationals have been sacked by contractors serving under MPN after taking part in a collective protest to gain fair remuneration, while other contractors have sacked Nigerian nationals from full-time positions, replacing them with casual workers. The sackings are not just of junior staff, but also of highly skilled and experienced nationals in technical, engineering, administrative, and commercial positions.

In March, the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM) reported that many companies had done away with full-time junior staff in their employment, including MPN, which phased out NUPENG members in favour of contract staffing. The ICEM reported that further to the February strike by NUPENG and PENGASSAN, MPN converted some 10% of all casual workers to full-time staff. However, in November, 66 members of NUPENG and 18 members of PENGASSAN were sacked by MPN ostensibly as a cost-cutting exercise. The unions believed this was an act of discrimination against union members and Nigerian workers, following the pattern of replacing national workers with expatriates.

PENGASSAN and NUPENG also report that prominent oil and gas servicing companies Baker Hughes Nigeria Ltd., BJ Services and Mak Mera Nigeria Limited (Shell Nigeria) have persistently resisted the unions' attempts to obtain recognition for their respective unions with the view of negotiating collective bargaining agreements.

NUPENG members targeted with dismissal: In January 2010, 67 workers were made redundant by the management of Fedison Nigeria Limited after they joined the National Union of Petroleum and National Gas Workers (NUPENG). Some of the workers dismissed had already been elected to positions within the union and were fired when mobilising for union recognition. The company management has also in the past persistently resisted unionisation of the workplace.

Government interference: In January, the Oyo state council of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) accused the state government of interfering in the affairs of industrial unions in the state's civil service. It claimed that the government withheld statutory funds from the state chapter of the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), as the state government's candidates were not voted onto the union executive. After a new set of officers were elected to lead the state NUT, the state government directed the State Universal Basic Education Board (SUBEB) and the Teaching Service Commission (TESCOM) to stop deducting check-off dues from public, primary and secondary schools teachers' salaries in order to starve the union of funds. NUT cancelled its delegates' conference twice and moved the venue to Akure due to the state government's attempts to impose its own supporters and fears for the security of its members. NUT reported that members had been living in fear of attack by thugs believed to be working for the government. NLC accused the government of recognising the state Academic Staff Union of Secondary Schools (ASUSS), which it believes is an illegal body.

Striking health workers threatened with dismissal: On 13 February, the Kaduna State Government threatened to sack health workers and introduce a no-work, no-pay action if they went ahead with a proposed strike. The Medical and Health Workers' Union of Nigeria (MHWUN) called the strike in response to the government's failure to implement an agreement reached in November 2009. MHWUN had called off a previous strike when the agreement was signed, but when the 2010 budget did not respect the union's demands contained in the agreement, it gave the government two weeks to make the necessary changes. The government responded that the changes could not be made and refused to negotiate further with the union, claiming that as it was not formally registered, it was illegal.

Chevron sacks union leaders: When the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG) organised workers at Logistics Facility Affairs Limited (LFA), a labour contractor to Chevron Nigeria Limited, their efforts were resisted by LFA Management, supposedly acting on the directive of Chevron Management, claiming that LFA Limited is not an oil company. Workers nonetheless chose to join the union. The Management of Chevron Nigeria Limited responded by withdrawing all the buses the workers were assigned to drive, and the LFA attempted to redeploy all the 54 workers, mainly drivers and mechanics for the oil and gas industry. This move was resisted by the union, which resulted in the termination of the union's seven leaders.

All the workers were reinstated and the buses returned following the intervention of the Minister of Labour and Productivity, who gave the management of Chevron Nigeria Limited and LFA two weeks to re-instate the sacked union executives at LFA or face sanctions. The minister's intervention came after the union threatened strike action. The question of which union it was appropriate for the workers to belong to was still pending at the end of the year.

PENGASSAN members arrested: Ten members of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAN) were arrested at work on 25 November by armed officers of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). The officers were investigating the bribery and corruption scandal around Halliburton and the multi-million dollar bribes paid to top government officials in exchange for the contract to build Africa's first liquefied natural gas plant in Bonny, Rivers state. PENGASSAN were angered the arrests were targeted at their members only, whom they believe to be innocent. PENGASSAN condemned the barbaric nature with which the anti-corruption agency carried out its operations at the Halliburton office, beating workers and molesting female staff. Those arrested and brutalised by the EFCC were Jarvis Peter, Hans Kempeneers, Liliy Adiogu, Lawal Yakubu, Iseoluwa Ogundele, Efe Collins, Isa Saibu, Barnabas Iroegbulem, ChiUkpai, and Theodore Okonkwo.

Electricity workers arrested: On 15 December police disrupted a nationwide rally by workers of the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) and arrested 35 workers who were protesting in Benin, Lagos, Umuahia Abeokuta, Ogun State and Asaba, Delta State. The rally had been called by the National Union of Electricity Employees (NUEE) to protest against the government's planned privatisation of PHCN among others. After the protesters set off from the Maryland Transmission Office in Lagos, they were stopped by the police, who explained they were instructed by the Inspector General of Police to stop the rally. Armed military personnel and police were deployed at all PHCN installations and all NUEE local offices and National Secretariats across the country. A statement signed by the union's Assistant General Secretary Isaac Babatunde explained that the workers' protest was not intended to adversely affect the relative peace of the country, noting that the protest had no element of strike or "work-to-rule action" attached.

Teachers fired: On 15 October 2010, 43 teachers in community schools owned by the State Security Service were dismissed and physically assaulted after petitioning for regularisation of their employment contracts and the right to belong to the Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT). On 24 September, 17 teachers were also let go, and on 24 June seven teachers saw their contracts terminated. After the intervention by the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, Ibrahim Omar, all but eight of the teachers were reinstated.

Government fails to implement collective agreements: Failure to respect a November 2009 collective bargaining agreement (CBA) triggered disputes by university staff in five state universities in the South East of the country. In July 2010 the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) reported that although the CBA stipulated a new salary structure for academics, the federal government had yet to pay this actual amount. University funding had also not risen in line with the agreement, and the stipulated retirement age of 70 years appeared to have been forgotten. While a few universities did begin to apply the agreement after union pressure, many did not, including those in the South East. Local negotiators on the government side further exacerbated matters by insisting in October that negotiations to unblock the dispute be conducted in the Igbo language, despite the fact that some of the ASUU officials do not speak the language. The dispute continued at the end of the year.

In October, members of the National Association of Nigerian Nurses and Midwives (NANNM) were arrested and detained in Jos in North Central Nigeria when the workers under the auspices of the Joint Action Congress of Health Workers engaged the state government to implement the new salary structure for health workers as provided in the CBA with the federal government of Nigeria. When the state government refused to implement the new structure, the health sector unions decided to call a strike. The government responded by arresting and detaining the union leaders, including NANNM Public Relations Officer Mr. Yakubu Izand.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

Search Refworld

Countries