Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August 2014, 16:05 GMT

2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Nigeria

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2010
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Nigeria, 9 June 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c4fec62c.html [accessed 29 August 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

It was a violent year for Nigeria's trade unionists, as nurses were seriously injured during a peaceful protest. Striking doctors were also attacked. In an attack on the offices of the Maritime Workers' Union, four union officials were left critically injured. A trade union leader in the Benue state was murdered, although the motive for his murder was unclear. In addition, trade union rights are not adequately protected in the 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 can not 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 2009

Background: The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) organised a series of nationwide rallies, in March, June and October, to protest at deregulation and privatisation in the oil industry, and at delays in negotiating a new national minimum wage, as well as to call for electoral reform. Meanwhile the Boko Haram Islamist movement waged a fierce campaign to have Sharia Law imposed on the whole country, leading to violent clashes in July in north-eastern Nigeria in which hundreds died. The leader of the Niger Delta militant group Mend, Henry Okah, finally accepted an offer of a two-month government amnesty, which came into force in August.

Collective bargaining and right to strike undermined: While the government and some employers may agree to collective bargaining, they generally fail to honour the agreements made, leading to many strikes. In September 2009, lecturers from the Abeokuta University of Agriculture, in the Ogun State, took to the streets in protest at the government's continued refusal to sign an agreement it reached with the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) in 2001. Police permission is required prior to a strike, but is rarely given. The use of security forces to intimidate, harass and arrest strikers, often accompanied by the use of violence against trade unionists prior to or during strikes or protests, seriously undermines the right to strike. When doctors at public hospitals in Lagos went on strike in May 2009 to protest over poor pay and working conditions, they were subjected to vicious attacks according to their spokesperson Ibrahim Olaifa. At least one doctor was left in a critical condition after being physically attacked.

Anti-union attitudes in financial institutions: In a petition to the senate committee on financial institutions in February, the Association of Bank, Insurance and Financial Institutions (ASSBIFI) reported on anti-union attitudes in the finance industry, including the inclusion of non-union clauses in the employees' term of employment.

Anti-union attitudes in the oil industry: The National Union of Petroleum and National Gas workers (NUPENG) publicly denounced employment contracts in the oil and gas industry which failed to meet minimum labour standards and international best practices. At a national delegates conference held at the end of 2009, the union noted that some multi-national oil and gas companies were awarding labour contracts designed ostensibly to de-unionise workers and create disaffection among trade unions. It also protested at the effects on worker and their unions of casualisation in the industry.

Maritime workers also protested at the anti-union attitudes in multinational oil companies operating in the Bayelsa State and their refusal to hand over union dues to the Bayelsa State district branch of the Maritime Workers' Union of Nigeria (MWUN). The union also complained that the multinationals refused to employ unionised workers on their vessels operating along the waterways in the state and had denied their members training slots.

Maritime union officials injured in attack on secretariat: On 20 March more than 50 armed attackers raided the secretariat of the Maritime Workers' Union of Nigeria (MWUN), leaving four of the union's staff critically injured, and other staff and officials injured to various degrees. The attackers removed and burnt vital documents, including documents relating to the national delegates conference the union was due to hold on 27 March. The attackers, thought to be hired thugs, arrived at the union's national secretariat at around 11am with guns, machetes and other dangerous weapons. They smashed vehicle windscreens, windows, doors and ransacked all the offices after shooting indiscriminately at doors and windows of the building.

Union leader murdered: The chairman of the Benue State branch of the Trade Union Congress (TUC), Tony Udu, was shot and killed at his home in Makurdi on 24 July. A week later, the police arrested two of the gunmen, who are thought to be hired assassins. The motive for the murder was not clear, but given the activism of the chairman, national TUC leaders believed it was political.

Thugs beat striking health workers: When a group of women health workers from the National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives protested about the non-payment of their salaries for three months, they were seriously beaten by suspected political thugs. On 17 December, the health workers, employed by the Abeokuta South council in the Ogun State, staged a peaceful protest outside the home of the local government chairman, Yanju Lipede. They were a few metres from his house when two vehicles arrived and five large men disembarked. They beat the women with horsewhips, sticks and other weapons. Many of them had to be hospitalised because of their injuries, which included fractured bones. According to one of the victims, Adeyola Solaja, a senior nurse, one of the vehicles used by the attackers had been traced to the local government's Supervisory Councillor on Health.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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