An Analytical Study Of Labour Unrest And Underdevelopment In Nigeria

Project and Seminar Material for Political Science

An Analytical Study Of Labour Unrest And Underdevelopment In Nigeria


One of the major impediments to development in Nigeria is labour unrest. This is given the fact that no Nation can develop without human resource because they constitute and play very significant role in Nation building and development. The Nigerian case has been so pervasive that labour unrest extends to every situation when the Government takes major public policy decision that seems to affect the labour union and generally the masses without due consultation of labour statement; especially that which affects the social life of their member and welfare packages of the entire masses, specifically that which affect the socio-economic and political aspects, hence Nigerian development remain dependent.

Thus in our attempt to analyze and investigate this problem, we use the relative deprivation theory for theoretical framework while documentary research method was also used for gathering and analyzing data.

This research work, labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria: An appraisal from 2000 – 2013 is being carried out for the purpose of assessing various means of curbing labour unrest. This study is however divided into five chapters, chapter one deals with the background of study, statement of the problem, objective of the study, significance of the study, hypotheses, method of data collection and analysis, scope and limitation of the study and definition of terms. Chapter two contains the public policies and labour unrest in Nigeria. In chapter three, we looked at labour unrest and underdevelopment. Chapter four of this work dealt with the strategies for curbing labour unrest in Nigeria.

Finally, chapter five which is the last chapter efforts shifted to the summary, conclusion, recommendation and bibliography. However this work is very incisive, interesting and educating.

Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Government is the largest employer of labour with private individual employing a minimal proportion of the working class (Fajara, 2000). In Nigeria, labour unions has become a very important agents of socio-economic transformation and class struggle (Aremu, 1996, Akinyanju, 1997) which began from the colonial struggle and continued till in the post independence era. In the later, labour unions played significant role in the struggle against dictatorial military rule in the country. In the same vein under the current civilian dispensation, labour unions is at the forefront of the struggle against unpopular government policies such as deregulation of the oil sector, retrenchment of workers and refusal to honor agreement on wage increase.

The organized labour union movements in Nigeria dates back to 1912, Nigeria workers like their counterparts in other developing countries have witnessed fundamental changes in their condition over time. To a large extent, labour unions have played significant roles in the transformation of most developing countries.

Nigeria is a third world country that comprise of labour unions spread across the country. The unions are structured into industrial line and as at 1977 precisely 42 labour unions were recognized by the Government and allowed to contribute enormously to the development of economic, social, cultural and even political system of the state. The role of these labour unions is usually regarded as people oriented because it tends to oppose Governmental policies and decisions not favorable to the masses through strike actions, protest etc popularly called labour unrest.

However, in a multi ethnic democratic country like Nigeria, there exist different labour unions across the country. But for the purpose of this study, we shall dwell more on those labour unions that have in one way or the other succeeded in influencing Governmental policies and decision. In the past such as: National Union ofPetroleum and Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG), Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT),Trade Union Congress (TUC), Academic Staff Union ofUniversities (ASUU), Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria (PENGASSAU) Nigerian Union of Journalist (NUJ).

In 1978 however, it’s important to note that Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) was formed and inaugurated and the 42 industrial unions became affiliates of the Nigerian Labour Congress with a legal backing of the trade union amendment Decree 22 of 1978. Again in 1989 the trade union was restructured to become 29 affiliates unions to the Nigerian Labour Congress after their role against the anti-people Structural Adjustment programme of General Babangida.

Consequently, in 2005, the trade union act section 33 (2) was amended by substituting the phrase “central labour organization” for the phrase “federation of trade unions” the intention was to weaken the cohesion of the trade unions.

Since time immemorial labour unrest has alwaysoccupied the front burner ofand oppositions. in Nigeria whenever the Government through its policies makes life unbearable for its citizens.

Nevertheless most activities of the organized labour in the form of unrest to attack Government policies and programmes often result in underdevelopment and grounding of the economy culminating in loss of revenues and sundry economic activities. However, it is not implausible to aver that one of the greatest problems thatresult to labour unrest and consequently underdevelopment is Governmental policies and programmes on certain National issues especially those that affect the labour unions across the Nation.

In the light of these, this research work is inspired out of the burning desire to interrogate the motive of the labour union in their activities through protest, strikes etc against certain Governmental policies and programmes through a critical analysis and alternative roadmap to labour unrest with a view to averting resultant and decay in Nigeria.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Labour unrest remain one of the most disturbing problems hindering the development of this great nation especially when Government tends to implement policies and programmes not favorably for the majority of the people in the society (country). This is because the labour unions, using the NLC (Nigeria Labour Congress) ad TUC (Trade Union Congress) as the umbrella bodies tends to constitute parts of organization or union that keeps the country going through their daily activities. In order words, when there is labour unrest, the economy of the country tends to be disrupted and destabilized which is why whenever Government policies and programmes that are not favorable to labour are formulated, there is usually a mass protest and strikes that dislocates the economy as the civil servants who are very significant to the Government of the day also partake in the strike and protest by not going to work.

However, the study shall make a critical analysis of some of the major cases on protest and strikesby labour unions and also investigate their modus operandi.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The broad objective of the study is to assess the consequences of labour unrest on Nigeria’s development. Thus the specific objectives of the study are:

  1. To ascertain if public policies are responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria.
  2. To determine if underdevelopment is a consequence of labour unrest in Nigeria.
  3. To discover if dialogue and collective bargaining can curb labour union in Nigeria

1.4 Hypotheses

In accordance with the research questions and founded on empirical verification deduced from the research study hypotheses thus:

  1. Public policies are responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria.
  2. Underdevelopment appears to be a correspondence of labour unrest in Nigeria.
  3. Dialogue and collective bargaining seem to be a veritiable alternative to labour unrest in Nigeria

1.5 Scope and Limitations of the Study

The scope of this research work is quite wide and broad that it encompasses the investigation of “labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria” An appraisal from 2000 – date. This is because of the spontaneous nature.

The scope is hinged on what have been noted from time immemorial to present in the main sub-heading of this research work. Furthermore, notable reference though is on the already listed statement of problem and hypothesis which would be used in the continuation of the research work up till the point of arriving at the conclusion and preferred recommendations of this research work.

As regards to the limitation of this study, we would point out that there were indeed limited documented materials on the issue and the factors of it being timely in conjunction with financial impediments or constraints, time and numerous academic work in campus. However,it was obvious that the prevailing unrest was at its peak at the time of this research.

1.6 Definition of Terms

This term that have been carefully selected for definition in this research work are those that are related to the course of study and those terms which also have ambiguous meaning, here an attempt is made to giveclarity on their usage in this research work.


Liberal and Marxist scholars contend underdevelopment in terms of retardation, primitivity and backwardness or simply the lack of development for which the later view it as a man made process while the former connotes it as an internal variables and not external factors, which is occasioned by national and internal milieu.

Labour Unrest:

This is a term used by employers or those generally in the business community to describe organizing and strike action undertaken especially when Government tends to implement policies not favorable to their members.

Labour Union:

This are group of people who come together in line with their profession or career with the sole aim of protecting their interest through influencing Government policies through strike actions and protest.


According to the liberal view implies change which “often follows a well ordered sequence and exhibits common characteristics across countries or what Michael Todaro calls series of successive stages of transformation.
Development according to the Marxist perspective is a dimensional process as Walter Rodney encapsulated that development. In human society is a many sided process.


This is a refusal to work organized by a body of employees as a form of protest typically in an attempt to gain a concession or concessions. Thus it’s a work stoppage undertaken in support of a bargaining position or in protest of some aspect of a previous agreement or proposal agreement between labour unions and the management or the Government.


This is an institution rules and administration of state authority. Thus it’s a group of people that governs a state. It sets and administers public policy and exercises executive political and sovereign power through customs, institution and laws within a state.

A Government can be classified into many types: democracy, republic, monarchy, aristocracy dictatorship are just to mention but a few.


This is a statement or action expressing disapproval or objection to something or to affirm in a public or formal manner to declare solemnly to a vow.


This is the removal of government control from an industry or sector to allow for free and efficient market place. Thus it’s the reduction or elimination of government power in a particular industry usually enacted to create more competition within the industry.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Summary

This study on an analytical study of labour unrest and underdevelopment in Nigeria gave an insight on the situation of things in Nigeria each time Nigeria government embark on labour policies that are not favorable to labour unions and Nigerians. In most cases like the increment in fuel price, kerosene etc that often resort to labour unrest and underdeveloped the country.

Labour unrest is one of the most threatening problems which has eaten deep into the core of Nigeria state, and has gradually and regrettably become a tragic and now regular phenomenon of the National sensibility and consciousness of labour unions and Nigerians as a whole.

This has been largely as a result of the disruption of socio – political and economic activities, loss of revenue and loss of investment, infrastructure etc which hinders development and tend to delay in the attainment of National goals embarked by Government, but inspite of these lost by the Nigeria, the issue of labour unrest still surfaces each time major policies on labour are taken, yet the Government have yet to diverse mean to prevent future occurrence, even though sometimes labour unrest seems to be the only avenue the government listens to the voice of the people.

The first chapter of this study presented the thrust of the research, which is to ascertain if public policies are responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria. It traces the problem to government labour policies in Nigeria taken without due consultation by the government of the day with major labour stakeholders so as to prevent unrest if a decision is reached by the government.

And defined labour unrest as a term used by employer or those generally in the business community to describe organizing and strike action undertaken especially when government tend to implement public/labour policies not favorable to their members.

It was discovered to overcome the paradox of labour unrest inherent in every civilian administration since 1799, Government need to always embark on consultations with stakeholders of labour leaders capable of mobilizing people for protest thereby leading to unrest.

In summary, one would no doubt say that the impact of labour union on some Government public labour policies which often lead to labour unrest that the positive implication seems to outweigh its adverse effects because in most cases as examined in the 2002, 2000, 2008 and most recently 2012 this policies are reversed to some extent even though it may not be reversed 100%.

5.2 Conclusion

I tried to answer the question posed by hypothesizing that public policies are responsible for labour unrest in Nigeria, and that labour unrest is a product of Government obvious policies unfavorable to workers (labour union) and that decentralization of labour union or the use of coercion is not the best approach to adopt a curb labour unrest in a democratic and multi-ethnic state like Nigeria, but rather dialogue option is the best approach to adopt during labour unrest.

On the basis of the finding of this study, I conclude by drawing attention to the grievous harm caused by labour unrest in Nigeria such as the enormous loss of revenue in the banking and oil sector specially in Nigeria’s economy, the loss of investments where investors take their funds to neighboring countries like Ghana, Chad, Cameron, Niger Republic etc, vandalization of Government properties, loss of lives, theft etc just to mention but a few.

Over the last decade, labour unrest have contributed to Nigeria’s underdevelopment because like we examined, the labour unions plays significant pole in the prosperity and development of any society because of its great impact in socio-economic, political and even cultural activities.

However it is observed that several policies initiated to curb labour unrest in Nigerian society tends not to have been effective since Nigeria’s transition from military regime to civilian administration.

Even in 2002, when president Olusegun Obasanjo took labour union to court to stop the union from embarking on strike action it wanted to undertake, which was though granted by the court, but it only resulted to the suspension of the strike for just two (2) days. This is because labour constitutes the masses to a large extent.

And those who are empowered to implement substantive labour policies tend to implement labour policies that would be in then own selfish interest.

More so, the issue of underdevelopment according to Rodney (1972) is as a result from an equal interaction between two (2) societies, the more this unequal relationship last, the more the backwardness.

Therefore interaction and due consultation between labour and Government should be encouraged each time Government wants to embark on any major public labour policy.

5.3 Recommendation

This research work has carried out an extensive analysis and evaluation of the causes of labour unrest in Nigeria and the surest way to avert future occurrence. I therefore recommend based on the findings of the research work taking into consideration the contemporary issue concerning labour unrest the following so as to have a free flow and conducive environment where investors will feel safe and comfortable to invest their money without being worried if Government labour/public policy could undermine their daily activities.

  1. Labour union stakeholders be incorporated into the Government to specialize on issues pertaining the formulation and implementation of public policies that could prompt labour unrest in the country. Hence underdevelopment.
  2. Government needs to abolish the use of force (coercion) during labour unrest when it arises and diverse some other approach to quench the prevailing unrest because it seems to be the only avenue the citizens tend to express their views on policies taking by government that is unfavourable to them.
  3. Government must always try to fulfill agreement reached, because for instance the new minimum wage of 18,000 for workers have still not being fully implemented by some state government across the land because agreement made must be kept as Hugo Grotius puts it.
  4. Collective bargaining should be encouraged in the quest for industrial peace, because by dialogue and collective bargaining, the workers could use the forum and potrate their grievance and pain to the Government about the said policy that tends to bring labour unrest in the country.

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