The Role Of Nigeria Labour Union In Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria

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The Role Of Nigeria Labour Union In Democratic Consolidation In Nigeria


This research work is centre on “The Role of Nigeria Labour Union in Democratic Consolidation in Nigeria’’ A case study of Nigeria Labour Congress, Kogi State Chapter. The major objectives of the work is to examine how the weakness of trade union in Nigeria constitutes other problems to labour management. Primary and secondary methods were used in collecting data, while simple percentage method was used in analyzing data. The findings revealed that the Nigeria Labour Congress is not an instrument of caution in policy making. The researcher recommended that the Nigeria Labour Congress should begin to prepare the ground for the rebirth and revival of the social emancipation movement within the Nigeria Labour Congress which will restore the organic and dynamic linkage between the leadership and the mass followership.

Chapter One


1.1 Background to the Study

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) is a federation of unions across all sectors, all cadres, convening both white and blue collar workers as well as pensioners. It is a symbol of unity and strength of the country’s trade union movement.

The behavior and responses of the congress to issues impacts positively or otherwise on the entire trade union movement. This explains why most Nigerian workers hold the NLC with a lot of solidarity, because it is geared towards the pursuit and attainment of economic, social and political interest of the workers and the country (Nigeria) at large.

Given the vanguard role, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) expected to play, it is often thought that labour and trade union are essentially a response of workers to unbearable oppressive employment conditions. Certainly, some unions have developed from such background. We could then refer to such union as social movement. Albert Blueman defined social movement as a collective enterprise to establish a new order to life. However, labour unions have been a part of Nigeria industry since 1912, when government employees formed a civil service union in 1914, this organization became in Nigeria union of civil servants after the merger of protectorates of Northern Nigeria and Southern Nigeria. In 1931, two other major unions were founded, the Nigeria Railway workers union and the Nigeria union of Teachers (which include private school teachers) legalization of union in 1938 was followed by rapid labour organization during world war II as a result of passage by the British government of the colonial development and welfare act of 1940, which encourage the establishment of unions in the colonies.

The defense regulation of October 1942 made strikes and lock out illegal for the duration of the war and denied African workers the cost of living allowances that European civil servants received in addition, the colonial government increased wages only modestly, although, the cost of living rose 74 percent from September 1939 to October 1943. In June and July of 1945, 43,000 workers most of whom were performing services in dispensable to the country’s economic and administrative life, went on a strike that lasted more than forty days. It large part as a result of the strikes success, the labour movement grow steadily by 1950 there were 144 unions with more than 144,000 members.

In 1963, union members numbered 300,000 or 1.6 percent of the labour force. Despite the low level of organization, labour discontent worsened as the gap widened between the wages of white –collar and those of blue-collar workers. In 1964, supervisors were paid thirty three time as much as daily wage workers and semi-skilled workers in public services. After independence, many workers had begun to see that the political leadership was maing no effort to reduce the inequalities of the colonial wage and benefit structure. Corruption and conspicuous consumption were perceived to be widespread among politicians. In April 1963, pay rise for ministers and members of parliament further fueled labour resentment because rank and file civil servants had been doing without raises since 1960. The file subordinate central labour organizations consequently formed the Joint Action Committee (JAC) to pressure the government to raise wages. Numerous delays in the publication of a government commission report on wages and salaries provided partial impetus for JAC to mobilize general strike of 800,000 supporters, most of them non-unionist, which lasted twelve days in June 1994.

1.2 Statement of the Problem

The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) though important and pivot to the economic and social development of the country (Nigeria), has his own failures resulting from liabilities that undermine her activities. In view of the various negative prevailing circumstances, this research will try to identify and provide solution to the NLC crisis and challenges.

To achieve this goals, the following issues will be examined;

  1. The weakness of trade unionism in Nigeria constitutes other problem to labour movement
  2. Workers perception of the rate of attaining the aims and objectives of the leaders lead in industrial conflict
  3. The non-compatibility of union and government interest always leads to organized industrial conflict.
  4. The non-recognition by management of a need by workers for improvement in wages and salaries always lead to industrial unrest.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The objectives of this study can be stated as follows:

  1. To examine how the weakness of trade union in Nigeria constitutes other problem to labour management.
  2. To know the perception of workers on how the aims and objectives of labour leaders lead to various industrial conflict
  3. To find out how the non-compatibility of union and government interest always lead to organize industrial conflict

1.4 Significance of the Study

Upon completion of this research project, it will be of utmost importance in the following ways:

  1. To the students, it will serve as a reference material to those who may wish to conduct a research work on this similar topic
  2. When completed, it will be of great use to politicians especially those with passion on internal democracy.
  3. The various recommendations that will be made in this research will enhance the effective and efficient operation of Nigeria labour union and
  4. This research work will also be of immense benefit to the worker, the government and the country (Nigeria) at large.

1.5 Research Questions

In the course of this research work, the following questions were asked:

  1. It strike action the only right tool for attainment of reforms?
  2. Has the Nigeria labour unions been able to conquer the obnoxious reforms of government?
  3. Has there been consistency in the activities or operation of trade union in Nigeria? And
  4. To what extent has trade union operation in Nigeria help in sustaining the nation’s nascent democracy?

1.6 Research Hypotheses

To aid the successful completion of the study, the following research hypotheses were formulated

  1. H0: the weakness of trade unionism in Nigeria does not constitutes other problem to labor movement
    H1: the weakness of trade unionism in Nigeria constitutes other problem to labor movement
  2. H02: the perception of workers and objectives of labour leaders does lead to various industrial conflict.
    H2: the perception of workers and objectives of labour leaders does not lead to various industrial conflict.

1.7 Scope / Limitations of the Study

The scope of this study shall include all union members under the umbrella of the Nigeria Labour Congress representing their union of various national secretariat. Also the study will not seek to concentrate more on a micro level analysis of the topic under study but seek to ascertain the influence of union activities in Nigeria Labour Congress and national development thereby enabling both policy and labour decision makes good and well-intended decision.

While, in the course of carrying out this research work, there are some hindrance which have been encountered by men, which is as follows.

The area of inadequate access to some of the relevant materials of this research topic and limiting factors of this work is the inability to get all the required data and information required.

Also, time was not on my side due to the combination of attending lectures and at the same time writing and seeking for materials for the project.

Lastly, the uncooperative nature of the respondents also serve as a limiting factor in the course of compiling this research project, some of the respondents refuse to supply me with relevant information’s that would have facilitated the speedy completion of this research work.

1.8 Organization of the Work

For the purpose of easy understanding, this research is categorized into five chapters.

  1. Chapter one, which is essentially introductory includes background, statement, objectives, hypothesis, significance, scope/limitations of the study, organization of the work and finally, definition of terms.
  2. Chapter two, comprises of literature review. This involves reviewing what other authors have said about the subject matter performances and influence in the economy.
  3. Chapter three, will cover the research method and procedure, population and sample, source of data collection, method of data collection, description of instrument used, returned questionnaire and finally on that not method of data analysis.
  4. Chapter four, in every research data presentation and analysis are very important if hypothesis are to be tested. This is very critical chapter because its observation and findings will prove or disapprove hypothesis.
  5. Finally, chapter five is devoted towards conclusion and recommendations, whereby conclusion will be generated on whether the hypothesis is true or false, accepted or null it will also suggests solution to the problem earlier stated based on its findings.

1.9 Definition of Terms

At this juncture, I find it necessary to define the basic terms that shall feature prominently in this study which is as follows:

Trade Union:

Different writers have variously defined this; some defined it as an organization of workers to represent their interests deal as groups with employers. This simply means a group of employees or workers with common interest who reinforces together to relate to their employers in order to improve their welfare and working condition.

Collective Bargaining:

Collective bargaining is seen in this context as negotiating about working conditions and terms of employment between an employee’s group of employers and one or more representatives. It can be defined as a process of decision making.

Industrial Conflict:

Industrial conflict is defined as struggle over value or claims to status, power and scarce resources in which the aims of the conflict parties are only to gain the desired values but also to neutralize injure or eliminate their rivals.


A government is the or agency through which a political unit exercise its authority, controls and administers public policy, and directs and controls the actions of its members or subjects.

Social Movement:

Social movement is seen as collective enterprise to establish a new order to life that is a group of people who need change or resist an existing social order. For the purpose of this study, social movement is said to occur when firmly large number of people found themselves together in order to alter or support an aspect of the existing culture off social order.


Democracy is defined as a system of government in which all qualified citizens share the supreme power directly or through their elected representative.

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendation

5.1 Introduction

It is important to ascertain that the objective of this study was to ascertain the role of labor union in the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria.

In the preceding chapter, the relevant data collected for this study were presented, critically analyzed and appropriate interpretation given. In this chapter, certain recommendations made which in the opinion of the researcher will be of benefits in addressing the challenges of labor union and democratic consolidation in Nigeria.

5.2 Summary

It has been argued in this study that for a reinvented government and trade union relations in Nigeria, the government should make provision for more enabling environment to engage with trade unions. The qualitative approach adopted that is couched in action research, which is traditionally used to gauge change in behaviour in an organisational setting, is corroborated with survey. The approach adopted has demonstrated that for the consolidation of Nigeria’s fledgling democracy that promises to improve relations between government and trade unions, more institutions and implementation of programmes as well as more inclusive way of engagement are of the essence.

5.3 Conclusion

Most previous studies in this area in Nigeria has focused on the actions of the unions, especially organising unionism. They ignored the impact of external environment on trade unions, and has been descriptive and narrowly focused. This study however draws on political activities and industrial relations. The study sought to better understand the effect of external environment, especially the political environment, on trade unionism. The study revealed that although political system has changed from military to civilian, the actors mostly remain the same and continue to perpetuate autocratic tendencies within a civil dispensation. The study has presented a chronicle of the Nigeria’s political system since independence and discussed the impact of successive government regulations on the labour movement. The researcher concludes that trade unions sometimes shares political unionism’s goals, which are intended to transform society according to working-class interests but remains independent from government and other civil liberty groups. An apt summary would be that while the influence of labour movement have been badly affected by military rule, recent democratic rule have given something different, even though, this does not match the expectation of the unions, academics and human right commentators. Legal changes have altered union’s right and power. Economic changes would not permit the exercise of bargaining power. However, it is important that we do not write off Nigeria’s labour movement, the formation and registration of labour party with influential candidates in many states is a sign that labour could turn the environment around through political activism.

5.4 Recommendations

Haven completed the study, the researcher recommends that, stronger workers’ rights as well as consolidating Nigeria’s recent democratic wave, the government should empowered trade union as this is required to bring this to fruition. This will help shape leadership in the nation, which has been under the shadow of leadership ineptitude and lingering dispute between the state and trade unions.

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