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Oladipupo Olayemi KAYODE


MARCH , 2019


It is a well known fact that the growth and development of any nation depends on the

structures it has carved out for itself. In Nigeria, amidst the various arms of the

government which has been working tirelessly to ensure the growth and sustenance of

the Nigerian state is the emergence of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). The colonial

influence in Nigeria has left much to be desired. The emergence of these association

has become a desired form of association in order to restore the dignity of professional

workers and more so ensure greater level of overall national output which is part of

nation building. (Giteman, 2015)

Nigeria Labour Congress operates base on their modus operandi. They use different

means to press home their needs seeking for recognition in the political sphere. To

ensure peace and as part of the process of resolving any industrial dispute, the unions

in dispute often enter into some kind of collective bargaining with the government or

agency involved. Over the years these unions have preserved in their collective efforts

to maintain a standardized culture in the labour market. This stems from the clarion

call by the nationalist movement for collective co-operation and nation building. The

impact of their association on the Nigerian government cannot be over emphasized.

Their persistent push and prowess have always put the government/agencies on their

toes hoping to meet the workers demands for improved national output and national

development. This paper tends to examine the origin and activities of Nigeria Labour

Congress, and the names of its chairman up to date. (Harman, 2010)


In pre-colonial Nigeria there were social institutions such as guilds and craft societies

which operated much like unions today. They regulated their trades, by ensuring that

jobs were performed according to laid-down procedures or standards and rates set for

each job accomplished. They also served as political forums for their members and

they provided social services for their members. But they differed from today’s unions

in that they did not incorporate wage-earning concept- a common denominator of

unions, as their main feature. Also the masters who were the dominant elements in the

guilds were not employers of labour neither were the journeymen who were at the

brunt wage earners. (Iyayi, 2008)

Trade unions came into existence during the colonial era. In his book Trade Union

Movement in Nigeria, Wogu Ananaba noted that the first trade union was the Southern

Nigerian Civil Service which was inaugurated on August 19, 1912. The Union later

changed its name to the Nigeria Civil Service Union after the creation of modern

Nigeria in 1914. This Union, it has been noted by scholars, was not a typical union, in

that it was not formed with all the ideals of trade unions as organizations that felt the

need to fight for disaffection with their employers conditions. The union was formed

primarily to provide a forum for social interaction among African officers in the

colonial service, as was the case in the other British West African colonies. This non-

aggressive beginning and ideology was to be radically changed in 1932 after the

inauguration of the Railway Workers’ Union by Athokhaimen Ominus Imoudu.

(Linder, 2008)

The year 1938 marked a watershed in the history of modern trade unionism in Nigeria.

It was the beginning of a coherent public labour policy. Under pressure from labour

unions and the British Colonial Office in London, the colonial administration in

Nigeria passed the Trade Union Ordinance, which formally legalised trade unions and

made provisions for their internal administration and external regulation. After 1938

and the enactment of the Ordinance, trade union activities became more organized and

coordinated. (Okpalibekwe, Onyekwelu, and Dike, 2015)

Formulation of Nigeria Labour Congress

Okpalibekwe,Onyekwelu, and Dike (2015) cliamed that The idea to form a central

organization pre-dated 1978 when the congress came into existence by an Act of

government. The idea had been nurtured by some labour leaders who had come to the

conclusion that there was an urgent need for labour unity which could only be

achieved through merger of the unions. Tayo Fashoyin notes that this occurred soon

after the enactment of the Ordinance of 1938. This desire for unity was soon put into

force through the coalition of some unions into what came to be known as the

Federated Trade Unions of Nigeria (FTUN) formed in 1942. The FTUN later changed

its name to the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUCN).

Although this coalition later collapsed, it set into motion the first effort to create the

Nigeria Labour Congress in 1950. However the irreconcilable differences that

emerged among the leaders of the unions stifled the effort.

A follow-up and more promising attempt was made in 1974 in what has come to be

known as the Apena Cemetery Declaration. It was at the burial ceremony of Mr John

Adebayo Odeleye, the Treasurer of TUCN. Leaders of the other unions including

Nigeria Workers’ Congress (NWC), United Labour Congress (ULC), Nigeria Trade

Union Congress (NTUC), and Labour Unity Front (LUF) signed a document authored

by Okon Eshiett, in which they agreed to set aside their differences and form a single

central organization. This declaration, it should be noted had legal backing in view of

the Trade Union Decree of 1973 which had paved way for union mergers and

federations. But, probably for logistical reasons and the fear that the proposed body

may lead to some union leaders losing their positions, the merger couldn’t take place

immediately until more than a year later, precisely on 18 December 1975 at Lagos

City Hall.

The creation of the NLC was not cheerfully received by the military government

under General Yakubu Gowon. After the Nigeria Civil War of 1967 – 1970 which

nearly brought the country to its knees, the government became paranoid and viewed

with suspicion every act of radicalism or unionism which often stand in opposition to

their policies. Months after the establishment of the union the military government

refused to accord it recognition and subsequently abolished the four centres that

formed the body. One fear of the state authority, according to Tayo Fashoyin, was the

fact that leaders of union had at several points made efforts at merger only to have

overriding selfish interest undermine the result. Second, several groups had emerged

in opposition to the composition of the leadership of the proposed union. Undeterred,

some stalwarts of the union continued to pressure the government to re-establish the

union. (Ngu, 2015)

A new Nigeria Labour Congress was reconstituted on 28 February 1978 by the Chief

of Staff Shehu Musa Yar’ Adua at Ibadan the capital of Oyo. At the inauguration, the

other unions numbering over 1000 were also restructured into 42 industrial unions and

affiliated to the NLC compulsorily. The latter contribute 10 percent of their check-off

dues to finance the NLC.

It must be stated that some scholars have criticised the union that emerged under the

military government of Muritala Mohammed/Obasanjo as a forcible restructuring of

the trade unions and an imposition on Nigeria workers. (Kolb, 2010)

One of the provisions of the NLC states that “if an affiliated organisation disobeys or

disregards a directive of the council, or fails to give the required undertaking, the

council is empowered in its directive to suspend the membership of the affiliated

organisation from the congress, subject to the ratification of the next congress-in-

session, to whom the National Executive Council shall submit a detailed report.” This

summarizes the extent of the supreme power of the NLC over its affiliates, and stands

out as a clear justification as to why the other industrial unions render account not

only to the Registrar of the Unions, but also to the NLC. (Ngu, 2015)


Nwokoye, (2008) opined that the major function and activities of the Nigeria Labour

Congress include:

1) Negotiation with both federal and state governments.

2) Witnessing union / management meeting and negotiations.

3) Settlement of inter / intra – union disputes.

4) Organizing of rallies including “May Day” celebration.

5) Mobilizing of working people at any given time of the struggle

6) The NLC receives complaints from individual to group of workers and uses

different approaches or methods in settling them.

7) The congress handles many inter – trade union disputes over scope of

unionization.(Nwokoye, 2008)

8) It under – takes visits to individual unions and state councils as and when due or

necessary for consulting on both the unions and congress’s matters and renders special

services to them when called upon to invigilate on the election of officers,

participation and delivery of lectures during their educational programme.

Mission Statement of Labour Congress in Nigeria

The fundamental mission of the congress is to protect defend and promote the right,

privileges, and the interest of all trade unions affiliated to the congress, their

individual members and the working class generally through the attainment of the

following objectives (Nwokoye, 2008):

I. Promoting, defending and maintaining the right and interest of labour.

II. Assisting in the complete organization of all workers eligible for membership

of the organisation of all workers eligible for membership of the organisation

affiliated to the congress irrespective of creed, state of origin, sex, religion

and/or political beliefs.

III. Affiliating to or subscribing to, or assisting any other workers organisation in

Africa whose aims and objectives are similar to those of the congress.
IV. Seeking understanding and cooperation with other labour organisation of the


V. Generally improving the economic and social conditions of workers in Nigeria

in accordance with the provision of the constitution.

VI. Advancing the cause of workers education.

Administrative Structure of Labour Congress in Nigeria

In accordance with its constitution the NLC structure defines in every elaborate

manner the power and responsibilities of the various organs and subsequent mode of

delegation of power downwards from. Congress-session is composed of accredited

delegates of affiliated unions, all members of the National Executive Council (NEC)

and all the heads of congress departments. It is the highest organ of the congress and

has the supreme authority on all matters concerning labour movement. It normally

meets once in every four years.(Ukah, 2016)

The three organs that have combined to provide leadership for the congress are the

National Executive Council (NEC), Central Working Committee (CWC), and National

Administrative Council (NAC). Their resolutions have defined and guided the

struggles that the congress has waged in the period. Although the amendments to the

NLC’s constitution by the 8th Delegates Conference stipulated a reduction in the

frequency of meetings of the organs, the realities of decision-making led to many

regular sessions. On many occasions, emergency sessions of the organs have been

convened to address urgent matters. (Ukah, 2016)

Above all, the organs have helped to engender ownership of decisions and served to

involve all components of the movement in the implementations of activities. They

have also functioned in a way that has consolidated the unity of the movement.

National Executive Council (NEC) of Labour Congress in Nigeria

The NEC is constituted by elected officers, which include the general-secretary and

heads of department of the national secretariat, president, general-secretaries of the

affiliates and chair-person and secretaries of the state council. Through NEC, the

elected leadership and the leadership of the affiliates and state councils provides

leadership for the movement on all matters.(Yusuf, 2008)

The inclusion of treasurers of affiliates as NEC members under the new rules of the

congress have led to greater prominence accorded to financial matters. With the

affiliation of additional unions it also meant the size of the NEC has increased.

Although this would have serious cost implications, it would invariably bring on

board a richer pool of experience. The NEC meets both in regular and emergency

sessions. (Yusuf, 2008)

Central Working Committee (CWC)of Labour Congress in Nigeria

The Central Working Committee is made up of the elected national leadership,

general-secretary and heads of department of the congress and presidents and general-

secretaries of affiliates. CWC provides direction on key policy issues pertaining

mainly to internal governance, industrial relations and government/labour relations.

Through the CWC the affiliates have interacted in a dynamic problem-solving spirit

which has fostered unity and solidarity. The principle of affiliate control has been

operative through the work of the CWC. The CWC meets at least once a month and

also during an emergency. (Kolb, 2010)

National Administrative Council (NAC) of Labour Congress in Nigeria

The National Administrative Council is made up of the elected national officers,

general-secretary and principal staff of the national secretariat. NAC functions

effectively as the first layer of the congress leadership. NAC has been invested with

the authority by the national secretariat to act on all matters within the congress

mandate and deal with establishment issues. It meets as regularly as circumstances

demand but not less than twice a month normally. Recently, assisted secretaries were

granted permission to attend NAC meetings. The idea was to expose them to the

debates in order for them to improve their experience and afford them the opportunity

to contribute to policy-making.


1. Hassan Sumonu (President) 1978-86

2. Ali Ciroma (President) 1984-88

3. Pascal Bayfau (President) 1988-94

4. Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole (President) 1999-2007

5. Abdulwaheed Omar (President) 2007-2015

6. Mr. Ayuba Wabba (President) 2015-present


This review started with the origin of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). NLC came

into being in 1978 after several unions had been in existence both in the colonial and

early post – colonial era. NLC came into being following effort at setting several

commission to look into the activities of the unions. Such commissions like Morgan

Commission (1960 - 64) Adebo Commission (1970 - 1) and Adebiyi commission

(1975) were set up and the recommendations of the above commission formed the

basis of directive to the formation of central organization of labour. More than 1000

unions were restructured into 42 unions with NLC being the central one. With Decree

No 22 of 1978 (Trade Union Amendment Decree No 22, 1978, NLC was inaugurated.

By 1989, Trade Union were again restructured to become 29 affiliate Unions to the

Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). This review recognized the vision and mission of

NLC in its existence in Nigeria. The vision of NLC is centered on equality, justice and

fairness to all irrespective of the religion, ethnic origin or social status. Further more,

NLC envisions people – centered economy that is devoid of both internal and external

exploitation and manipulation.

On the activities of NLC in Nigeria, the welfare of its members, workers and state

chapters occupies her activities. That is , NL C champions for the welfare of union

members, workers and their educational needs.


1. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) should always observe the contents and letters of

her vision statement for the transformation of Nigeria.

2. Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) workers should always render efficient service

delivery, high productivity and maintenance culture of the assets of government within

their possession.

3. Dialogue and collective bargaining mechanism should always be observed in the

resolution of any crisis that might arise between Labour and the government.


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