- Trade unionists in a new report accuse the Nigerian government of ignoring several core labour standards, which the country is obliged to comply with by international law. Unions are hindered in their work, women are discrimitated on the labour market and an estimated 15 million children are working in Nigeria.
The International Confederation of free Trade Unions (ICFTU) today published a new report on core labour standards in Nigeria, coinciding with Nigeria's trade policy review at the WTO this week. The report "shows serious shortcomings in the application and enforcement of all eight core labour standards, particularly with regard to the lack of trade union rights of workers including the right to strike, discrimination and child labour," ICFTU says.
In October 2004, the President of the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) was arrested during a general strike despite the fact that the action was "an entirely legitimate exercise of the collective rights of the trade union movement," the report notes. Though released, the NLC leader is still facing criminal charges in an Abuja High Court while police have raided his house and office on several occasions.
Nigeria's new Trade Union Amendment Act, which was adopted recently, according to the trade unions' report "fails to address adequately problems identified in the report with regard to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, the right to strike and anti-union policies." The new Act was said to aim at curbing the right to strike and at weakening the Nigerian Labour Congress.
The Act had been presented without adequate consultations through the tripartite labour review set up with assistance of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), contrary to what had been promised, ICFTU noted. Furthermore, trade union rights were restricted in Export Processing Zones and strikes prohibited in such zones for a period of ten years, which is directly contrary to ILO conventions.
The ICFTU and the NLC considered that, "in view of the seriousness of these problems, there is need for a much stronger commitment to social dialogue by the federal government of Nigeria in order to achieve a culture of constructive engagement of labour over policies and governance issues."
It was also imperative to abrogate the Public Order Act, which compels organisations to seek a permit from the Police before any assembly, the unionists said. The law gives the Commissioners of Police latitude to refuse to issue such a permit or to break up assemblies convened without one. As such permits are invariably denied, the right to assembly provided for by Nigeria's Constitution and the right to freedom of association "cannot be meaningful as long as this law still exists," ICFTU said.
Discrimination in employment and wages was said to be persistent in Nigeria. Surveys had showed a wage gap between men and women and a highly segregated labour market. Few women are employed in the formal economy due to social discrimination in education and training and to a gender-based division of labour in the formal economy.
Moreover, Nigeria's Minimum Wage Act was excluding many workers, in particular those groups where women are disproportionately represented such as part-time workers and seasonal agricultural workers, the report found.
Child labour is still widespread in Nigeria, and it was estimated in 2003 by the ILO and the government that 15 million children are working, of which up to 40 percent is said to be at risk of being trafficked for forced labour, forced prostitution and armed conflict. 6 million children do not attend school and 2 million work more than 15 hours per day.
Many children were also trafficked into Nigeria for the purpose of forced labour, according to the same sources. Several child slave camps exist in the western states of Nigeria, where children are used as slaves in mining and on rubber plantations, the trade unionists complained.
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