African trade unions fume over labour rights in Nigeria

African trade unions, under umbrella of the International Trade Union Confederation, ITUC-Africa, have petitioned President Bola Tinubu over worsening labour rights in Nigeria.

Particularly of concern to ITUC-Africa is the recent attack on the President of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Joe Ajaero, and the lack of progress towards redress and fair closure.

ITUC-Africa is made up 101 affiliates across 52 African nations, including the NLC and Trade Union Congress, TUC, of Nigeria.

ITUC-Africa in petition to President Bola Tinubu by its General Secretary, Akhator Joel Odigie, dated December 18, 2023, expressed its growing concern and dismay over unresolved industrial relations issues impacting Nigerian workers, especially the case of the brutal assault of the President of the NLC, Joe Ajaero and the interference in trade union administration by governments.

Among others, the petition read “The regrettable incident in Imo State on 1 November 2023, resulting in the violent attack on workers, including Comrade Joe Ajaero, President of the Nigeria Labour Congress and his abduction, remain alarming violations of human rights and a direct affront to justice, democracy, and the rule of law.

“The African trade union movement views this attack as very troubling, given the stature of the NLC and its commendable roles in advancing working-class solidarity and contributions to the continent’s development and shared prosperity. “This attack is an insult to the African trade union movement. It is unacceptable and condemnable.

Further, Mr President, as you are aware, the NLC and TUC had planned to undertake a nationwide strike to press for a thorough investigation and unravelling of the circumstances surrounding the dastardly attack on peaceful protesters.

“Our Nigerian affiliates reliably informed us that your government took a timely and commendable step to extend an olive branch to the NLC and TUC, appealing for calling off the strike action to pave the way for social dialogue.

“Sadly, despite the trade unions’ show of good faith by calling off the strike, there is no traction towards justice to date.

“Mr President, during the recently concluded 5th Delegates Congress of the ITUC-Africa, which took place in Nairobi, Kenya, from 28 to 30 November 2023, delegates decided that our organisation take renewed steps towards the defence, protection and promotion of human and trade union rights.

“The case of the NLC President and the plight of workers in Nigeria were considered, among other issues, urgent matters that the ITUC-Africa must follow up judiciously.

“Given these sad developments and the worsening industrial relations, our appeal demands the following actions: Immediate Commencement of Social Dialogue and Negotiations: We urge immediate initiation of genuine and results-oriented social dialogue negotiations with social partners: government, employers and trade unions. It is also essential that agreements as products of the talks are faithfully and timely implemented.

“Immediate intervention to clear the many months salary and pension arrears owed to public sector workers and pensioners in the country, including Imo State.”

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