ILO is a specialized agency of the United Nations

273rd Session
Geneva, November 1998


Reports of the Officers of the Governing Body

First report:

Observance by Nigeria of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98):
Report on the direct contacts mission to Nigeria
(17 to 21 August 1998)

1. At its 272nd Session (June 1998), the Governing Body appointed the members of a Commission of Inquiry set up in accordance with article 26(4) of the Constitution of the ILO.(1) At the same time, it decided that the commencement of the work of the Commission should be delayed for 60 days in order to allow a direct contacts mission to take place. If such a mission was admitted to Nigeria, it was decided, its report would be considered at the present session of the Governing Body.

2. The report of the direct contacts mission is appended to the present report. Paragraphs 1 to 10 describe the history of the matter, paragraphs 11 to 15 the substantive issues and paragraphs 16 to 33 the conduct of the mission. Paragraphs 34 to 46 contain some concluding remarks.

3. The Governing Body is invited --

(a) to take note of the report of the direct contacts mission;

(b) to endorse the concluding remarks and request the Government of Nigeria to take all appropriate action in that light;

(c) in particular, to request the Government of Nigeria to communicate full information on the matters raised in Cases Nos. 1793 and 1935 in due time for examination by the Committee on Freedom of Association at its next meeting (March 1999);

(d) to request the Director-General to transmit the report of the direct contacts mission to the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations, for examination at its November-December 1998 session in connection with the application by Nigeria of relevant ratified Conventions;

(e) to suspend the work of the Commission of Inquiry pending such examinations and until such time as the Governing Body may decide otherwise.

Geneva, 10 November 1998.

Point for decision: Paragraph 3.


Report on the direct contacts mission to Nigeria
(17-21 August 1998)

I. Background to the mission

1. At its 271st Session (March 1998), the Governing Body decided to institute the procedure provided for in article 26(4) of the Constitution and to proceed to appoint a Commission of Inquiry to consider certain allegations against the Government of Nigeria. When appointing the members of the Commission of Inquiry at its 272nd Session (19 June 1998), the Governing Body nevertheless decided that the commencement of the work of the Commission should be delayed for 60 days in order to allow the Government to admit a direct contacts mission to Nigeria.

2. The allegations in question were in the first place contained in complaints submitted in August 1994 to the Committee on Freedom of Association by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), the Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and the World Confederation of Labour (WCL). They are set out as Case No. 1793 in the Committee's November 1994 report:(2) the complainants claimed that the Government had violated the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948 (No. 87), which has been ratified by Nigeria. Having examined the allegations, the Committee made a number of recommendations. In its March 1995 report,(3) it repeated its request to the Government to respond; and in its June 1995 report(4) it made an urgent appeal to the Government to transmit observations or information.

3. In its November 1995 report,(5) the Committee took note of the Government's information and observations and made further recommendations: when discussing the Committee's report, the Workers' group of the Governing Body, supported by the Employers' group and all the Governments, asked the Director-General to send a mission to Nigeria at the earliest opportunity to visit trade unionists at that time in detention and to reinforce international efforts for their unconditional liberation. In its March 1996 report,(6) the Committee hoped the Government would quickly furnish the information requested; and in its June 1996 report(7) it took up the call to the Government to accept an ILO mission at the earliest possible date, in order to examine the questions outstanding under Case No. 1793.

4. In its November 1996 report,(8) the Committee again renewed its hope that the information would be supplied. In adopting the report, the Governing Body took note of a draft resolution submitted by the Workers' group, the contents of which were supported by the Employers' group and various Governments. The proposed resolution concerning trade union and human rights in Nigeria called on the Government to receive an ILO mission forthwith, granting it unrestricted access to trade unionists in detention, and to implement in full the recommendations of the Governing Body in respect of Case No. 1793. The Governing Body decided to make a pressing appeal to the Government of Nigeria to respond as soon as possible to the requests repeated since November 1995 that it should authorize an urgent ILO mission to examine questions related to past complaints and to visit trade unionists held in detention, so that the matter could be reported on to the Committee on Freedom of Association.

5. In its March 1997 report(9) regarding Case No. 1793, the Committee referred to the publication of several new decrees which appeared to indicate further deterioration of the situation and reiterated the Governing Body's appeal for early acceptance of an ILO mission. In its discussion of the report, the Governing Body noted the Nigerian Government's indication that it had decided to accept the proposed ILO mission, although the dates remained to be fixed. The Committee's June 1997 report(10) noted that the Government had not yet proposed a date for the mission and once more asked it to respond.

6. When the Committee returned to Case No. 1793 in its November 1997 report,(11) it noted that mission dates suggested by the Office had not been accepted and no alternative had been proposed by the Government. It also referred to a new complaint against the Government of Nigeria (Case No. 1935) alleging the adoption of further anti-union decrees and detention of trade unionists. When discussing the report, the Governing Body took note of the statements of several Government members as well as the Employers' and Workers' groups concerning the gravity and urgency of the matters examined under Case No. 1793.

7. When the Government had still not responded by February 1998, the Committee on Freedom of Association, in its March 1998 report,(12) drew the special attention of the Governing Body at its 271st Session to Case No. 1793, given its seriousness and urgency. The Committee also observed(13) that, despite the lapse of time since the submission of a complaint contained in Case No. 1935, no observations had been received from the Government: it requested the Government to transmit its observations or information rapidly and referred to its power in any event to proceed to make its report on the substance of the case.

8. Alongside these developments, the Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations had at its March 1995 session examined the Government's report on Convention No. 87 supplied under article 22 of the Constitution: in its report to the 82nd Session of the Conference,(14) the Committee of Experts referred to the conclusions reached as to Case No. 1793 in the 295th Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association and considered various aspects of the legislation on trade unions in Nigeria. The Committee of Experts' observation was in turn discussed in the Conference Committee on the Application of Standards in June 1995, which included in its report(15) a special paragraph drawing the Conference's attention to the problems of application of Convention No. 87 by Nigeria. The Committee of Experts continued its detailed examination of the matter at its November-December 1995 session,(16) and its observation was similarly discussed at the 83rd session of the Conference in June 1996, which again placed its conclusions in a special paragraph of its report.(17) Continuing the dialogue, the Committee of Experts made a fresh observation at its November-December 1996 session;(18) and when this was considered at the 85th Session of the Conference in June 1997, the Conference Committee decided to cite Nigeria's application of Convention No. 87 as a case of continued failure over several years to eliminate serious discrepancies.(19) At its most recent session, in November-December 1997, the Committee of Experts again reviewed the legislation in question in the framework of Convention No. 87.(20)

9. It was thus at its 271st Session (March 1998) that the Governing Body, after taking due note of the 309th report of the Committee on Freedom of Association, had before it a report of the Officers of the Governing Body occasioned by a letter dated 23 February 1998 from the Worker Vice-Chairperson of the Governing Body to the Director-General.(21) The Governing Body, in the light of what was described in that letter as a "continuing attitude of non-cooperation", then took the decision mentioned in paragraph 1 above in respect of the issues raised in both Cases Nos. 1793 and 1935. When the Governing Body came at its 272nd Session on 19 June 1998 to appoint the members of the Commission of Inquiry,(22) however, the Workers' and Employers' groups referred to significant developments in the preceding days, including the announcement by the Government on 16 June that certain trade union leaders had been released from detention. It was in this context that the timing of the direct contacts mission was specified.

10. In response, a letter dated 4 August 1998 from the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity of Nigeria informed the Director-General that the Government had no objection to the proposed visit and invited the mission to make arrangements at its earliest convenience. Precise dates were agreed, and the Director-General asked Mr. Rajsoomer Lallah, former Chief Justice of Mauritius, member and former Chair of the United National Human Rights Committee and Chair designate of the Commission of Inquiry appointed by the Governing Body on 19 June 1998, to head the direct contacts mission to Nigeria as his representative. The mission included Mr. Steven Oates of the International Labour Standards Department of the ILO. The mission had the benefit in particular of the advice and support of the Freedom of Association Branch of the ILO and the Regional Director for Africa, Mr. Elias Mabere. Mr. Ahmar Touré, Deputy Regional Director, and Mr. Richard Kombo, Acting Director of the ILO Area Office in Lagos, accompanied the mission throughout and assisted it in its visits and meetings.

II. Substance of the issues referred to the mission

11. Details of the allegations originally made in 1994 in Case No. 1793 by the ICFTU, OATUU and WCL are given in the 295th Report of the Committee on Freedom of Association, together with the Government's reply. A new reply from the Government and the Committee's own conclusions and recommendations are contained in the 300th Report. To summarize:

  1. In August 1994, the Nigeria Labour Congress (Dissolution of National Executive Council) Decree 1994 -- Decree No. 9 -- dissolved the national bodies of the NLC; and the NUPENG & PENGASSAN (Dissolution of Executive Councils) Decree 1994 -- Decree No. 10 -- dissolved the respective National and State Executive Councils of the National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers and the Petroleum and Natural Gas Association of Senior Staff of Nigeria. Government-appointed administrators were installed, the offices of the NLC, NUPENG and PENGASSAN were sealed, their bank accounts were frozen and check-off facilities were suspended. The allegations referred further to a series of related grievances on the part of the national organizations, including intimidation and dismissals of union members in the oil industry, non-payment of wages due to various public workers, failure to implement collective agreements and awards, and ouster of the courts' jurisdiction. There was said to be violation of Article 3 of Convention No. 87, in particular.
  2. A number of trade-union officials had been arrested following the organization of strikes in July and August 1994, including Mr. Elregha, a branch Chairman of PENGASSAN; Mr. F.A. Addo, 3rd Vice-President of PENGASSAN; Mr. F. Aidolomon, Chairman of the Pipeline and Products Marketing Company branch of PENGASSAN; and Mr. F. Kokori, General Secretary of NUPENG. Others, including Mr. M. Dabibi, General Secretary of PENGASSAN, had gone into hiding, and some workers had been dismissed.

12. The Committee, in the light of its Principles and Article 3 of Convention No. 87, as regards the right of workers' organisations to elect their representatives in full freedom and organise their administration and activities, urged the Government to repeal Decrees Nos. 9 and 10 and withdraw the administrators, allowing the organisations to exercise their trade union functions once more through their elected officials. Having regard to the relevant Principles concerning trade union activities and strikes, the Committee urged the Government to ensure the immediate release of any of the persons named still being detained and refrain from arresting any other persons in respect of the exercise of legitimate union activities.

13. In its further examination of Case No. 1793, the Committee noted in February-March 1997 various other aspects of the problems raised:-

  1. The Trade Disputes (Essential Services Deregulation, Proscription and Prohibition from Participation in Trade Union Activities) Decree 1996 -- Decree No. 24 -- effectively prevented the operation of trade unions in different academic institutions.
  2. The Trade Unions (Amendment) Decree 1996 -- Decree No. 4 -- restructured the previous 41 registered industrial unions into 29 named affiliates, omitting several previously registered and recognised unions of senior staff and certain employers' associations.
  3. The Trade Unions (Amendment)(No. 2) Decree 1996 -- Decree No. 26 -- further extended ministerial control over the registration of trade unions and the operation of check-off, while tightening restrictions on the right to participate in union activities.

14. In accordance with its terms of reference, the mission addressed also the matters raised in the complaint constituting Case No. 1935. That complaint had been transmitted to the Government in August 1997 for its observations, but it was because no response had been received from the Government that the Committee on Freedom of Association had not yet considered it. So far as that Case is concerned, then, the mission's remit was in the nature of "preliminary" contacts, for the purpose of explaining the freedom of association issues raised to the authorities and obtaining comments and information from them. The mission has remained mindful of the confidentiality of the complaints procedure prior to normal processing by the Governing Body.

15. The mission found very helpful the analysis of legislation contained in successive observations of the Committee of Experts on the application by Nigeria of Convention No. 87 and the records of the discussions of those observations in the Conference Committee. In particular, it noted the following:

  1. The Trade Unions (International Affiliation) Decree 1996 -- Decree No. 29 -- renews prohibitions on the international affiliation of Nigerian organisations, in contravention of rights provided for in Articles 5 and 6.
  2. The Trade Unions Act of 1973 as amended -- TUA -- sections 3(1) and (2) and 33(1) and (2), makes legal provision for a single-trade-union system, with a legislated list of unions which may be affiliated to the central organisation and an excessively high minimum number of workers required to form a trade union, in violation of Article 2.
  3. The TUA, sections 39 and 40 (formerly sections 42 and 43), gives the Registrar of Trade Unions broad powers to supervise the accounts of trade unions at any time, contrary to Article 3.
  4. The TUA's provisions regarding the powers of the Registrar to refuse the registration of a union may in any event result in denial of the right to establish an organisation without previous authorisation in accordance with Article 2.
  5. The TUA, section 11, denies to certain categories of employees in the public service the right to organise which they should enjoy under Article 2.
  6. The Trade Disputes Act of 1976 as amended, section 17, restricts the right to strike, in particular in cases of compulsory arbitration in non-essential services, conflicting with Article 3.

III. Conduct of the mission

16. Given the developments referred to in paragraph 9 above, the discussion at the 272nd Session of the Governing Body (June 1998) and the Government's letter of 4 August, the mission was pleased from the beginning to note two things. First, the earlier release of Mr. Elregha, Mr. Addo and Mr. Aidolomon had now been followed by the release as of 16 June of Mr. Dabibi (himself detained since early in 1996) and Mr. Kokori: this responded to one of the most pressing aspects of Case. No. 1793 (see paragraph 11(b), above). That the Government had agreed to the direct contacts mission taking place was, secondly, a positive response to a long-standing request by the Governing Body and one which held out the prospect of progress in respect of all of the problems at issue.

17. The visit undertaken by the ILO Regional Director from 15 to 17 July had very usefully prepared the way for the direct contacts mission and enabled a suitable programme to be proposed. The mission had wished to pay a courtesy call on the Head of State, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces, His Excellency General Abdusalam Abubakar, since the Government's letter of 16 June indicated that it was he who had ordered the release of Mr. Dabibi and Mr. Kokori. However, the mission in fact had no meetings in the office of the Head of State or the Chief of General Staff, or yet in the office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation. The mission felt it would be helpful moreover to consider the many legal ramifications of the freedom of association questions raised with the Government Law Officers: but unfortunately the requested meeting with the Solicitor-General also failed to take place. The mission noted finally that the previous minister responsible for labour matters had been dismissed in the Cabinet dissolution of 8 July 1998, so that on its visit to the Federal Capital, Abuja, on 18 and 19 August none was in office: the new Cabinet was appointed on 20 August, and the name of the new Minister of Employment, Labour and Productivity was announced in Abuja only on 21 August, as the mission finished its work in Lagos.

18. On the other hand, the mission was happy to have a detailed discussion with Mr. David Oyegun, Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity, and senior members of his staff on 18 August in Abuja. On 20 August, in Lagos, neither the Sole Administrator nor any representatives of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) appeared for the mission's appointment at its headquarters. But the same day the mission had separate sessions with the Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association (NECA); and representatives both of the industrial unions affiliated to the NLC and of the Senior Staff Consultative Association of Nigeria (SESCAN). Also in Lagos, before leaving Nigeria, the mission had a meeting with Mr. Dabibi and Mr. Kokori; and a final debriefing with two officials of the Federal Ministry.

Meeting with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity

19. At the ministry meeting, the representative of the Director-General expressed pleasure that the direct contacts mission was taking place: he was encouraged by recent developments on points of inconsistency with Convention No. 87, in particular, and hoped it would soon be possible to dispose of the problems raised by the two cases before the Governing Body. He placed the specific provisions of the Convention in the context of article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which reinforces it and paragraph 1 of which declares that everyone should have the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and join trade unions for the protection of his interests. The mission rehearsed the events giving rise to the two complaints to the Committee on Freedom of Association, with particular reference to the detention of certain trade unionists; and the process by which the Governing Body had called for a direct contacts mission and, most recently, set up and then suspended the work of the Commission of Inquiry.

20. It was confirmed to the mission that the repeal of Decrees Nos. 9, 10 and 24 (see paragraph 11(a) and 13(a), above) was proceeding but had not yet been finalised. The Government representatives referred to various aspects of Decree No. 4 (paragraph 13(b), above) which were the source of controversy: apart from the restructuring of the unions, it was aware of the difficulties arising through the imposition of affiliation to the Central Labour Organisation, disqualification of certain persons from trade union office and ouster of the courts' jurisdiction. As regards Decree No. 26 (paragraph 13(c) above), points at issue included the compulsory insertion of a no-strike clause in collective agreements, as well as restrictions on check-off, the rights of "non-card-carrying" members and eligibility to membership of unions. The Government appreciated the question of international affiliation posed by Decree No. 29 (paragraph 15(a) above).

21. The Government representatives sought a re-examination of the whole trade union question as part of a process of the unions' self-democratisation and promoting the observance of both Convention No. 87 and the Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining Convention, 1949 (No. 98), also ratified by Nigeria. The Decrees in question belonged to a difficult political period in which mistakes had been made. Detailed knowledge of Nigeria was needed in order to place the problems in the context of basic needs of the population. The military authorities were persuaded of the need to take decisions in the interest of the people; they wanted both to avoid either further factionalism or vacuum in the trade unions and to respond to criticism of interference in union affairs (including by providing finance). Revisiting Decrees Nos. 4 and 26 was the key, and the matter of Decree No. 29 could also be addressed. The ILO procedures had been an embarrassment to the Government; but now there was an opening for peace, and ILO advice would in fact be wanted as to how to restore the unions' credibility and internal democracy.

22. In response to the representative of the Director-General's reference to the value of a tripartite approach to all of these problems, the Government representatives recalled that the Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards) Convention, 1976 (No. 144), had been ratified by Nigeria also in 1994. However, implementation of it was difficult in the absence of normally functioning government agencies and there was a recognised need to give it new attention. Nor should it be assumed that the courts always functioned as effectively as necessary, including in the resolution of industrial disputes.

23. The Government representatives were apprehensive of disruption and even violence in the trade unions and the backlash that they might trigger. For that reason, they perceived a "midwife" role for Government in the deregulation of union affairs. This applied in particular in the current discussion of the transition implied by the imminent repeal of Decrees Nos. 9 and 10. They pointed out that there had been many achievements in the previous two months and more positive developments could be expected in coming weeks, leading up to the Government's participation in the November 1998 session of the Governing Body.

24. The Government representatives delivered to the mission a copy of a "Federal Government Statement on the Repeal of Decrees 9 & 10 of 1994, issued as a clarification and dated 14 August 1998. It read as follows:

The repeal is in line with Government Policy to unfetter the Unions in order to prepare the environment for their democratisation. The objective is to ensure a smooth and peaceful transition from regulated to deregulated trade union activities in Nigeria.

25. The mission in turn responded to points made by the Government representatives. It provided explanations of the position regarding strikes and essential services as expounded by the ILO supervisory bodies; and of the problems -- especially in terms of Convention No. 98 -- of compulsory no-strike clauses in collective agreements. It described the possible use of appropriate judicial mechanisms in the settlement of disputes as well as in the transition away from Government intervention in union affairs. It clarified the distinction between a permissible system for the registration of trade unions and one which enabled intervention in a way which conflicts with ILO standards and principles. The mission underlined the advantage to be gained from suitable technical cooperation with the ILO.

Meeting with the Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association

26. The mission was welcomed by Mr. Akanimo Etukudo, Director-General of NECA. It met with NECA President Dr. O. Osunkeye and members in order to explain its purpose and invite the submission of information, views and recommendations. Dr. Osunkeye said that NECA believed in harmonious industrial relations based on mutual respect and cooperation between the three social partners as envisaged in Conventions Nos. 87 and 144 in particular. NECA had established a tradition of cooperation with labour and Government, formally through the National Labour Advisory Council (NLAC) until its dissolution in 1994, but also informally. NECA welcomed the decision to repeal Decrees Nos. 9 and 10 and also called on the Government to reexamine provisions of some remaining Decrees with a view to their repeal or amendment so as to reflect the objectives of the democratisation process. In general, they hoped that democratisation would lead to revival of business and the economy.

27. NECA representatives spoke in favour of independence for trade unions rather than financial assistance: legislation was unhelpful in solving labour problems, and the Government had confused its role as employer with its political role. Reservations were expressed as regards the problems where there are too many unions in existence (as in the 1970s), although one view was that these should be addressed through some form of "guidelines" rather than legislation. There was surprise at the Government's concern regarding international affiliations. On the other hand, there was some unease as to the operation of check-off and some financial aspects of trade union operations. Support was voiced for reconstitution of the tripartite NLAC.

Meetings with trade union representatives

28. Representatives of the 29 industrial unions affiliated to the NLC and SESCAN(23) were invited to a meeting with the direct contacts mission. Seventeen of the 29 were duly represented by either their President or their General Secretary or both, and there were four officers of SESCAN, including Mr. Dabibi. The mission explained its purpose and welcomed the submission of information, views and recommendations by those present. The representative of the Director-General drew attention in particular to the problems caused by regulation of trade union affairs, where administrative decisions cannot be contested in the courts; and to the lack of transparency in a situation where there was rule by decree and it was sometimes not even possible to discover for certain what was the legislation in force.

29. There was concern among the union representatives that the repeal of Decrees Nos. 9, 10 and 24 (paragraphs 11(a) and 13(a), above) had not been finalised and could therefore not yet be relied on. There was unanimity at the meeting that Decree No. 29 (paragraph 15(a), above) should be repealed. Several participants spoke for the immediate repeal also of Decree No. 26 (paragraph 13(c), above).

30. As regards Decree No. 4 (paragraph 13(b), above), one participant at an early stage of the meeting expressed a fear that removal of the existing trade union structure would lead to crisis, with a return to the proliferation of unions experienced before: he was in favour of a review of the Decree rather than outright repeal. The representative of the Director-General underlined the fundamental and inalienable right of organisation which belonged to the workers by virtue of Convention No. 87 and article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: workers could not exercise that right if they abdicated it to the legislature and became captives of their leadership. All the other views expressed by participants strongly favoured repeal of Decree No. 4; and, when the mission finally put the question whether it was the opinion of the meeting that both Decrees Nos. 4 and 26 should be repealed, the response was without exception affirmative.

31. The representative of the Director-General sought the views of those present as to how the trade union situation should now develop. There was discussion among the trade union representatives as to how the transition to independence should be effected, leading to fresh elections throughout the NLC: most often it was considered that the authority to conduct union business -- both "union" and "administrative" matters -- should revert to the remaining executive members, pending such elections. The mission noted a desire in many quarters for the ILO to be actively involved in the transition process.

32. Several union representatives referred to the legal framework in which collective bargaining would subsequently operate: it should be fair and established by laws which had passed through a tripartite consultative phase (with machinery such as envisaged in Convention No. 144). The ILO representatives explained the role which the ILO can play in providing advice and assistance as to legislation and practice in the first place conforming to the standards of Conventions Nos. 87, 98 and 144 and then going on to embrace issues such as training, wage structures and labour relations.

33. The mission had a separate meeting with Mr. Dabibi and Mr. Kokori, each of whom described his different experiences and those of NUPENG and PENGASSAN over the last four years. It was informed that it was ILO pressure for the Government's observance of trade union rights which had been for the arrested trade union leaders a vital form of protection at a time when detainees had been in mortal danger, and which had ultimately led to their release. The mission learned also of the wish that the unions should now simply be allowed to conduct their own affairs without any further Government intervention.

IV. Concluding observations

34. The speed of developments in the matters referred to the mission since June 1998 has been remarkable. The impression received between 17 and 21 August was already an entirely different one from that gained by examination of the previous history of Cases Nos. 1793 and 1935. Such impression -- which is distinctly positive -- has been sustained by subsequent events; and the mission notes the continuing work of the ILO Office in Lagos in monitoring developments, as well as the International Labour Standards Department, which has maintained relations with the Permanent Mission of Nigeria in Geneva up to the moment when the present report was finalised.

35. The mission found a number of points in respect of which positive developments need to be consolidated, in order to respond more fully to the various comments of the ILO's supervisory bodies. It would like to emphasise the symbolic as well as the material significance of the release of trade unionists and the reopening of dialogue -- not least at the international level -- referred to in paragraph 16, above.

36. The mission notes that the formal repeal of Decrees Nos. 9 and 10 (see paragraph 11(a) above) has now been completed: the ILO received on 8 October copies of the Nigeria Labour Congress (Dissolution of National Executive Council)(Repeal) Decree 1998 (Decree No. 14) and the NUPENG and PENGASSAN (Dissolution of Executive Council)(Repeal) Decree 1998 (Decree No. 13), both dated 11 August and with a commencement date of 20 July. Following the Government's Statement of 14 August (paragraph 24 above), later information already confirmed that an arrangement had been found for the handover of control of the NLC, NUPENG and PENGASSAN. The mission very much welcomes these formal repeals, which provide concrete reassurance of the indications it received during its visit to Abuja. The conformity of these arrangements and decrees with ILO freedom of association principles and standards is of course a matter for the appropriate supervisory bodies of the ILO.

37. The mission learns at the same time that the ILO has received a copy of the Trade Disputes (Essential Services Deregulation, Proscription and Prohibition from Participation in Trade Union Activities)(Repeal) Decree 1998 (Decree No. 12), also dated 11 August and commencing as of 20 July. This new development too is welcome to the mission, resolving formally as it does the problem of the prohibition of trade unions in different academic institutions signalled earlier in respect of Decree No. 24 (paragraph 13(a) above).

38. The mission refers to the Government representatives' comments concerning Decrees Nos. 4, 26 and 29, mentioned in paragraphs 20 and 21 above. It notes that its meetings with all concerned have shown there is a strong consensus among workers' and employers' representatives in favour of trade union independence; and that the Government has expressed willingness to contemplate a re-examination of the whole trade union question in the light of the ILO's freedom of association principles and standards. It observes in particular that the right of affiliation to international organisations is protected by Article 5 of Convention No. 87; and that, as the Committee of Experts has noted, while implementation of that Article in law is compromised by Decree No. 29, national organisations ought by rights to be able to act freely also at the international level.

39. It is clear that measures need to be taken in the immediate future to repeal Decrees Nos. 4, 26 and 29 in the light of the comments made by the ILO supervisory bodies, in order to bring the legislation into greater conformity with freedom of association principles and standards. Such rapid action to eliminate clear violations of freedom of association remaining in law would demonstrate to the Governing Body continuing determination on the part of the Government to take all necessary measures in order to ensure full respect for trade union rights in Nigeria. Furthermore, the provisions of the Trade Unions Act and the Trade Disputes Act, mentioned in paragraph 15 above, also need to be re-examined with a view to their early repeal or amendment in light of the observations of the supervisory bodies. The mission stresses its finding that both formal, published legal acts and material steps of implementation are necessary elements in the corrective measures now required.

40. The mission highlights the capacity and the willingness of the responsible units of the International Labour Office to assist in the process which such legislative revision implies. In particular, the services of a labour legislation expert and the technical advice of the Freedom of Association Branch of the International Labour Standards Department may be envisaged, although, for the reasons given below, a broader range of joint activities might also be appropriate.

41. The mission was struck by the potential for growth of the role of the social partners and tripartism in Nigeria. The new emergence of independent trade unions is clearly the occasion for fresh consideration of the opportunities for a more healthy labour relations climate. In this context, the requirements of Convention No. 98 as to measures to encourage and promote the development and utilisation of machinery for voluntary negotiation with a view to regulating employment conditions through collective agreements are part of the matters to be considered in the contemplated revision of labour legislation. Moreover, Nigeria's ratification of Convention No. 144 in 1994 seems to be a commitment on which the Government may now act, by establishing the necessary consultative machinery to cover all the questions arising as to the application of ratified ILO Conventions and related issues. This is no doubt another problem on which the ILO might advise.

42. In the light of its discussions, the mission would like to propose for further consideration -- especially in the period of transition to greater independence for trade unions -- the role which might be given to independent legal and judicial authorities. The need for independent legal expertise at the national level at a time when important legislation has to be drafted is quite obvious. What is more, where courts and tribunals are able to operate in an appropriate political and social climate, they can demonstrate an impartial approach to the resolution of a wide range of trade union and labour relations issues, as well as fairness and imagination in applying solutions within the limits of just legal provisions. They can thus come to enjoy the confidence of all the parties and play an indispensable part in harmonising industrial relations for the benefit also of the nation as a whole.

43. The mission was informed of the various possibilities for technical cooperation activities at the disposal of the ILO field structure in Africa, in cooperation with competent headquarters units. It took note of the commitments already made by Nigeria through its ratification of ILO Conventions: these include, in addition to Nos. 87, 98 and 144, basic rights instruments -- the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), the Abolition of Forced Labour Convention, 1957 (No. 105), and the Equal Remuneration Convention, 1951 (No. 100); and another priority instrument, the Labour Inspection Convention, 1947 (No. 81). The mission notes that this year the Government's obligation under article 22 of the ILO Constitution to communicate reports on the above and a further nine Conventions in due time has not been met. The mission looks to the Government to fulfil its reporting obligations and to the Office to supply whatever advice and assistance may be wanting in this connection. This will no doubt enable clarification of a whole range of questions now arising under international labour standards and consideration of steps which might be taken next.

44. In particular, the mission would suggest that the appropriate supervisory bodies of the ILO be asked, in connection with each of the Conventions ratified by Nigeria, to consider all information thus far provided by the Government, together with the present mission report, and to formulate their comments as soon as possible.

45. As regards Case No. 1793, it seems to the mission that the Governing Body might wish to consider afresh the follow-up now to be given to the previous conclusions and recommendations of the Committee on Freedom of Association. As regards Case No. 1935, the mission has recalled to the Government its duty to provide the information requested, so that the Committee on Freedom of Association might examine that complaint too at its next session. In respect of both cases, it will be essential for the Government to supplement and update the information conveyed to the mission during its visit to Nigeria, by dealing in detail and in good time with all of the points which have not yet been resolved, as indicated above.

46. The mission would have been unable to conduct its work without placing the matters within its remit in the context of the considerable changes which have come about in Nigeria since June this year. Those changes have radically affected the implementation of various international human rights instruments and the course of democratisation in the country. It is no accident that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights assimilates freedom of association as embodied in Convention No. 87 to the fundamental rights the exercise of which is a necessary feature of a democratic society under the rule of law. And it must be a source of gratification to the ILO that the present mission has been part of a discernable international movement to recognise and validate the changes. The mission notes that the work of the United Nations Human Rights Commission and the Special Rapporteur on Nigeria has been just one instance where the ILO's freedom of association values have been underlined. The task before the Government, as far as the ILO's mandate is concerned, is happily one which is to be shouldered in cooperation with organisations of employers and workers which may now, given good faith pursuit of the trend established over the last four months and systematic implementation of the measures outlined above, have the clear prospect of functioning freely in exercise of their rights under the ILO's principles and standards.

47. Finally, the mission would like to express its sincere gratitude to the Acting Director of the ILO Area Office in Lagos, Mr. Kombo, and his staff for the efficiency of the practical arrangements in which the mission operated; and both to him and to Mr. Touré, Deputy Regional Director, for their many valuable insights and suggestions.

Geneva, 16 October 1998.


List of persons met during the direct contacts mission

I. Ministry of Labour and Productivity

D. Oyegun

C.E. Enabulele

B.S. Kondugh

C.O. Iwuozor

D.O. Oguocha

M.A.B. Atilola

P.E. Henry

O. Omo-Osagbe

I.M. Adesolu



II. Nigeria Employers' Consultative Association

O. Osunkeye, President

F. Joel

M. Makoju, First Vice-President

Y. Olaleye

A.J. Etukudo, Director-General

P.O. Manuwa

S.O. Uku

S. Enang

E.A. Anaeme

E.A. Udoh

S.O. Oluwole

K. Okorho

C.O. Adesokan

C. Germani

Felix Dekami

A. Abibo

T.O. Aina

S.P. Asongo

S.A. Fabuyi

T.A. Abiodun

H.O. Aigbodion

M.I. Owoniyi

V.S. Odidi

J.E. Akioyamen

E.E. Inyang

L. Babalola

C.E. Okoh

V. Eburajolo


III. Meeting with trade union representatives

F. Kokori

General Secretary of NUPENG

M. Dabibi

General Secretary of PENGASSAN

B.B. Anokwuru

(NUSDE) Shop and Distributive Employees

A. Oshiomhole

National Union of Textiles, Garment and Tailoring Workers

A.A. Ohindase
D. Uhumango


D.A. Adekola

Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees

P.E. Agbonkonkon

Amalgamated Union of Public Corporation, Civil Service, Technical and Recreational Services Employees

A.A. Salam

Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees

N.E. Ekpe

Radio, Television & Theatre Workers' Union

F.C. Chukwura

National Union of Shop & Distributive Employees


Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff

R.A. Lawal
J. Ode Ajo

National Union of Postal and Telecommunications Employees

I. Kaffoi

National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives

M.J.O. Ajero

Nigeria Union of Civil Service Typists, Stenographic and Allied Staff

G. Falade

Nigeria Union of Teachers

D. Adodo

Iron and Steel Senior Staff Association

I.O. Omotosho
J.B. Thompson

Nigeria Union of Pensioners

K. Kadiri
M.O. Agbe-Davies

Steel Engineering Workers Union

A.K.A. Motajo

Secretary General, Nation Union of Air Transport Employees (NUATE)

S.O. Joshua

Medical & Health Workers' Union of Nigeria

J. Akinlaja

National Union of Petroleum Natural Gas Workers (NUPENG)

C.J.O. Onyenemene

National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees

C.H. Okere

Nigeria Union of Railwaymen

E.R. Oke

National Union of Printing , Publishing and Paper Workers

1. GB.272/7/1.

2. 295th Report -- see paras. 567 to 614.

3. 297th Report -- see para. 5.

4. 299th Report -- see para. 8.

5. 300th Report -- see paras. 245 to 271.

6. 302nd Report -- see para. 67.

7. 304th Report -- see para. 13.

8. 305th Report -- see para. 70.

9. 306th Report -- see paras. 45 to 47.

10. 307th Report -- see paras. 33 to 35.

11. 308th Report -- see paras. 53 to 55.

12. 309th Report -- see paras. 9 and 27 to 29.

13. ibid., para. 8.

14. International Labour Conference, 82nd Session, 1995, Geneva, Report III (Part 4A), pp. 182-183.

15. ibid., Record of Proceedings No. 24, para. 141 and pp. 24/87 to 90.

16. International Labour Conference, 83rd Session, 1996, Geneva, Report III (Part 4A), pp. 155-158.

17. International Labour Conference, 83rd Session, Record of Proceedings No. 14, para. 167 and pp. 14/75 to 77.

18. International Labour Conference, 85th Session, 1997, Report III (Part 1A), pp. 184-185.

19. International Labour Conference, 85th Session, 1997, Record of Proceedings No. 19, paras. 169 and 173, pp. 19/90 to 93.

20. International Labour Conference, 86th Session, 1998, Report III (Part 1A), pp.181-184. The Conference Committee did not decide to discuss that particular observation of the Committee of Experts at the 86th Session of the Conference in June 1998.

21. See GB.271/18/5.

22. See GB.272/7/1. The Governing Body appointed Mr. Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius) to chair and Ms. Janice Bellace (United States) and Sir John Wood (United Kingdom) to serve as members of the Commission of Inquiry.

23. SESCAN had come into existence precisely because organizations of senior staffs had been stopped from affiliating to the NLC (the latter thus consisting only of "industrial" unions).

Updated by VC. Approved by RH. Last update: 26 January 2000.