This information is derived from the State Department's Office of Investment Affairs’ Investment Climate Statement. Any questions on the ICS can be directed to EB-ICS-DL@state.gov
Last Published: 7/13/2016

Nigeria's skilled labor pool has declined over the past decade due to inadequate educational systems, limited employment opportunities, and the migration of educated Nigerians to other countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Africa. The low employment capacity of Nigeria's formal sector means that almost three-quarters of all Nigerians work in the informal and agricultural sectors or are unemployed. Companies involved in formal sector businesses such as banking and insurance possess an adequately skilled workforce (often trained abroad in private institutions or at the better-funded universities). Manufacturing sector workers often require on the job training. The result is that while individual wages are low, individual productivity is low and overall labor costs can be high. The Buhari Administration is pushing reforms in the education sector to improve the supply of skilled works but this and other efforts run by the State Governors are in their initial stages.

The Labor organizations in Nigeria remain politically very active and are prone to call for strikes on a regular basis against the national and state governments. Many of the labor actions are peaceful but as economic conditions are challenged there is a real threat that these actions can be tipped into political violence.

The Right of Association

Nigeria's constitution guarantees the rights of free assembly and association and protects workers' rights to form or belong to trade unions. Several statutory laws, nonetheless, restrict the rights of workers to associate or disassociate with labor organizations. Nigerian unions belong to one of two trade union federations, the Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC), which tends to represent junior (i.e., blue collar) workers, and the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) representing the “senior” (i.e., white collar) workers. According to figures provided by the Ministry of Labor and Employment, total union membership stands at roughly 7 million. A majority of these union members work in the public sector, although unions exist across the private sector. The Trade Union Amendment Act of 2005 allowed non-management senior staff to join unions. Nigeria's largest labor federation, the NLC, contains 42 industrial unions; the TUC includes 18.

Collective Bargaining

Collective bargaining occurred throughout the public sector and the organized private sector in 2014. However, public sector employees have become increasingly concerned about the GoN and state governments’ failure to honor previous agreements from the collective bargaining process. For instance, in 2013 a five-month strike by the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was the result of the GoN failing to implement a 2009 agreement. President Jonathan signed legislation in 2011 amending the Minimum Wage Act to raise the minimum wage to 18,000 naira (or what was then about USD 110) per month. Union leaders have complained that some state governors did not fully implement the Act, citing its budget implications, and in response unions staged strikes in some states.

Collective bargaining in the oil and gas industry is relatively efficient compared to other sectors. Issues pertaining to salaries, benefits, health and safety, and working conditions tend to be resolved quickly through negotiations. One exception is a long-standing, unresolved dispute over the industry's use of contract labor.

Workers under collective bargaining agreements cannot participate in strikes unless their unions comply with the requirements of the law, which includes provisions for mandatory mediation and referral of disputes to the GoN. Despite these restrictions on staging strikes, unions occasionally conduct strikes in the private and public sectors without warning. Localized strikes occurred in the education, government, energy, power, and healthcare sectors in 2015. The law forbids employers from granting general wage increases to workers without prior government approval, but the law is not often enforced.

The Nigerian Minister of Labor and Employment may refer unresolved disputes to the Industrial Arbitration Panel (IAP) and the National Industrial Court (NIC). In 2015, the National Industrial Court launched an Alternative Dispute Resolution Center. Union officials question the effectiveness and independence of the NIC, believing it unable to resolve disputes stemming from GON failure to fulfill contract provisions for public sector employees. Union leaders criticize the arbitration system's dependence on the Minister of Labor and Productivity’s referrals to the IAP.

Child Labor

Nigeria’s laws regarding minimum age for child labor and hazardous work are inconsistent. Article 59 of the Labor Act of 1974 sets the minimum age of employment at 12, and it is in force in all 36 states of Nigeria. The Act also permits children of any age to do light work alongside a family member in agriculture, horticulture, or domestic service.

The Federal 2003 Child’s Right Act (CRA) codifies the rights of children in Nigeria and must be ratified by each State to become law in its territory. There were no new adoptions of the CRA during the reporting period. To date, 23 states and the Federal Capital Territory have ratified the CRA, with 12 of the remaining 13 states located in northern Nigeria.

The CRA states that the provisions related to young people in the Labor Act apply to children under the CRA, but also that the CRA supersedes any other legislation related to children. The CRA restricts children under the age of 18 from any work aside from light work for family members; however, Article 59 of the Labor Act applies these restrictions only to children under the age of 12. This language makes it unclear what minimum ages apply for certain types of work in the country.

While the Labor Act forbids the employment of youth under age 18 in work that is dangerous to their health, safety, or morals, it allows children to participate in certain types of work that may be dangerous by setting different age thresholds for various activities. For example, the Labor Act allows children age 16 and older to work at night in gold mining and the manufacturing of iron, steel, paper, raw sugar, and glass. Furthermore, the Labor Act does not extend to children employed in domestic service. Thus, children are vulnerable to dangerous work in industrial undertakings, underground, with machines, and in domestic service. In addition, the prohibitions established by the Labor Act and CRA are not comprehensive or specific enough to facilitate enforcement. In 2013, the National Steering Committee for the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Child Labor in Nigeria (NSC) validated the Report on the Identification of Hazardous Child Labor in Nigeria. Currently, the report is with the MOLP for the promulgation of guidelines for operationalizing the report.

The GoN adopted the Trafficking in Persons (Prohibition), Enforcement and Administration Act of 2015 on March 26, 2015. While not specifically directed against child labor, many sections of the new law support anti-child labor efforts. The Violence against Persons Prohibition Act was signed into law in on May 25, 2015 and again while not specifically focused on child labor, it covers related elements such as “depriving a person of his/her liberty,” “forced financial dependence/economic abuse,” and “forced isolation/separation from family and friends” and is applicable to minors.

Acceptable Conditions of Work

Nigeria's Labor Act provides for a 40-hour work week, two to four weeks of annual leave, and overtime and holiday pay for all workers except agricultural and domestic workers. No law prohibits compulsory overtime. The Act establishes general health and safety provisions, some of which specifically apply to young or female workers, and requires the Ministry of Labor and Productivity inspect factories for compliance with health and safety standards. Under-funding and limited resources undermine MOLP oversight capacity, and construction sites and other non-factory work sites are often ignored. Nigeria's labor law requires employers to compensate injured workers and dependent survivors of workers killed in industrial accidents.

Draft legislation, such as a new Labor Standards Act which includes provisions on child labor, and an Occupational Safety and Health Act that would regulate hazardous work, have remained under consideration in the National Assembly since 2006.

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More Information

Nigeria Economic Development and Investment Law