Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC): History, role, and functions

Have you wondered where Nigeria would have been without a working Trade union?  Or to better put it, to what extent the different administrations both past and present would have had unrestrained power to do and undo without the checks that often come with the help of the NLC? One would say the NCL has not done enough, but we couldn’t have imagined what would have happened to Nigeria and the economy if they weren’t there in the first place, right from the days of the military administrations to our democratic rule today.

To better appreciate this great institution, you should carefully analyze how the NLC all started, its role and function in nation-building, and come to a reasonable conclusion about whether they have lived up to its responsibility or not. 


The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), the only national trade organization in the country, was formally founded in 1978.

The Nigeria Workers Council (NWC), Labour Unity Front (LUF), United Labour Congress (ULC), and Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC) were the four labour organizations that were active during the period, and with the creation of the Nigeria Labour Congress, years of rivalry and hostility between the four groupings and the many unions associated with them came to an end.

Additionally, the unions—which numbered approximately  1,000—were divided into 42 industrial unions.

This group has a troubled past, having endured the dissolution of its national organs twice and the subsequent appointment of state administrators by the then-military regime.

However, it appears that the military administrators also inserted a mandate to loot the funds of Congress and the two unions.

The split was used as an illustration of the difficulties that the NLC, its leadership, affiliates, and state councils had while functioning under military rule.

The period was primarily marked by arbitrary actions, the prolonged and unlawful detention of labour leaders, security force intrusions into and interruptions of union meetings, seminars, and other operations of Congress and its components, and a violent anti-labor campaign by the state.

Several legislations limiting union activities were also passed by the military using its legislative power.

An order from General Abacha, for instance, prohibited some movement members from running for office in Congress.

But upon General Abacha’s passing, the NLC called Congress back, and on January 29, 1999, a National Delegates Conference took place.

Between 1999 and February 2007, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole presided over the NLC.

On March 1-3, 2011, the NLC conducted its 10th National Delegates’ Conference with the subject “Building A New Nigeria: The Role of the Working Class Towards National Transformation” at a crucial juncture in the history of our great country and humanity. Following the successful completion of the 10th Delegates’ Conference of the Congress, national officials were elected in a highly transparent and free election to serve as members of the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the Congress. And that trend has continued until this day, with Comrade Joe Ajero being the current NLC president.

Role and functions of the NLC

The primary roles and responsibilities of the Nigerian Labour Congress are to safeguard, uphold, and advance the rights, welfare, and interests of all workers, retirees, union members, and the working class as a whole. It also works to advance and defend a Nigerian nation that is just, democratic, open, and prosperous by achieving the following goals.

Policy creation 

The Nigerian Labour Congress draughts legislation to satisfy the demands and worries of the workforce.  The Nigerian Labour Congress accomplishes this by researching labour-related issues, employee unhappiness, minimum pay, employment patterns, and other statistics to produce policies that benefit employees.

These policies seek to ensure that all unions are fairly represented and that their needs are fully taken into consideration.

Collective Union Action

To accomplish shared objectives, the Nigerian Labour Congress works in concert with other labor unions and federations. The Nigerian Trade Congress collaborates with other trade unions to advance the welfare of workers and advocate for their rights. They guarantee that, whenever necessary, every other Union will be coordinated as a whole.

Conflict management 

In disagreements between employees and their respective employers, the Nigerian Labour Congress acts as a mediator and point of contact. The Nigerian Labour Congress aids in negotiating agreements, serving as a mediator in disputes, and resolving grievances among other things.

 Promote gender equality among unions

The Nigerian Labour Congress advocates for equal pay, advancement, and opportunity chances for men and women in the workplace. The Nigerian Labour Congress also offers assistance and protection to women who experience harassment or discrimination at work, ensuring that women are fairly represented in all fields of employment and business.


The Nigerian Labour Congress works to advance workers’ rights by influencing politicians, government representatives, and other parties to adopt laws that advance social justice, job security, and access to high-quality healthcare and education.

Welfare and social responsibility

The Nigerian Labour Congress pledges to enhance employee welfare. The Nigerian Labour Congress offers assistance to employees who require it, such as those who have been fired or hurt at work. Additionally, it provides financial support in the event of illness, incapacity, or death to employees and their families.

General strike action

To express its displeasure with unfavourable working conditions or policies, the Nigerian Labour Congress takes part in strike action. Strikes are a tactic used by the Nigerian Labour Congress to pressure the government to improve wages, working conditions, change policies, and other worker benefits.

Education and sensitization 

To improve its members’ abilities and knowledge, the Nigerian Labour Congress offers education and training programs. The Nigerian Labour Congress organizes conferences, workshops, and seminars to inform and educate workers about their constitutional rights,  salary incentive, hazard allowance, workplace safety procedures, and other facets of their jobs.


In Nigeria, the Nigerian Labour Congress is crucial in advancing workers’ rights and welfare. The Nigerian Labour Congress performs a variety of duties, including collective bargaining, lobbying, education and training, and welfare support.

Thanks to its efforts, the lives of Nigerian workers have been made better and social justice is being promoted. However, there has been dissatisfaction in some quarters especially when it comes to the tendency of the NCL to bend to the pressure and lobbies from the government.

In many case scenarios, the NLC has however failed to live up to its promises and done otherwise, especially when the need arises. 

Considering the latest development in Nigeria, when it comes to the high inflation rate and the naira depreciation, it’s evident that the NLC has been questionably silent instead of pressuring the government for an increase in the minimum wages amongst other measures, with the sole aim of ameliorating the pain caused by the past and present administration.

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Paul Umukoro

Paul Umukoro

Paul Umukoro is an astute content writer with He writes mostly on hot, contested, and valuable topics in business, finance, and technology. He majored in computer science.

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