The leading pro-democracy and non-governmental organization – HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) has dragged the ministry of Labour and productivity, the Nigerian Labour congress and the Labour minister Dr. Chris Ngige to the National Human Rights commission over non-licensing of United Labour Congress (ULC) as an independent Labour Union Centre.
In a three page petition by the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) sent to the executive secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Mr. Tony Ojukwu, the Rights group has asked the Rights commission to impress it upon the Federal Ministry of Labour and productivity to respect the constitutional provision of freedom of association to grant the license to the United Labour Congress (ULC) with immediate effect. The Rights group said it may consider other measures if after a two weeks the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity fails to address the matter satisfactorily. The media statement was endorsed by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss Zainab Yusuf.
In the petition dated July 1st 2019, HURIWA stated thus:
“This is to demand that your institution intervenes to reverse what we consider as serial violation of the constitutionally guaranteed Freedom of Association of thousands of Nigerian workers in both the public and private sectors who decidedly united to set up a trade union known as UNITED LABOUR CONGRESS to champion their fundamental human rights. Sir, regrettably, the ministry of Labour under the federal government of Nigeria, has consistently denied these citizens of their constitutional rights as citizens which directly infringes on all their fundamental human rights as enshrined in chapter four of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria of 1999 (as amended).
As you are well aware, the respect for human rights is an essential component of development just as the Vienna declarations of 1993 states as follows: “All human rights are universal, indivisible, inter-dependent and interrelated. Democracy, development and respect for human rights are interdependent and mutually re-inforcing”.
As stake holders in the human rights sector, we have watched with shock and disappointment, the adversarial roles played by the Nigerian Labour congress (NLC) to undermine the licensing of the independent trade union platform known as united Labour congress of Nigeria.
It is beyond the rational, to offer any concrete reason to justify the open abuse of the human right of these Nigerians to belong to the United Trade Union of Nigeria which is in accordance with the express provision of section 40 of the constitution which states that: “Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interests: Provided that the provisions of this section shall not derogate from the powers conferred by this Constitution on the Independent National Electoral Commission with respect to political parties to which that Commission does not accord recognition.”
The following are the material ingredients of the violations:
1. That the federal Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Labour denies workers the right to choose and to organize themselves into Unions; it has refused to register more than 40 trade unions that are seeking registration in the country despite having met all the stringent conditions for registration.
2. The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has aided and abetted the federal government in this unholy mission of truncating conventions 87 and 98 vis:
NLC working hands in hands with the Government has condemned many Nigerian workers to remain “unionless” exposing them to employer impunity and recklessness.
It has colluded with the federal government to sabotage and destabilize trade union actions and interests in the country.
It has pressured and intimidated the Ministry of Labour into withholding registration certificates of several unions in Nigeria
3. The purposes of these actions of the NLC are all geared towards not just denying workers their natural right to freely associate but to create a monopoly that would allow unpopular cabals to continue having a stranglehold on the nation’s trade union movement. This enables them make hefty personal demands on politicians and extract patronage at the detriment of Nigerian workers
The leadership of NLC has used the instruments of violence against Nigerian workers democratically engaging employers in Nigeria. They have hired armed thugs to inflict heavy injuries on both fellow trade union leaders, workers, passers-by and Journalists all in a bid to ruthlessly establish hegemony over Nigerian workers
4. NLC at the behest of the federal government of Nigerian not only went on national media to disparage fellow workers but also held a joint press conference sponsored by the federal government to seek the scuttling of a workers organized industrial action
NLC has resisted the democratization of the trade union movement in Nigeria by conniving with different arms of government to make laws that stultify the right of workers to voluntarism.
It has deployed the instrument of fear and brute force to scatter Legislative processes instituted to review Employment relations laws in Nigeria. It violently opposed the United Labour Congress of Nigeria (ULC) from making its presentations on the floor of the National Assembly as part of the public hearing to make our Labour laws more compliant with international standards. This led to the abortion of the process
It has violently denied other parties in Industrial relations in the country the necessary freedoms of expressions which our engagement in the IR processes demands and which is supported by various conventions of the ILO and to which NLC president; Ayuba Waba ia a Board member”.