The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), is an umbrella organization for trade unions in Nigeria. It was founded in 1978 following a merger of four different organisations: Nigeria Trade Union Congress (NTUC), Labour Unity Front (LUF), United Labour Congress (ULC) and Nigeria Workers Council (NWC). The numerous affiliated unions were restructured into 42 industrial unions. Its founding President was Wahab Goodluck.
During its history, conflicts with the military regime twice led to the dissolution of the NLC’s national organs, the first in 1988 under the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida and the second in 1994, under the regime of General Sani Abacha. Under Nigeria’s military governments, labour leaders were frequently arrested and union meetings disrupted. Following democratic reforms in the country, some of the anti-union regulations were abolished in January 1999. The same month Adams Oshiomhole was elected President of the reformed organisation.
Today, the NLC has 29 affiliated unions. In total, they gather around 4 million members, according to their own figures. This makes the NLC one of the largest trade union organisations in Africa.
Recently conflict between the government and the NLC has escalated due to the organisation’s opposition to higher fuel prices. The price increases are the result of decisions by the Olusegun Obasanjo government to dramatically reduce subsidies and to deregulate the purchase and sale of fuel. The NLC has led several general strikes protesting the government’s fuel price policy.
In September 2004, the NLC gave the federal government an ultimatum to reverse the decision to reintroduce the controversial fuel tax or face a nationwide protest strike. The strike threat was made despite the fact that a Federal High Court judgement in an earlier dispute had declared the organisation lacking legal power to call a general strike over government policies.
Following the announcement of the strike plans, the NLC claims President Adams Oshiomhole was arrested October 9, 2004 at a protest at Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport. According to the organisation, Oshiomhole was “abducted by a team of operatives of the State Security Services (SSS) numbering over fifteen, who overpowered him, wrestled him to the ground and bundled him into a standby Peugeot 504 station wagon, which bore no licence plates.
The State Security Services called the claim “sensational and inaccurate reporting”, saying that the NLC president had a misunderstanding with field operatives, but that the matter was soon resolved. A presidential spokesperson claimed that Oshiomhole was only invited for a “chat” at the airport, no arrest having taken place.