Aluko Adeyemi & Associates – Trade Unions in Nigeria

Section 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria made provision for citizens’ freedom to assemble and associate with other persons, and in particular to join and form associations for the protection of their rights. Therefore, it is illegal to prevent employees from joining trade unions and other Labour associations. As, no employment contract can prevent workers from joining trade unions.

An employer cannot discriminate against a person either by refusing them employment, treating them unjustly or dismissing them for joining a trade union. Neither do employers have any right to influence or restrict an employee’s choice of trade union. Trade unions serve as the major level playground where workers are able to take part in decisions that concern their welfare, working terms and condition at the work place, thereby getting their interest protected.

Note that: Certain government organizations like the Military/paramilitary bodies and some others are not permitted to form unions. Likewise, young workers under the age of sixteen may not join a union, as they lack the legal capacity to do so.


For a trade Union to legally exist, function and be recognized by the law, it must be duly registered with the necessary statutory body through an application to the Registrar of Trade Union, which must be signed by at least fifty (50) members in the case of a trade union of employees, and at least two (2) members in the case of a trade union of employers. They must also have registered rules, which are known as the Union’s Constitution. The constitution should expressly spell out the following information amongst others:

  1. The name of the trade union
  2. The objectives of the trade union
  3. The purpose to which the general funds of the trade union will be applied
  4. A list of the members of the trade union and adequate provision for the inspection of said list by the officials and members of the trade union
  5. The payment of subscription by members of the trade union
  6. The manner in which the rules will be amended, varied and/or repealed
  7. The manner in which the members of the executives and the other officials of the trade union will be appointed and removed.
  8. The manner in which the funds of the trade union will be kept and audited
  9. The manner in which inspection of books of accounts by the officials and members of the trade union will be made
  10. The conditions under which any member will be entitled to have benefits under the rules, and under which fine will be imposed on the members
  11. The manner in which the trade union will be dissolved.
Aluko Adeyemi & Associates – Trade Unions in Nigeria

Other documents to accompany the application for registration as required by the Registrar are as follows:

  1. Two (2) copies of the association’s constitution/registered rules.
  2. Minutes of general meeting where the decision to register the union was taken.
  3. List of attendants with signatures, address, age and occupation of each of the persons by whom the application is signed.
  4. List of the association’s officials with official title, address, age, and occupation of each official.
  5. Duly completed form from the registrar of trade unions with the required registration fee.

Furthermore, a recommendation of the application is made to the Honourable minister for his approval, after ensuring that the application and rules of the proposed union have been satisfied. Thereafter, a publication is made in the federal government’s official gazette for a period of three (3) months. Objection can be made in writing to the registrar of trade union during this 3 month period.

Where there is no objection or where the objections are baseless, the trade union is duly registered by the Registrar of trade unions and a certificate of registration is issued to the union, as a duly registered trade union. But, where there is/are credible objection, the registrar will send a notice to the applicants to that effect for necessary actions to be made as the case maybe.

However, in the case of a refusal to register the trade union, the registrar will send a notice to the applicants stating the grounds of refusal, and the period within which the time for appealing against the refusal is to run. The registrar will also publish same in the federal gazette. An appeal against the refusal can be brought by any official or member of the union to the appropriate court within a period of thirty (30) days beginning with the date stated in the notice

After registration, a trade union becomes a corporate body, having perpetual succession and a common seal. It can contract and own properties, sue and be sued in its registered name, and do all such things permissible under our extant laws to be done by a body corporate. The trade union therefore becomes a legal entity distinct from its members.


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