The Nigeria Labour Congress [NLC] was formally constituted as the only national federation of trade unions in the country in 1978. Before then, four labour centres existed. These are Nigeria Trade Union Congress [NTUC], Labour Unity Front [LUF], United Labour Congress [ULC] and Nigeria Workers Council [NWC]. The emergence of the NLC ended decades of rivalry and rancour involving the four centres and unions affiliated to them. The unions, numbering over 1,000 were also restructured into 42 industrial unions.

The organisation has had a chequered history, surviving two instances of dissolution of its national organs and consequent appointment of state administrators. The first was in 1988 under the military regime of General Ibrahim Babangida. Congress' opposition to the anti-people Structural Adjustment Programme incensed the military administration to take over the NLC.

The second military intervention was in 1994 during the regime of General Sani Abacha, whose government also became fed up with the labour movement's agitation for the restoration of democracy. Like the initial case, the military government dissolved NLC's National Executive Council and appointed a Sole Administrator. The same treatment was meted to the two unions in the oil and gas industry;  National Union of Petroleum and Natural Gas Workers [NUPENG] and Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria [PENGASSAN]. However, the administrators apparently added a further brief they plundered the finances of Congress and the two unions.

The dissolution exemplified the travails of Congress, its leadership, affiliates and state councils, under military rule. Arbitration, prolonged and unlawful detention of labour leaders, invasion and disruption of union meetings, seminars and other activities of Congress and its components by security forces and a vicious anti-labour campaign by the state generally marked the period. The military also invoked its legislative prerogatives to unleash all manner of legislation to check the activities of unions. For instance, under General Abacha, a decree that banned a section of the movement from holding leadership position in Congress came into effect.

However, with the death of General Abacha, the unions reclaimed Congress, culminating in a National Delegates Conference held on January 29, 1999. The leadership led the NLC from 1999 - February 2007 headed by Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.

Abdulwahed Ibrahim Omar became the President of NLC from February, 2007- 2011.  
On March 1-3 2011, the Nigeria Labour Congress held its 10th National Delegates' Conference at a decisive moment in the life of our great country and the annals of human kind with the theme:  Building  A New Nigeria:  The Role of the Working Class Towards National Transformation

Consequent upon the successful conduct of the 10th Delegates' Conference of the Congress, the following National Officers were elected in a most transparent election as members of the National Administrative Council (NAC) of the Congress

1.  Abdulwahed I. Omar    -     President
2.  P.A.K. Adewusi             -     Deputy President
3.  Joseph C. Ajaero          -     Deputy President
4.  Kiri Mohammed Shuaibu-  Deputy President
5.  Lucy Offiong                -     Vice President
6.  Issa Aremu                   -     Vice President
7.  Emmanuel Ajoku           -    Vice President
8.  Anthony Emmanuel Nted    Vice President
9.  Lawal Dutsinma           -      Vice President
10.  Ayuba Wabba             -      National Treasurer
11.  Boniface A. Isok    -           Financial Secretary
12.  Achese Igwe           -          National Trustee
13.  A. D. Bungudu    -              National Auditor
14.  Samuel Adeoye    -             National Auditor
15.  Danjuma P. Kunini    -         National Auditor
16.  Aminat M. Danesi    -         Ex-Officio
17.  Sarah Gana               -         Ex-Officio
18.  Oby Eze                    -          Deputy Chairperson NWC   

The fundamental aims and objective of Congress are to protect, defend and promote the rights, well-being and the interests of all workers, pensioners and the trade unions; to promote and defend a Nigerian nation that would be just, democratic, transparent and prosperous and to advance the cause of the working class generally through the attainment of the following:
i. To continually promote, defend and advance the economic, political and social well-being of Nigerian workers;
ii. To promote and defend the rights, well-being and interests of workers in the work-place and society;
iii. To promote and defend the rights, well-being and interest of pensioners and ensure their recognition by the Society;
iv. To continually enhance the quality of life and improve the income and other working conditions of workers;
v. To promote and sustain the unity of Nigerian trade unions, ensure total unionization of all workers irrespective of their creed, state of origin, gender and their political beliefs;
vi. To ensure the existence of one trade union and one federation of trade unions in every industry;
vii. To promote and defend trade union and human rights, the rule of law and democratic governance;
viii. To promote and defend democracy; probity and transparency in the trade unions and in civil governance;
ix. To work for the industrialization and prosperity of the Nigerian nation and ensure protection of jobs, full employment and humane working environment.
x. To continually strive to influence public corporate policies and legislation on all issues at all levels, in the interest of workers, disadvantaged social groups and trade unions;
xi. To establish relationship and co-operation with labour movements the world over, and in particular, play a cardinal role in African Trade Union Movement  OATUU and the sub-region  OTUWA;
xii. To continually promote workers education, principally for developing their trade union and social consciousness and for the empowerment of workers in the Nigerian society;
xiii. To promote and sustain positive industrial relations practice in Nigeria, by strengthening collective bargaining in all sectors of the economy and internalizing appropriate work culture among workers;
xiv. To ensure viable financial base for the congress and the trade unions by engaging in profitable business ventures, etc., jointly or severally owned with other establishments and these include  right to own property, mortgage and disposal of same for the purpose of the attainment of the aims and objectives of the Congress and the trade unions;
xv. To print and publish literature for the purposes of enhancing and achieving the aims and objectives of Congress and its affiliates;
xvi. To co-operate with other organisations with whom the trade unions may share common or specific interests for the attainment of common objectives.

Congress membership is about 4 million and spans the public and private sectors of the economy. It has 40 affiliate unions and 37 state councils. The affiliates also have corresponding structure in the states. However, the membership excludes the military and para-military services as well as some civil establishments that offer services classified by law as essential. An example is the Central Bank of Nigeria. Nigeria's massive and dynamic informal sector is also largely unorganised although the modalities for its unionisation are now the subject of internal debates in the movement.

The following organs administer Congress:
1. The National Delegates Conference
2. The National Executive Council [NEC]
3. The Central Working Committee [CWC]
4. The National Administrative Council [NAC]

The Secretariat oversees the daily operations of Congress and executes policies and decisions of organs. A General Secretary, currently Dr. Peter Ozo-Eson heads it. Deputy and Assistant General Secretaries, who run the departments, assist the General Secretary. Congress has the following departments:
1.  Information
2.  Education
3.  Industrial Relations
4.  International Relations
5.  Research and Policy Analysis
6.  Administration and Establishment
7.  Gender
8.  Finance
9.  Parliamentary Lobby Office
10. Health and Safety


Congress' leadership is directing the affiliates and state councils based on a renewed commitment to the values of solidarity, commitment to ethics, social relevance and consistency. These are encapsulated in a policy of NLC: A New Beginning  the rallying cry of the current leadership of Comrade Abdulwahed I. Omar

The New Beginning is a decisive response to the imperative of rebuilding the movement in a direction that makes it more relevant to union members and other segments of civil society, which believe in its empowering and socially redemptive vision and capacity. It is also about enhancing inter-movement linkages that can help the movement project power in the labour market. In particular, it aims at firming up the capacity of each union and segment through solidarity actions involving the resources, experience and general organisational acumen of the entire movement. This has been demonstrated in the struggle against casualisation labour.

Congress intervention in governance issues and concerns of the society as a whole has also been under the influence of Congress. Thus, today, NLC is widely seen as the voice of the oppressed people, especially in the struggle to invest in the democratic dispensation with dividends.

To give this struggle a credible and sustainable organisational platform, Congress has also facilitated the creation of a pro-democracy coalition of civil society organisations. The nucleus of the network is the trade union movement. Its immediate agenda is to widen the margin of popular participation in governance, is to widen the margin of popular participation in governance, mobilize against military and anti-democratic subversion of civil rule and end the ramified regression of the country.

A second plank has been to create a framework of discourse around the necessity and modalities, for a progressive intervention in the political process. This has led to a strengthened resolve by the movement and the broad civil society to explore the possibility of forming a political party that can:

1.  Unite the common people around a socially redemptive agenda;
2.  Unite the working people in the light of elite-driven identity politics, which has elevated regional, ethnic and religious considerations as the basis of political discourse and action;
3.  Challenge the political monopoly of conservative, feudal and neo-colonial forces which continue to deploy looted funds, ethnic and religious caucuses and state power to perpetuate their hegemony; and
4.  Ideologise political discourse and action by promoting issues that are concretely tied to the fundamental problems of the country, especially its primary producer status, the collapse of the social sectors, the increasing primitivity of elite accumulation and the dysfunctions in the management of the country's ethnic and religious diversity.
5.  As part of boosting the movement's capacity and extending union coverage to a wider segment of society, Congress is looking seriously into the informal sector. Nigeria's informal sector is quite vast and has become greatly significant in terms of labour absorption and contribution to GDP. Beyond that, its political profile is impressive and has been a factor in the general democratic consolidation agenda. It has managed to resist the might of a state that still regards its activities at best as avenues of fiscal extortion and at worst as a nuisance to the landscape.
6.  For NLC, organising this sector is conceived in terms of a movement-building mission, which seeks to make the informal sector a popular movement with values based on which it can forge a mutually empowering organic relationship with the trade unions.

Efforts are on to deconstruct the patriarchal values and modes of work, which evolved with the trade union movement. Now, there are Women Commissions in the Congress and the state councils and affiliates. Moreover, in the last two decades, women's wing activities have expanded dramatically, especially in the area of education, internal agitation for reforms and advocacy. In what the NLC called a "New Beginning" after regaining its independence from the military in 1999 the NLC, therefore, began the process of developing a gender policy and creating a gender unit in 2002.  In addition Gender Equity Policy was adopted at its 8th Delegates Conference, the highest policy making organ of the NLC in February 2003.  The policy is meant to permeate all actions of Congress as well as affiliates as captured in the gender clause.

To further demonstrate its commitment to mainstream women in its activities and also ensure their active participation at all level, the NLC inaugurated its National Women Commission at a Gender Conference in September 2003.  As part of its affirmative action to increase women participation in decision making at the highest level, the Chairperson of National Women Commission is an automatic Vice President of the NLC and a member of all the decision making organs of the NLC.  The Deputy Chairperson is also a member of the Central Working Committee and the National Executive Council of the NLC at the National level.

International Policy and affiliation
In general terms, the strategic pillars of the NLC's international work include:-
1.  Retaining its credibility, respect and overall credentials as the largest federation in Africa and one of the most consistently progressive, independent and democratic.
2.  Ensuring that NLC continues to make progressive and positive impact in the trade union movement and tripartite bodies at regional level and beyond
3.  Working towards a more progressive ITUC that would be more responsive to the needs and interests of African workers;
4.  Fostering bilateral and multilateral relations with progressive trade union federations in Africa and beyond;
5.  Attracting technical cooperation/solidarity to meet critical capacity challenges, especially in the area of education
6.  Constructively projecting NLC's capacity, experience and resources in furtherance of assisting the development of independent unionism and capacity development of sister federations.
7.  Advancing the international work of affiliates through facilitating their international interactions and easing their consular transactions.
NLC participates in the activities of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and the African Union through the Labour and Social Affairs Commission.
NLC is affiliated to International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), African Regional Organisation of the International Trade Union Confederation, Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU) and the Organisation of Trade Unions of West Africa.

NLC has strategic partnerships with some federations within and outside the African continent with whom it has shared perspectives of the challenges facing the movement.

The mission of the Nigeria Labour Congress is to organise, unionise and educate all categories of Nigerian workers; defend and advance the political, economic, social and cultural rights of Nigerian workers; emancipate and unite Nigerian workers and people from all forms of exploitation and discrimination; achieve gender justice in the work place and in NLC; strengthen and deepen the ties and connections between Nigerian workers and the mutual/natural allies in and outside Nigeria and; lead the struggle for the transformation of Nigeria into a just, humane and democratic society.