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This Dissertation aims at appraising the Tortious Liability of Trade Unions in Nigeria in relation to the existing laws such as Trade Union Act, 2005 and Trade Dispute Act, 2005. The research methodology here is Doctrinal Methodology, which involves the use of relevant books, articles, journal, publication, conference papers, and judicial authorities. The statement of the problem is whether or not the law has adequately afforded trade union immunity against civil persecutions and what are the nature of tortious act that may lead to tortious liability envisage by this section of the Trade Union Act. For example, the protection given to the unions under sections 43 and 44 (Part v) of the Trade Union Act, 2005 is not an absolute one. Any act done outside the contemplation of the said section attract civil liability on the unionist. The justification of this research is that trade union rules are not being implemented in Nigeria and consequently, the practice is different from the law. In view of this, the objective of the dissertation is to examine the adequacy or otherwise of existing rules of trade unions in Nigeria and to identify reasons accounting for such irregular practices. However, this research found that Trade Union Act, 2005 is not beneficial to the people because Section 33(1) of the Trade Union Act, 2005 states that no person shall be an official of more than one federation of trade unions at the same time. This makes an official restricted to only one federation of trade union. In this regard, therefore, the research concluded by recommending that person should not be allowed to be an official of more than one federation of trade unions.



1.1       Background to the Study

The background of organized Trade Union Movement in Nigeria dates back to 1912

when the workers in the Civil Service under the then Colonial Administration organized

themselves into workers representatives. This then became known as the Nigeria Civil Service

Union. This became a pivot with which workers in other sectors began the agitation for the

formation of Trade Unions before and after independence in 1960.By 1975 during the Military

regime of General Murtala Muhammad, Trade Unions in the country have risen to over 1000

which include Mushroom Unions.

In the year 1976, the Government established a Commission of inquiry into the activities

of the various Unions and appointed an administrator to administer the unions and come up with

a structure for the proper administration of the Unions. This became necessary as the Unions

were polarized into ideological divide which was creating problems in the country. Towards the

end of 1977, these Unions were restructured into 42 along industrial line. The government also

insisted on the formation of a Labour Centre as there were various multiple centres. In February

1978, the Nigeria Labour Congress was formed and inaugurated. The then 42 Industrial Unions

became affiliates of the Nigeria Labour Congress with a legal backing of Trade Union

(Amendment) Decree 22 of 1978.

Also in the year 1989, the Trade Unions were again restructured to become 29 affiliate

unions to the Nigeria Labour Congress. However, the Obasanjo administration in 2004 worked

on a Labour Act to again pave way for multiple centres.


1.2       Statement of the Problem

It is known that an individual worker has no bargaining power due to the emergence of

huge corporations, which has huge number of workers and can act in combination in order to

exact their influence on management concerning the affairs that affect them all. In so doing, they

may exceed their limited power leading in their actions amounting to liabilities.

In order for trade unions to achieve their aim, the Trade Union Act1 has provided them

with ―immunity‖ against tortious act they commit or on behalf of the trade union in compellation

of or in furtherance of a trade dispute. In S. 24 (1) and (2), 43 and 44 (1) and (2) of Trade Unions

Act2, trade unions or their agent are liable in tort for any unlawful act done outside these


Tortious liability of Trade Union in Nigeria is about offences committed in the trade

unions in their respective employments while acting in furtherance of their interests.

Privatization resulted in the expansion of many previously owned government‘ corporations by

private corporations and the liberalization of many sectors of the Nigeria economy led to the

exercise of the constitutional rights of employees to freely join trade unions for the protection of

their rights. The study recommended that the Trade Union Amendment Act 2005 need to be

amended with a view to discourage government on trade union activities.

The politicization of the existing Trade Unions group has equally undermined the

institutionalization of ―best Trade Union practices‖ in Nigeria. Employers‘ resist suit to

participation of Trade Union‘s activities could be attributable to the lack of proper understanding

and or lack of appreciation of the law regulating Trade Unions Law in Nigeria, and their benefits

to both private and public sectors of production.

1 Trade Unions Act, Cap Tl4, Laws of Federation of Nigeria L.F.N., 2004 2 Ibid


Accordingly, the study raises the following research questions:

(i)         Whether or not the law has adequately afforded trade union immunity against

Civil persecutions.

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