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AN EXAMINATION OF THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK FOR THE SETTLEMENT OF TRADE DISPUTES IN NIGERIA

Project topic for Law department.

CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL INTRODUCTION

1.0       Background to the Study

Disputes today in the society have become nothing that raises eyebrows, this is so because the society is at home with the reality that in the course of every human interaction, there is bound to be disagreements.

One of the major problems in the Nigerian labour system has been and still remains the incessant strikes by workers, Strikes as distasteful as it is, performs various useful functions. However for a developing country like Nigeria there must be various mechanisms in place for dispute resolution and those on ground must be appreciated and effectively utilized.
            In Nigeria, there are about ten labour related legislations that are currently operational. These legislations are in general, aimed at securing a functional, harmonious, stable, peaceful and productive labour environment that is conducive to economic growth .These legislations include the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [1], Trade Disputes Act [2], Factories Act [3], Trade Unions (Amendment) Act [4], National Industrial Court Act [5], etc.

Section 254 a-f of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria creates the National Industrial court and confers on it the jurisdiction and powers which have been elaborated under the National Industrial court and National industrial Court Rules. The Labour Act contains provisions regarding the protection of wages, contracts of employment and terms and conditions of employment. The Employees Compensation Act repealed the Workmen's Compensation Act [6]  and made provisions for the compensation of any death, injury, disease or disability arising out of or in the course of employment. The Trade Unions Act [7]  made provisions with respect to the formation, registration and organization of trade unions, federation of trade unions and central labour organization. The Trade Unions (Amendment) Act [8]  amended the principal Act, that is, the Trade Union Act, thereby filling up gaps in the law that are necessary for a more efficient operation and co-ordination of trade unionism. The substance of the amendment was to highlight the voluntariness of membership of Trade Unions; enhance the financial liquidity of trade unions through mandatory membership subscription for effective and impactful operation; and streamline the process of collective bargaining. The Trade Union Act [9] makes provisions for the settlement of trade disputes and other ancillary matters .The National Industrial Court Act [10] was created by the National Assembly in compliance with section 254 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria, it currently has exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate over sundry dimensions of labour disputes in Nigeria following the rules issued under the hand of the President of the court.

Looking at the numerous legislations targeted at monitoring the trade environment, one begins to wonder their roles and effectiveness especially against the background of the persistent antagonism between employees and employers of labour in Nigeria. In any ideal industrial relations, great emphasis is placed on the attainment of industrial harmony in order to create a conducive environment for the realization of the individual and organizational goals and objectives. However as earlier stated, conflict in any work situation is almost inevitable because as labour and management relates ,there are bound to be frictions which result from differences in interest and aspirations as both the employer and employee most times have divergent interest on issues of wages, conditions of work, terms of employment and resolving these disputes receives compromise, concession and a game of give and take between the disputing parties as is typical of the Nigerian labour system.

The incessant trade disputes in Nigeria have a lot of economic, social and even political reasons and consequences accompanying them, Prof Sagay opines that: 

There is a linking thread between good governance and a conducive and peaceful labour environment under which trade disputes can not only be reduced but as a positive consequence of prompt and honest reactions of government to rising trade issues, amicably resolved" He opined further that [11],... a  government that is viewed by the citizenry as being dedicated to the welfare of her workforce thus guarding her labour system jealously has by that stance sent a clear message to other employers of labour (whom are usually the offenders in a trade dispute)in that country that  the peace of the labour environs must not be toiled with.           

Based on the above, Prof Sagay seems to assert and correctly so that perhaps governance has a role to play in the trade dispute resolution process of Nigeria. This economic and legal truth cannot be overemphasized as the monumental damage occasioned by lack of good governance and corruption boldly pervades the Nigerian landscape giving rise to the numerous trade disputes in the Nation with the government itself been one of the most consistent parties to the very frequent trade disputes in Nigeria.

1.1       Statement of the Problem                                                                                                     Industrial harmony is very important both at the public and private sectors because of the negative impact of the disputes in the labour sector. Trade disputes when it happens can be a very serious issue especially when it is allowed to degenerate into an industrial action. Few trade disputes get reported but the one that are recorded help the government to get proper analysis for the evaluation and policy purposes. Contrary to the above, The Nigerian labour space has become a fighting ground for employees and employers as disputes arise daily even in the face of the many legislations intended to mediate between them and make for peaceful trade dispute resolutions, the Asuu strike that has reinvented itself as an annual trade dispute festival constantly reminds us of the loopholes in our dispute resolution mechanism in this country.

Consequently, this research undertakes to answer the following problems:

  • Why do the trade disputes take so long to be resolved even with the many laws meant to resolve them quickly and amicably?
  • How effective are the trade dispute laws and what are the loopholes?
  • What is the role and effect of the National Industrial court?      
  • Can Nigeria grow past these trade dispute resolution challenges?

1.2       Objective of the Study

Every legal system in the world has a framework for the settlement of trade disputes to complement and strengthen the productivity of its labour system as well as limiting the length of trade disputes so as not to hamper or slow down economic growth and Nigeria is not an exception.

This work is intended to make an analysis of the trade dispute resolution mechanism of the Trade Dispute Act [12] as well as a comparative study of the Trade Dispute Decree [13] alongside the Constitution of the Federal Republic Nigeria 1999.Subsequently, an examination into the defects that has rendered the law ineffective will be made and thereafter to proffer solutions with a view to improving the machinery of trade dispute resolution.

The study looks into the issue of the National Industrial Court being a superior court of record or not. It looks at the new position of law concerning the jurisdiction of the National Industrial Court on trade dispute matters. The study aims at undertaking an assessment of the law as it relates to settlement of trade disputes in Nigeria and proffer solutions where necessary for a more effective means of settling trade disputes.

1.3       Scope of Research

Conceptually, this work also covers although in passing and on restricted discussion the other alternative resorts to the settlement of trade disputes i.e. strikes and lockouts as effect of trade disputes.

This work will cover the provisions of the Trade Disputes Act 1990, particularly its trade disputes resolution machinery. The Trade Dispute Decree 1992 and the covered in this work, principally these are the laws regulating trade dispute resolution in Nigeria. The Labour Act 1990 and The Trade union Act 1990 are also covered only to the extent of their reference to trade dispute.

1.4       Research Methodology

This research shall adopt the doctrinal approach by examining previous work on this subject, textbooks, statutory provisions, journal and case law; using both primary and secondary sources.

1.5       Organizational Layout

This research work is divided into five chapters .In chapter one the general introduction is succinctly done containing the following: background to the study, statement of the problem, objective of the study, definition of terms, scope of the study ,research methodology and organizational layout.

Chapter two christened "Nature, Definition and History of Trade Disputes in Nigeria helps with the historical trace and understanding of the concept of trade disputes in Nigeria. Chapter three takes a look at the different mechanisms available for utilization in trade dispute resolution, their usage and effects.

Chapter four captioned "An Appraisal of The New Legislation and Role of Courts "is the learnt of this work .A holistic discussion on the various laws and legislations on trade disputes while picking the loopholes in the laws and causes of their ineffectiveness as they appear to have failed to totally arrest the problems for which they were enacted.

This work ends with chapter five which consist of summary, recommendations and conclusion.


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