How Do We Stop Corruption in the Labour Movement?

Alex Batubo and  Idris Sulaiman Shanono

Some, so called, comrades distort the meaning of struggle and join trade unionism and activism just to loot the treasury. They illegally enrich themselves from the sweat of defenceless union members and sell their images to those in the corridors of power. Those that have not sold themselves are seen as enemies by the authorities. Government officials interfere in trade union elections to ensure that ‘their people’ win.

We have to accept that general corruption in society has spread into the trade union movement. Some trade union leaders are settled, others are following the lead from Oshiomhole, the former NLC President, and using their trade union positions as part of their career ladder.  

General secretaries, and especially trade union presidents/chairs, expect to be rewarded with large salaries, big official cars and expense accounts that can be used as their fancy takes them. This corrupting influence has then spread out to other trade union officials who defer to their leaders in the hope that they too will gain the rewards of high office one day. They can be a tyrants and dictatorial rulers. They pretend they are above the apex decision making body of unionism, that is the CONGRESS.

Trade union meetings are regularly held in hotels where the delegates are also housed enjoying expenses that they would never afford from their own salaries. This can be encouraged by civil society organisations that fund retreats in expensive hotels or conference centres. Even the Labour Party fell into this trap by accommodating trade union leaders in hotels for their retreat last October, in Abuja and giving them brown envelopes. The NLC and other major trade unions all have conference halls and meeting rooms in Abuja and state capitals. These facilities should be used for all trade union meetings.

This is the thin end of the wedge and makes more open corruption harder to resist. We all know that some trade union leaders have been actually settled with brown envelopes, vehicles etc from governors and other public officials. Others have refused to retire at the appropriate age and arranged irregular congresses. We need to change the whole culture of trade unions to ensure that all leaders and members are not there for their own personal financial gain.

Government officials benefit from per diems and sitting allowances when they are members of official committees. This practice has spread to the trade union movement, especially in the case of negotiating meetings. Trade union delegates should be required to report such allowances and donate any money they receive to their trade unions.

In September 2021, the NLC and TUC were given 133 mass transit buses and 10% allocation of houses from a Federal scheme as part of the negotiated settlement to stop the threat of protests over the threatened doubling of the electricity tariff and another fuel price increase. Trade unions need to monitor and report such ‘donations’ on a regular basis.

Salaries of trade union leaders should reflect the average salaries of their members. They should only be slightly higher than the salaries of the other trade union officials. This should ensure that the salary of the highest paid official or president of a trade union is only 50% more than that of the lowest paid employee of that trade union.

Trade union officials and representatives should be re-imbursed for official travel and accommodation to attend meetings in Abuja or other states. They should not be paid daily allowances (per diems) or sitting allowances for trade union meetings. If trade union officials are required to travel to Abuja they should stay in the hotels managed by MHWUN, for example. If this is not possible, they should stay in hotels that are no more expensive.

With corruption being so widespread, we cannot really blame a few poor workers for being tempted. We need to ensure such temptation is reduced to the absolute minimum. You may wonder how some comrades followed and compromised with capitalism and its animalistic principles. They joined hands with capitalists during the 2023 general elections. These politicians where did they get billions of Naira which they spent before and during their party primary elections?


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