News Before It's News
About us | Ocnus? |

Front Page 
 Dark Side
 Defence & Arms
 Light Side

Labour Last Updated: May 14, 2009 - 9:03:29 AM

The Nigeia Police and Trade Unionism
By Kayode Oladele.NVS 11/5/09
May 14, 2009 - 9:01:26 AM

Email this article
 Printer friendly page
Sometime ago, the then President of the Nigerian Labor Union, now the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomole, in a letter to the erstwhile Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr. Sunday Ehindero admonished the latter of possible threat of strike by the police and also demanded that the police officers be permitted to form a trade union. The IG in his reply to the NLC president not only refuted the allegation of imminent strike but stated that even though, the NLC president would wish that police have a union, such an act would not be in accordance with the police laws and regulations, and it would also breach the police’s oath of allegiance and oath of office.  In short, the IG stressed that the Police Act does not give room for unionism and warned that the Police have no right to go on strike.

However, a school of thought strongly felt then that understanding the fairness of the claims by the police officers and their endemic problems was crucial to their action and urged the Federal Government to re-examine the issue and propose an amendment to the laws which would allow the police officers to unite in trade union to protect their labor and other socially economic rights and interests. The school of thought also felt that the establishment of police trade union was related to the increased social guarantees for the police officers and their families.

In this article, I would attempt to espouse further on the need for the Police Act to be amended in order to allow the Police officers enjoy one of their constitutional and inalienable rights – the fight of association.

 The fundamental purpose of a police officers union will be to promote the interests of its members in a variety of spheres. Collective bargaining and labor contract administration will obviously be at the top of the list but other areas where police officers union could play a crucial role include the promotion of its members’ health and safety, the representation of members who are charged criminally or with disciplinary infractions, and ensuring that the voice of front-line police personnel is heard loud and clear in the never-ending public policy debate on law and order issues. Today it is more important than ever to recognize that without a collective agreement outlining the conditions of work, wages and benefits, the employer has the right to treat its workers in any way it wants. Without a union acting as a form of insurance and security, workers are like sitting guinea pigs in a shooting range.

However, beyond the Federal Government proposing an amendment to the law prohibiting the Police officers from forming or belonging to a trade union is the fact that the police officers themselves have to wake up and make concerted efforts as a body to struggle for the recognition of their rights and freedom of association as guaranteed by the Constitution. After all, the Police Act which barred them from such protest is inferior to section 40 of the constitution. That section (40) stipulates that: "Every person shall be entitled to assemble freely and associate with other persons, and in particular he may form or belong to any political party, trade union or any other association for the protection of his interest".

 Nonetheless, History of police associations all over the world reveal that no such rights were ever granted willingly by the government without some sort of organized campaigns, pickets or struggle by the officers themselves. Moves to establish a police union in Latvia for example, started just few years ago, but following amendments to the relevant legislation, it became legal for Latvian police officers to establish and join trade unions effective 1 January 2006.  This did not come without a struggle.

The Police Federation of England and Wales which is the representative body to which all police officers up to and including the rank of Chief Inspector belong is another example. It was established by the Police Act in 1919, following a strike in London, when almost every constable and sergeant in the Metropolitan Police refused to go on duty. They were demanding a big pay increase, a widows’ pension, the recognition of their illegal trade union, and the reinstatement of those who had been sacked for their union activities. The Prime Minister, David Lloyd George, gave in to the strikers on pay, but within months the Police Union was smashed and the Police Federation of England and Wales was established. It is not a union, but has a statutory responsibility to represent its members, that is all officers below the rank of Superintendent, in all matters affecting their welfare and efficiency.

The Federation today represents the interests of over 136,000 police officers, bringing together their views on welfare and efficiency to the notice of the government and all opinion formers. The Federation negotiates on all aspects of pay, allowances, and hours of duty, annual leave and pensions. It is consulted when police regulations are made, dealing with training, promotion and discipline. It takes an active interest in a wide range of subjects, which affect the police service, and puts forward its views on the members’ behalf. Thus, it not only acts as a staff association, but also as a professional body, able to influence not only living standards, through pay and other benefits, but also the development of professional standards.

In the same vein, the early history of Toronto Police Association (TPA) stretches back to the fall of 1918. In September of that year, the Toronto Police Union was chartered by the Trades and Labor Congress. Facing appallingly low wages and seriously sub-standard working conditions, the then members of the Toronto Police Force saw unionization as a means of improving their lot and gaining some respect from the employer. An indication of the labor relations climate of the day is provided by the Police Commission’s response. The Union was swiftly denounced and the Commission refused to even recognize its existence. The Union’s Secretary, Gordon Ellis, was summarily fired for allegedly failing to properly perform his duties as a police officer.

Indeed, today in Ontario police officers are prohibited from joining unions except for the limited purpose of secondary employment. Although unable to join unions, police officers and civilians in Ontario do enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining since they are able to join and be represented by police associations. This initiative was contained in provincial legislation passed in 1947. Collective bargaining, however, was the culmination of nearly fifteen years of effort.

In the U.S, the International Union of Police Associations (I.U.P.A) is the only AFL-CIO union chartered exclusively for law enforcement and law enforcement support personnel. The AFL-CIO affiliation places I.U.P.A. in a position of strength within the labor movement. While I.U.P.A.'s officers, active and retired law enforcement officers, fight to improve the lives of their brothers and sisters in law enforcement, I.U.P.A. works to improve legislation that protects and affects public safety officers, as well as representing the needs of law enforcement officers and support personnel, whether that be for better equipment, more staff or a fair wage.

Strength through united action, guided by intelligence, is the hallmark of trade union organizations. Believing that such unity is essential for the protection and advancement of the interests and general welfare of the officers and men of the Nigeria Police Force, there is an urgent need for the creation of a union whose objectives shall include: to secure just compensation for their services and equitable settlement of their grievances; to promote the establishment of just and reasonable working conditions; to place the members of the Nigeria Police Force on a higher plane of skill and efficiency; to promote harmonious relations between law enforcement officers and the general public; to  encourage the establishment of schools of instruction for imparting knowledge of modern and improved methods of law enforcement and crime prevention and labor relations; and to cultivate friendship and fellowship among its members.

The association's goals will also advance the science and art of police services; develop and disseminate improved administrative, technical and operational practices and promote their use in police work; foster police cooperation and the exchange of information and experience among police administrators throughout the world; bring about recruitment and training in the police profession of qualified persons; and encourage adherence of all police officers to high professional standards of performance and conduct, to guarantee a police service which respects human rights and to fight more effectively against the development and the widening of international criminal network.

The Nigeria Police Force (NPF) is designated by the Constitution as the national police with exclusive jurisdiction throughout the country. The NPF began with a thirty-member consular guard formed in Lagos Colony in 1861. In 1879 a 1,200-member armed paramilitary Hausa Constabulary was formed. In 1896 the Lagos Police was established. A similar force, the Niger Coast Constabulary, was formed in Calabar in 1894 under the newly proclaimed Niger Coast Protectorate. Likewise, in the north, the Royal Niger Company set up the Royal Niger Company Constabulary in 1888 with headquarters at Lokoja. When the protectorates of Northern and Southern Nigeria were proclaimed in the early 1900s, part of the Royal Niger Company Constabulary became the Northern Nigeria Police, and part of the Niger Coast Constabulary became the Southern Nigeria Police. Northern and Southern Nigeria were amalgamated in 1914, but their police forces were not merged until 1930, forming the NPF, headquartered in Lagos.

One stigma which follows the force since its creation is the poor condition of service which has produced a crop of corrupt and inept officers. Only recently, the Inspector-General of Police told the nation that almost all the policemen recruited from 2001 till date are robbers. Describing the worsening condition of the Nigeria police officers, the National Union of Policemen (a group claiming to be acting for the junior officers) in a press statement recently  declared that “Our people are the poorest of the poor. They are made to buy their own uniforms, buy stationery at police stations while the economic living conditions in the police barracks are worse than that of pigs." it said further that "No reasonable country will allow this condition to continue unchecked. Nigerian policemen and women are the most maltreated and dehumanized of all the police institutions in the world, while the top rating of the police hierarchy remains the most corrupt”. According to Chief Gani Fawehinmi, SAN, “they (policemen) are not well armed and not well catered for. They have become the wretched of the public service. The Federal Government should immediately look into their demands and accede to them".

Today, the NPF has grown in size, stature and operations. The Police officers should therefore, be given unfettered freedom to form unions in the same conditions as other employees in both the private and public sectors - a union that will represent their interests, protect and project their image. Such Unions will also be able to assist them in enhancing their professional performance by organizing training and seminars on issues bothering on human rights and public freedoms. Above all, the Unions will assist them in bargaining for just salary and better working conditions taking the specific factors of police duties into account and providing them with the required economic safety in order to prevent them from being prone to corruption.

Police officers are entitled to appropriate social protection for themselves and their families. The government must guarantee this protection to them, taking the special risk resulting from their activity as policemen and the time devoted to this activity into account. For these reasons, the government should allow the development of unions while ensuring their independence from political influence or any other ideological or religious group..

 In conclusion, I urge the Police Reforms Committee which was recently inaugurated by the Federal Government to make a similar case for these impoverished officers and recommend a reform that will allow police officers to exert their individual or collective rights and freedoms.

Source:Ocnus.net 2009

Top of Page

Latest Headlines
Trump Claims Hes Pro-Worker. But His Labor Board Is Trying to Destroy Worker Organizing.
Labours identity crisis
Ukrainian miners protest underground
The Conservative Case for Organized Labor
Fed study: Wage growth an illusion thats almost entirely attributable to low-wage job losses
Why 2020 may be a signal year for the American labor movement
An Extraordinary Summer of Crises for Californias Farmworkers
In California, a Labor Slate Aims to Redefine the Relationship Between Unions and Politics
NEPA Union Leader Blasts Trumps Record on Workers Rights Ahead of Pence Speech
Amazon's Surveillance Can Boost Output and Possibly Limit Unions