Nigeria Labor Market

Unemployment and underemployment are huge problems affecting millions of people in Nigeria. A majority of the population work in agriculture, largely within the framework of self-catering. The oil industry, which is so important to the economy, creates few jobs.

Open unemployment is greater in cities than in rural areas and greatest among young people. A large proportion of the population is completely outside the formal labor market.

Since the 1970s there has been a law of 40-hour work week and the right to between two and four weeks of vacation.

Employees have the right to organize trade unions, with the exception of military and some professional groups such as police and customs officials. The Nigeria Labor Congress (NLC) is the largest union in Africa. Previously, all registered unions must belong to the NLC, but in 2005 the government broke its monopoly. The NLC consists of more than 40 unions, while the second largest trade union organization Trade Union Congress of Nigeria (TUC) brings together more than 20 unions.

The unions have often had a significant political influence. They have several times contributed to the government being forced to reverse structural reforms, such as the sale of state-owned companies. Attempts to remove fuel subsidies have generated particularly strong resistance (see Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment and the Economic Overview).

  • COUNTRYAAH: List of key population facts of Nigeria, covering most basic population data, religion statistics, and language profiles.

Nigeria Population



6.1 percent (2019)

Youth Unemployment

19.6 percent (2019)



Prostitution not illegal

December 19

A Nigerian court in Abuja states that prostitution is not a crime in Nigeria as there is no law prohibiting it. At the same time, the court is awarding 16 women damages for being arrested by the security police for prostitution in 2017. This is the first time a court in Nigeria has ruled on whether or not sex work is legal. The judgment is expected to be a preliminary ruling. So far, it has been common for prostitutes to be arrested by security agents in the country.


The fight against smuggling across the border is intensified

November 14

Nigeria, Niger and Benin join forces in the fight against widespread smuggling across borders. The problem has caused Nigeria to close its border on trade with the two neighboring states (see August 2019). The three countries will set up a special monitoring and patrol committee.


Appeal against Buhari’s election victory is rejected

October 30th

The Supreme Court rejects Atiku Abubakar’s appeal of the result in the February 2019 presidential election when Buhari won and Abubakar lost from the PDP opposition party (see February 2019 and September 2019). Thus, an eight-month appeal period is over.

The boundaries are kept closed

October 16

The Nigerian Customs Agency announces that the country’s borders against Benin and Niger will remain closed until further notice in an attempt to reduce the extensive smuggling. The problem has led to increased tensions between the three states.

Buhari visits South Africa

October 3

President Buhari visits South Africa after a period of violent xenophobic attacks against Nigerians and other foreign nationals in the country (see September 2019). Buhari and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa meet in Pretoria, where countries sign dozens of trade agreements, including in agriculture and manufacturing. During the visit, Ramaphosa condemns the attacks against people from other African countries. The two countries agree to exchange intelligence and set up a kind of warning system to prevent similar wave of violence from occurring again.


Tens of thousands flee the violence in the northwest

September 27th

Over the past ten months, more than 40,000 people have fled across the border to Niger from violent attacks from criminal gangs raging in the states of Sokoto, Zamfara and Katsina in northwestern Nigeria. The attacks have no connection to Boko Haram, which is mainly in the country’s northeast, according to police. The violence that the gang is guilty of is kidnappings, murders, sexual crimes such as rapes and serious violent crimes.

Students are exempted from schools

September 27th

In a strike against an Islamic school in Kaduna in the north, police discover more than 300 male students who are locked up under horrible conditions. Many of the students are chained, others testify to torture and sexual abuse. Some boys are as young as nine years old. Most of them have been placed in school by their relatives because, for example, they had problems with drugs or wanted to convert to Christianity. The school’s owner is arrested at the strike together with six employees. The students come from several different countries, such as Burkina Faso, Mali and Ghana. In recent months, the authorities have exempted more than 1,000 students from similar schools in Northern Nigeria.

22,000 disappeared because of Boko Haram

September 12

Nearly 22,000 people have disappeared as a result of Boko Haram’s uprising in northeastern Nigeria, according to the Red Cross. Of those, six out of ten were children when they disappeared. Many disappear when families split up in connection with the jihadist attacks, others kidnapped by Boko Haram. Since the uprising began in 2009, more than 27,000 people have been killed and about two million have been displaced. The fact that the uprising has spread to several other countries has created a humanitarian crisis, according to the aid organization.

Hundreds of Nigerians fly home from South Africa

11 September

Nearly 200 Nigerians who have resided in South Africa are flown back to their homeland. In South Africa, mainly Johannesburg and its environs, foreign nationals, including many Nigerians, have been subjected to a wave of xenophobic attacks in recent weeks. A dozen people have been killed, while hundreds have been arrested. Several hundred foreign-owned shops and companies have been vandalized. A total of over 500 Nigerians are taken home within a week.

Appeals against Buhari’s election victory are rejected

11 September

An Abuja court rejects opposition leader and presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar’s appeal of Buhari’s victory in the February 2019 presidential election. The Court considers that Abubakar and his party PDP failed to prove that the election was rigged in Buhari’s favor. The court also states that the opposition could not prove that Buhari lied about his school grades. The PDP describes the verdict as a frontal assault on the independence of the Nigerian judicial system and announces that the party is now appealing to the Supreme Court with its appeal.

Alien hostile attacks in South Africa

September 4th

Nigeria boycots the World Economic Forum in Cape Town as a result of a number of xenophobic attacks on migrants in South Africa, including many Nigerians. The attacks against foreign-owned stores and companies in South Africa are met by revenge campaigns against South Africans in Nigeria. At least 12 people are killed in South Africa, most South Africans. Both countries increase the security of companies owned by Nigerians and South Africans respectively. Tensions between Nigeria and South Africa are also increasing at the diplomatic level. After a while, however, the South African government apologizes to Nigeria for what has happened.


The border is closed to Niger and Benin

August 15th

Nigeria closes the borders of Niger and Benin in an attempt to put a stop to the extensive smuggling to and from these neighboring countries. For example, rice is smuggled into Nigeria, where the government has banned imports to support its own rice farmers. Smugglers also buy subsidized Nigerian oil and then smuggle it to Benin and sell it there.

Nigeria gets new government

21th of August

President Buhari presents his new government, almost three months after he swore presidential oath. It consists of 43 ministers, seven of whom are women. Defense Minister becomes Bashir Magashi, Minister of the Interior goes to Rauf Aregbesola, while Geoffrey Onyeama remains as Foreign Minister and Zainab Ahmed as Finance Minister. Buhari receives criticism from those who believe he mainly chose loyal veterans within the APC instead of focusing on young people, women and experts. Three major challenges for the new government are the weak economic development, the widespread corruption and, not least, the security problems with Islamist insurgency and ethnic violence.


Shi’ite IMN is banned

July 28

The government bans Nigeria’s Islamic Movement (IMN) on the grounds that the Shi’ite group is engaging in “terrorism and illegality”. The ban comes after a period of violent clashes between police and IMN members demonstrating in Abuja for their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky to be released from prison where he has been sitting since 2015.

More than 70 dead in Boko Haram deed

July 28

More than 70 people are killed and about 10 injured when Boko Haram strikes a funeral home in a village near the city of Maiduguri in northeastern Nigeria. Some victims are killed in connection with the funeral, while others are killed as they begin a hunt for the fleeing attackers.

Many dead in Shiite protests

July 22nd

About 10 people are killed when Shiite protesters clash with police in Abuja. Among the victims are protesters and police, as well as a journalist. The protesters belong to the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), which has been demonstrating for months to have its imprisoned leader Zakzaky released. He was sentenced in 2015 for terrorist offenses.


Buhari swears presidential order

May 29th

Muhammadu Buhari swears the presidency for a second term. This is despite the fact that four appeals have been filed against the election results (see February 2019) and that these are now being considered by the court.

APC is awarded the election victory in Osun

May 9

The Court of Appeal affirms Gboyega Oyetola of the APC victory in the governor’s election in Osun and annuls a state decision granting PDP candidate Ademola Adeleke the victory (see March 2019 and September 2018).

Reduced power for the emir of Kano

May 8

The emirate of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, has his powers conferred by the state governor. The Emir is one of the most influential traditional leaders in the Muslim-dominated northern Nigeria. He is a sharp critic of both the central and state government as well as radical religious leaders. The power of the emirate is diminished by an administrative division within the state. The emir of Kano was formerly the head of the Central Bank of Nigeria and then ran an intensive campaign against corruption within the state apparatus.


Occupation ban for former chief judge

April 18

Walter Onnoghen, former chief judge of the Supreme Court, is sentenced for corruption by a special court and given a professional ban on ten years. The opposition says the verdict is politically motivated (see January 2019).

The country’s highest judge is forced to resign

April 5

Supreme Court Chief Judge Walter Onnoghen resigns, his lawyers say. Onnoghen was suspended from his post in January after it was revealed that he had not properly accounted for his private assets (see January 2019). The judge’s departure came a day after a judge ruled he should be forced to retire because of the neglect.

PDP wins the governorship election in Rivers

April 3

In the canceled governor election in Rivers State (see March 2019), the incumbent governor Nyesom Wike from the PDP is awarded the victory. Wike’s victory margin is so large that it exceeds the number of registered voters in the areas where the election had to be postponed due to violence.


PDP wins the most re-election

March 23rd

In the six states where the governorship and state elections are held, PDP wins in three states while APC takes home the victory in two. In Adamawa, the election is set. Violence is reported from several directions. In the state of Kano in the northwest, men armed with machete and knives attack the electorate and force them to flee a number of polling stations. Similar information comes from Bauchi in the east.

The PDP is awarded the Osun governor post

March 22

The election of Gboyega Oyetola from the APC as governor of Osun is annulled by a state appeal body. Instead, Ademola Adeleke is awarded the PDP victory in the state’s disputed governorship election. The result was appealed by the PDP as only 500 votes separated the two candidates (see September 2018).

APC wins in most states

14th of March

In the 22 states that are running for governor and state elections, President Buhari’s party wins APC in 13 while opposition PDP wins in 9 states.

Re-election in six states

the 12th of March

The Election Authority announces that the governorship elections in six states have been annulled due to technical and administrative problems and will be re-done on March 23. The re-election applies to the states of Kano, Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa, Benue and Plateau. In Rivers, the governorship and state elections have been suspended due to unrest.

The election is canceled in Rivers

March 10

The Election Authority announces that the election in Rivers State has been canceled due to violence and threats directed at election workers. According to on-site media, people in military attire must have surrounded a polling station in the state capital Port Harcourt and kidnapped staff and stolen result lists. The police must have dispelled the violent men with tear gas.

Worried when the state elections are held

March 9

Governor elections are held in 29 of the 36 states. At the same time, elections are being held for all 36 state assemblies and for the administrative council in the federal metropolitan area of ‚Äč‚ÄčAbuja. Nigerian election observers report voting, high military presence in public places and violence between supporters of various political parties with at least seven casualties. In some places the choice is delayed due to technical problems with biometric ID cards.


APC wins the parliamentary elections

February 23

When all seats except 14 are distributed, the election results show that the ruling party APC has won clearly the most seats in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. President Buhari’s APC has won 216 seats in the House of Representatives, while the opposition PDP has received 114. All Progressives Great Alliance (APGA) wins 10 seats and 7 seats go to five small parties. In the Senate, APC receives 65 seats and PDP 39.

President Buhari reelected

February 23

President Buhari from the ruling APC is re-elected with 56 percent of the vote in the presidential election, against 41 percent for Abubakar from the opposition PDP, the Inec election authority reports. Buhari wins in 19 of the 36 states (including the two most populous Lagos and Kano), while Abubakar gets the most votes in the remaining 17 and in the metropolitan area. The turnout is low, in some parts of the country it is only 18 percent. The PDP claims that electoral fraud and irregularities in the election process have occurred and requires recalculation of the votes in some areas. The outcome of the parliamentary elections, held on the same day, is yet to be determined.

Violent choice

February 23

After a tense week, with many accusations of electoral fraud, the postponed presidential and parliamentary elections are held. Forty people are killed in election-related violence during the last two days. According to SBM Intelligence, which analyzes political and economic development, 233 people are killed in election-related violence between October 2018 and February 22, 2019. That gives an average of two deaths per day. More than 300 people are arrested for suspected crimes or irregularities in connection with the election. At the same time, violence continues in the north, where Boko Haram and several criminal gangs ravage. Over 200 people were killed there in February alone.

The election is postponed for a week

February 16th

The Nigeria Election Authority (Inec) announces late in the evening before Election Day that the presidential and parliamentary elections will be moved from February 16 to February 23. The reason is major logistical problems with getting election materials to all polling stations. In their quarters, people are already queuing outside the polling stations when the message arrives. The two major parties PDP and APC condemn the electoral authority for making the decision just hours before the election should have begun. The two accuse each other of being behind the delay in order to strengthen their own chances of rolling victory. The governorship and state elections are postponed until March 9.

The level of violence is rising before the election

February 13

The two main candidates in the presidential election on February 16, incumbent President Muhammmadu Buhari and challenger Atiku Abubakar, enter into an agreement to counter election-related violence and to accept the election result. The level of violence has increased as Election Day approaches. Among other things, three polling stations have been burnt down (but without any people being reported injured). About twenty people have been trampled to death in congestion at election meetings and some election-related acts of violence have been committed.


Election Commissioners are sentenced to prison

January 25

Two former members of Nigeria’s electoral commission are sentenced to seven years in prison each for receiving bribes from the country’s then oil minister Diezani Alison-Madueke in connection with the 2015 election. The two were convicted of receiving the equivalent of $ 730,500 from Alison-Madueke, who in addition to the oil minister under President Goodluck Jonathan, he was also the head of Opec. She has been linked to a number of crimes such as money laundering and bribery both in Nigeria and abroad.

Buhari shuts off the country’s highest judge

January 25

President Buhari suspends Supreme Court Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen from his office. It takes a few weeks for the presidential election to be held on February 16. Onnoghen would have been the one to decide the appeal of the election result. Onnoghen was charged on January 12 for failing to report certain bank assets, which the rules require him to do. Buhari says he is forced to shut down the judge because he refused to resign himself after the indictment. The opposition condemns Buhari’s actions as “a dictatorial act” and a “legal coup”. Buhari has also previously been critical of Onnoghen for many cases of corruption charges being dropped during Onnughen’s time in court, according to Buhari. The EU, US and UK also criticize Buhari for suspending the chief judge so close to the election.

Female presidential candidate jumps off

January 24th

Obiageli Ezekwesili gives up his attempts to be elected president in February. Instead, she intends to work to create an alternative political alliance for PDP and APC. Obiageli Ezekwesili has previously been Minister of Education, Deputy Head of the World Bank and one of the leaders of the campaign “Bring Back Our Girls” which in 2014 worked to bring back girls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram.

Significantly increased minimum wage

January 22

The government agrees with the trade union movement to raise the minimum wage from 18,000 naira a month to 27,000 (equivalent to SEK 450). Employers with fewer than 25 employees are exempt from the change. The agreement comes after the union has for a long time threatened with strike to get an increase in the minimum wage. One reason is high inflation (around 11 percent) which leads to rising living costs.

Many dead in cattle herds

January 15

At least 26 people are killed when a large number of cattle thieves on some 20 motorcycles attack three villages in the state of Sokoto in the north. At least 24 men and two women are shot dead by the attackers. The villages are on the border of the state of Zamfara, which is plagued by criminal gangs that steal cattle and kidnap people. The many raids in recent years have caused the villagers to form the Citizens’ Guard to protect themselves. These gardens sometimes kill the attackers, who respond with new revenge campaigns.

Tens of thousands flee from Boko Haram

January 9

More than 30,000 people have since the end of December 2018 fled Boko Haram’s ravages near Lake Chad in Borno state in the northeast, the UN reports. Many of the refugees are women and children who have sought refuge from the Baga fishing community on Lake Chad to refugee camps in Maiduguri and Monguno after the Islamist group attacked two military garrisons near Baga on December 26. Two days later, about 20,000 refugees were allowed to leave Monguno, which was then attacked by Boko Haram. They then fled on to Maiduguri. Baga has been attacked repeatedly during the nine-year conflict between the state and Boko Haram. More than 27,000 people have been killed in the conflict and 1.8 million have become homeless.

Buhari’s relative in the Election Commission

7 th of January

Amina Zakari, who is inducted into President Buhari’s family, has been appointed a member of the Election Commission just over a month before the presidential election is to be held. The nomination receives criticism from the opposition party PDP, which believes it is an attempt to strengthen Buhari before the election.

Nigeria Labor Market