Unfortunately, there is no concise and well-articulated provision in the Nigerian Labour Act that seek to criminalized age discrimination as it is in countries such as the United States, Great Britain or in the European Union.
However, section 42 of Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2011) as amended provides for general protection against discrimination in areas of disabilities, restriction due to one’s place of origin, gender, religion, political interests or opinions.
Section 42 (1)(b) further buttressed this when it states that no citizen of Nigeria shall be accorded any privilege or advantage that is not accorded to citizens of Nigeria that are of other communities, ethnic groups or due to their place of origin, sex, religion or political opinions.
The section of the Nigerian Constitution that provides for some level of protection against age discrimination in Section 17 (3) of Chapter 11 of the Constitution (Fundamental Objectives and Directives Principles of State Policy) which states that the state shall direct its policy towards ensuring the following:
- Opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood
- Just and humane work condition
- Health, safety, and welfare of all persons in employment
- Equal pay for equal work without discrimination on any ground and,
- Prohibition of child and aged labour.
As good as these provisions might sound, Section 6 (6) made it clear that they are limited or non-justiciable; therefore any action brought to enforce them will be void and considered legally unenforceable.
In constructive term, age is a factor in employment as far as the Nigerian Labour Act and laws are concerned. Basically, the law is quiet on this hence the justification by employers who deliberately pegged entry age and discriminated against older applicants for job placement.
It should be noted, however, that the Nigerian Labour Act has strict regulation governing underage employment a provision taken from the Minimum Age Convention, 1973 ( No . 138) of the International Labour Organization (ILO).
In addition, it would also be seen that there are provisions for the retirement age for public servants and those in academics. For example, those in public service have a mandatory 35 years of service or a compulsory retirement at the age of 65 years whichever come first. For academic staff in the university, the mandatory retirement ages range between 65 and 70 years.
The final justification for this can be find in Part 111 (7) (1) of the Pension Reform Act, 2014 which states thus “ A holder of a retirement savings account shall, upon retirement or attaining the age of 50 years whichever is later, utilize the amount credited to his retirement savings account …”
From the foregoing, it could be inferred that the Nigerian Labour Act and Laws has an unvoiced approval for age discrimination in employment matters. This leaves employers of labour at liberty to decide on age requirements for openings in their organizations. By implication too, they are at liberty to use age as a criterion for employment selection.
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