It is unarguable that the labour force is still rife with discriminatory practices. Among the several forms of discrimination, two major forms of discrimination are gender and age discrimination and they are prevalent in today's Nigeria. One of the sustainable development goals of the UN before 2030 is to reduce inequalities. "By 2030, empower and promote the social, economic and political inclusion of all, irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion or economic or other status". A research in a more developed area like UK suggested that at least 21% of adults of 40-60 years of age has experienced age discrimination while a whooping 40% above 60 has experienced such.1 The most affected part of the workforce in this regard seems to be the older women since they are doubly affected by both age and gender. This article seeks to take a look at the provisions of the Nigerian law and the adequacy of it in this regard.

Gender discrimination

Gender discrimination also known as sexual discrimination when streamlined to labour law refers to any form of any action that specifically denies opportunities, privileges, or rewards to a person (or a group) because of gender. The practice of letting a person's gender become a factor when deciding who receives a job or a promotion, is gender discrimination. When gender is a factor in other decisions about employment opportunities or benefits, that too is gender discrimination.

While most discrimination charges claim that a woman (or women) was discriminated against in favor of a man (or men), there have also been cases where males have claimed that they have been discriminated against on the basis of gender. These cases are usually referred to as "reverse discrimination."2

Statistically, women are more likely to be discriminated against than men thus leading to a lower level of representation of women especially in higher roles.

Here are a few examples.

  1. The FTSE 100 index includes the biggest companies on the London stock exchange. Only 6 out of 100 CEOs are women3
  2. The Hang Seng index details the largest companies that trade on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Out of the top. 50, only one is a woman4
  3. For every dollar a man earns, a woman earns 63 cents5

A recent analysis estimates that Nigeria's gross domestic product could grow by 23 percent by 2025 if women were to participate in the labor force at the same rate as men. And the International Monetary Fund suggested that Nigeria could make its vulnerable economy more stable by improving its low levels of gender equality (it ranks 122nd among 144 countries on the World Economic Forum's global gender gap index).

Forms of gender discrimination are: Sexual harassment, working longer hours, less pay for one gender, Gender bias in distribution of opportunities at work.

Age discrimination

The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity (EEOC) defines age discrimination as 'treating an applicant or employee less favourably because of his or her age'. Elderly and youthful employees sometimes experience age discrimination in the workplace. Ageism is stereotyping or discriminating against individuals or groups because of their age. Employers are generally not allowed to hire, fire, or promote employees, nor decide an employee's compensation based on their age. However, it can be difficult to determine whether an employer's actions were motivated by age discrimination, or by a genuine belief that another person can perform a particular job better.

There are various forms of age discrimination in hiring, firing, pay, task assignment, promotions, paid trips, training and various opportunities at work.

While some are more subtle, others are very glaring.

61% of US workers at or over the age of 45 reported witnessing or experiencing ageism in the workplace.6Even though ageism affects both men and women, Ageism affects women and men at similar rates and ages-age 40 for women compared to age 45 for men in the UK.7

Older women face marginalization based on "lookism," or gendered youthful beauty standards in addition to the unfounded societal biases that older employees are less innovative, adaptive, and generally less qualified8.In one study, women managers reported feeling pressure to adhere to societal beauty standards and maintain a young look. As an example, women are almost twice as likely as men to feel compelled to dye their hair9

The term "gendered ageism" covers the intersectionality of age and gender bias: two disadvantaged groups.10. In the workplace, age discrimination is becoming not only a liability concern but also a growing diversity issue.

Nigerian laws on gender and age discrimination

Section 42 of the Constitution specifically provides for the right to freedom from discrimination. The section provides that a citizen of Nigeria shall not be subjected to any disabilities or restriction, expressly or in application of any law or any executive or administrative action of the government just because he is such a person or be subjected to disabilities or restriction due to their place of origin, sex, religion or political opinions. In the same vein, section 42(1)(b) states that a citizen of Nigeria shall not 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 opinion.The Nigerian legal jurisprudence scarcely provides against age discrimination in employment matters as there is no specific legislation on age discrimination in the workplace. The Labour Act, which is the main extant legislative authority with respect to labour matters in Nigeria, only provides against the employment of a child or young person; though with some exceptions. The Act does not make provision against age discrimination or ageism with respect to recruitment, retainment or promotion of employees.

A further look at the Nigerian legislation on these inequalities.

Discriminatory laws in Nigeria as it affects the workforce.

Let's start with the constitution which is the grundnorm of Nigeria. The S.42 which is supposed to provide protection is also limited being that it provides protection against only executive action but not from other sources like private individuals or organisations. In Madu V. Onuaguluchi11 and Onwo V. Oko12 It was held that the fundamental rights in s.42 can only be enforced against public officials and not individuals. It was later reversed by the court of appeal. However, we don't know that the court of appeal properly interpreted the section before overturning the decision. This makes the law (S.42) precarious at best.

S.55 of the Labour Act, chapter 198 of the laws of the federation 1990 prohibits female exempt nurses from undertaking night work or private industrial undertaking or any agricultural undertaking.

S.56 further prevents women from being employed in an underground mine except for those employed in management, health and service training.

As recent as 2004 in Nigeria, the legislature was still ratifying laws that stifled women police officers. The police act 2004 required women to seek for permission to get married, prohibiting them from getting married 3 years after employment13 Etc. Though S.124 was held nullified by the court. Wela V AG Fed.14.

Failed bills

  • Gender and Equal opportunities bill
  • Abolition of all forms of discrimination against women in Nigeria and other related matters bill 2006
  • Sexual offences Act Bill 2013
  • Labour amendment act bill 2016

Ratified Charters

CEDAW 1985


Admittedly, there have been some improvements to certain age stipulations in regards to public service. The Bill (officially known as "Bill for an Act to Eradicate the Age Discrimination against Job seekers in Federal Government Agencies; and for Related Matters (HB. 1502)") was sponsored by Sergius Ogun and Babajimi Bensonand was approved by the House of Representatives in Nigeria which prohibited the Federal Government Ministries, Agencies and Departments from discriminating against job seekers on the basis of their age. Apart from this, no other law supports anti age discrimination.

Is there adequate protection under the law?

From the foregoing provisions, it is safe to say that the laws have been more discriminatory than anti discriminatory and everyone is being forced to deal with the short-sightedness of the legislature. Banks still include 26-27 years as their mark and institutions still seek early retirement from individuals.

It is unrealistic at this point to continue to ignore this situation as it affects the economy and reduces productivity generally. The people deserve laws to protect them. Continued nonchalance would see a further tremendous decrease in the workforce which might lead to more dependency. A country where a huge part of the population is jobless or unproductive will definitely lead to stagnancy, higher crime rate, lower GDP. Etc.

A country where citizens rights come first, is a country that thrives amongst others.


It is assumed that women's equality will be achieved by just facilitating women coming together. However, driving change requires decision makers to be involved and actually show involvement through their actions. At the moment, those with the power to decide are still disproportionately men. That is why the male political party leader or business chief executive officer or chair of the board needs to be in the room, truly listening to women, responding to women and acting for gender equality15

Every successful attempt to change is usually a collective effort. It begins with awareness of the problem, acceptance and then collective action. The question is "Should one more person be allowed to go through a discriminatory practice simply because he or she does not have enough protection under the law?




3. Kalyeena Makortoff, "Half of new FTSE 100 chiefs must be women to hit gender target", the Guardian , 13 November 2015.

4. Community Business, 'Women on Board: Q1:2 January 2020, Community Business, 'Women on Board: Q1:2 January 2020, boards-2020-Q1

5. World economic forum, Global Gender Gap 2020

6. _Rebecca Perron,The Value of Experience: Age Discrimination Against Older Workers Persist (AARP, 2018).

7. Lindsay Cook, "Ageism in the Workplace 'Starts at 40' for Women," Financial Times, December 21, 2018

8. Diane Grant, "Older Women, Work and the Impact of Discrimination," in Age Discrimination and Diversity: Multiple Discrimination from an Age Perspective, ed. Malcolm Sargeant (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011): p. 41-63

9. Ageism at Work Starts Earlier than You Think," Fast Company, September 10, 2019.

10. Victoria A. Lipnic, The State of Age Discrimination and Older Workers in the U.S. 50 Years After the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, June 2018); Clay Krekula, Pirjo Nikander, and Monika Wilinska, "Multiple Marginalizations Based on Age: Gendered Ageism and Beyond," Contemporary Perspectives on Ageism, vol. 19 (2018): p. 33-50

11. (1985)6 NCLR 356

12. (1996) 6NWLR 584

13. S124,S127 of police act of 2004

14. (Unreported) suit no. FHC/IKJ/CS/M128/2010

15. P. 289. Women and leadership. Real lives, Real lessons. By Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo iweala in conversation with some of the world's moSt powerful women

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.