Nigeria’s Working Conditions in Need of “serious, urgent overhauling”: Catholic Bishop

Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese. Credit: Oyo Diocese

On the occasion of the annual celebration of the International Labor Day commemorated May 1, a Catholic Bishop in Nigeria has lamented the working conditions in the West Africa nation.

In his message for Labor Day 2023 shared with ACI Africa, Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Nigeria’s Oyo Diocese says, “Working conditions in both the public and private sectors yearn for serious and urgent overhauling. Nigeria, so to speak, needs a moral blood transfusion.”

Bishop Badejo highlights the challenges that workers in Africa’s most populous nation face, and say the issues “offend the moral law of God”.

“Exploitation of others or their resources, forcing down prices of raw materials, inhospitable conditions of work, unjustly taking over the property belonging to others or the like, impugn human dignity, damage social trust and offend the moral law of God,” he says in his message shared with ACI Africa on April 29.

The Catholic Church leader says that “in Nigeria the condition of most workers remains pathetic”, adding that “government insensitivity to the plight and demands of workers like doctors, nurses, teachers, journalists, and security agencies is nothing short of cruel, especially when compared to politicians’ remunerations.”


“This, sadly, affects the entire masses who rely on the services which those workers provide,” the Local Ordinary of Oyo Diocese who doubles as the President of the Pan African Episcopal Committee for Social Communications (CEPACS), an entity of the Symposium of Episcopal Conference of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM), says about the insensitivity of the government to workers’ plight.

In his considered view, “Only a just relationship driven by dialogue and sensitivity can guarantee an escape from the quagmire of resentment and suspicion which currently characterizes the relationship between employees and employers in the country.”

“With the imminent dispensation, employees and employers must embrace a new regime of merit and rebuild the crumbling labor fortress,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop who was appointed member of the Vatican Dicastery for Communications in December 2021 says.

Celebrated every year on May 1 since 1890 in over 80 countries, Labor Day celebrates the “contributions of workers, promote their rights, and commemorate the labor movement.”

Reflecting on this year’s celebration, Bishop Badejo says, “Work is one indispensable resource by which God made man and by which man sustains the world.”

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“We are told that after all the work, God saw that what he had done was good. For this reason, we know that there is dignity in work and work is really love made visible. It is thus befitting to congratulate workers on this day to congratulate all who provide work and do same to all who provide the conducive environment in which work can be done,” he says.

Important and fundamental though work is, the Nigerian Catholic Bishop says that he finds it regrettable that “too many factors deny millions of workers of the joy and fulfillment which they should derive from the work they do.”

“Regrettably today, conflicts, discrimination, unjust structures, scarcity of jobs, bad management and greed hamper the integral human development that work ought to bring to individuals, family and the society. This, to say the least, is unfortunate and deserves urgent attention,” he says. 

The 61-year-old Nigerian Bishop who started his Episcopal Ministry in October 2007 as Coadjutor Bishop of Oyo Diocese adds, “Integral human development, the ideal of all humanity, will remain a mirage if contentious issues concerning work are not resolved.”

“The Catholic Church teaches that just wages are a legitimate fruit of work. It can be grave injustice to withhold or refuse it,” Bishop Badejo says, and continues, “Remuneration for work should guarantee man the opportunity to provide a dignified livelihood for himself and his family on the material, social and cultural levels.” 


He advocates for justice in remuneration, saying, “Governments and peoples cannot honestly desire peace or authentic development without ensuring just wages for work done.”

Bishop Badejo challenges employees to embrace honesty in their places of work. He says, “Workers too must do just work for the wages they receive in order to fulfill the social contract and in order not to be guilty of dishonesty and stealing.”

“The Catholic Church has always taught that there is dignity in labor and that work is a vocation with a spiritual dimension. Every worker in some way participates in the divine project of advancing the work of creation,” he says in his Labor Day 2023 message shared with ACI Africa.

Making reference to Pope Francis, Bishop Badejo says, “May 1st, each year, the feast of St Joseph the Worker, is the day the Church remembers the world of labor.”

He further says, “The Church demands that work be dignified everywhere and for everyone," and that the work of men and women everywhere "inspire the will to develop an economy of peace all over the world.” 

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“The Church also prays for all those who in the course of their work have lost life, limbs, and property in the course of their work, especially victims of corrupt and unjust systems, that their sacrifice be not allowed to pass in vain,” the Nigerian Catholic Bishop says.