The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, SERAP, has dragged state governments and the Federal Government to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), “requesting its Governing Body to, suo motu, and in its own capacity, establish without delay a Commission of Inquiry to examine systematic and egregious non-observance of Convention No 29 on Forced Labour and other international standards on the right of workers to timely payment of salaries.”
The organisation said the complaint was brought pursuant to articles 26-34 of the ILO Constitution.
The complaint dated June 19 and signed by SERAP executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, was addressed to Guy Ryder, Director General, ILO. The complaint was copied to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
The complaint reads in part: “SERAP is seriously concerned that several state governments and the Federal Government of Nigeria are failing and/or refusing to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements, amounting to billions of dollars in arrears. The state governments that have failed and/or refused to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements include: Osun, Rivers, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Plateau, Benue, and Bauchi states.”
“SERAP contends that the failure and/or refusal of state governments and Federal Government to pay workers’ salaries and allowances and pensioners’ entitlements is a clear violation of the right to work recognized by various ILO instruments and article 6 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Nigeria is a state party. The right to work is essential for realizing other human rights and forms an inseparable and inherent part of human dignity.”
“Failure of states to pay workers’ salaries is tantamount to penalising them, and as the International Labour Organization has ruled, menace penalty amounts to forced labour and economic exploitation. This is because the workers have not offered themselves to work without pay.”
“SERAP also contends that the failure to pay workers’ salaries amount to a fundamental breach of the obligation to ensure the absence of forced labour and economic exploitation, and guarantee workers’ remuneration so as to provide an income allowing workers to support themselves and their families. The right to work contributes to the survival of the individual and to that of his/her family, and to his/her development and recognition within the community. Therefore, by failing to pay workers’ salaries the state governments in Nigeria have violated the right of the workers to live in dignity.”
“SERAP argues that there is absolutely no justification why state governments or the Federal Government in Nigeria should not pay workers’ salaries. In fact international law provides that workers’ salaries must be paid even in times of severe resource constraints, as disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups must be protected by the adoption of targeted programmes to ensure that they live in dignity.”
“SERAP also contends that the failure of the state governments and the Federal Government in Nigeria to pay workers’ salaries is as a result mismanagement of resources and corruption which under the Covenant amount to “deliberate retrogression” in the protection of the right to work.”
“While ordinary Nigerian workers and pensioners are routinely denied their salaries and entitlements, senior government officials continue to receive their salaries and live lavishly. This also clearly amounts to discrimination against workers on the grounds of national or social origin, or civil, political, social or other status, as it has the effect of impairing or nullifying exercise of the right to work on a basis of equality.”
“The failure to pay workers’ salaries also violates Nigeria’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to work including requiring state governments and Federal Government in Nigeria to refrain from interfering directly or indirectly with the enjoyment of that right and to adopt appropriate economic and budgetary measures to ensure timely payment of workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements.”
“SERAP contends that the failure of state governments and Federal Government in Nigeria to pay workers’ salaries show that they are unwilling to use the maximum of their available resources through insufficient expenditure or misallocation of public funds, for the realization of the right to work in violation of their obligations under article 6.”
“The country’s justice system has proven highly inadequate to enforce the right of workers to timely remuneration and freedom from economic exploitation. The state governments and Federal Government of Nigeria have taken no effective measures to address the salary crisis in the country, and have in fact significantly downplayed it.”
SERAP therefore urged the ILO “to set up a Commission of Inquiry to examine the salary crisis in Nigeria with a view to making recommendations to state governments and Federal Government of Nigeria to:
A.End discrimination and unequal treatment of workers in terms of timely payment of salaries of all workers whether or not they belong to disadvantaged and marginalized sectors of the population or high-ranking government officials.
B. Create conditions favourable to the enjoyment of the right to work, as well as with remuneration that enables workers and their families to enjoy an adequate standard of living as required by international law.
C. Adopt and implement a national employment strategy and plan of action based on and addressing the salary crisis in Nigeria and ensure that all workers can live in dignity.
D. Ensure that any worker or pensioner who is a victim of a violation of the right to work have access to effective judicial or other appropriate remedies. All victims of such violations are entitled to adequate reparation, which may take the form of restitution, compensation, satisfaction or a guarantee of non-repetition.
E. Refer cases of corruption and mismanagement of public funds that have undermined the ability of governments to protect the right to work and remuneration to appropriate anti-corruption institutions for thorough and effective investigation and prosecution.