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SERAP requests ILO to probe non-payment of Nigerian workers’ salaries




A group, Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP), has requested International Labour Organisation (ILO) to urgently establish a commission of inquiry to examine alleged “systematic and egregious non-observance” by the federal and state governments in Nigeria 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 19th June 2015 and signed by Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni was addressed to the Director General of ILO, Guy Ryder.

It was copied to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. According to Mumuni, SERAP is seriously concerned that several state governments and the Federal Government are failing and/or refusing to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements, amounting to billions of dollars in arrears.

The group listed the state governments that have failed and/or refused to pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements to include Osun, Rivers, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, Plateau, Benue, and Bauchi.

The statement reads in part: “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.” The group argued 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.

SERAP stressed that 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.

According to SERAP, “there is absolutely no justification why governments 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.

“The failure to pay Nigerian workers’ salaries is a result of mismanagement of resources and corruption which under the Covenant amount to ‘deliberate retrogression’ in the protection of the right to work.”

The group noted that 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 fulfill 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.”

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