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‘The Proposed Minimum Wage Recommendations Are Not Unrealistic’ – SERAP Sends Message To Tinubu

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The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has informed President Bola Tinubu that the proposed minimum wage recommendations are not unrealistic.

SERAP also urged President Tinubu to ensure that any proposed bill regarding a new minimum wage for Nigerian workers aligns with Nigeria’s international commitments to uphold workers’ rights to a decent living wage.

Recall that the President, in his Democracy Day Speech on June 12, promised that the new national minimum will soon be sent to the National Assembly for approval.

The statement of Tinubu came days after the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, George Akume, received the recommendations of the 37-member Tripartite Committee on National Minimum Wage.

The Presidency had stated that organized labour’s demand for ₦497,000 as minimum wage is unrealistic and unserious.

The Federal Government, represented by the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris, had affirmed its dedication to establishing a realistic and sustainable minimum wage for Nigerian workers, mindful of the potential repercussions on the nation’s employment rates.

He urged organized labour to consider the broader economic implications of their wage demands to avoid triggering widespread job losses.

In a letter dated June 15, 2024, signed by SERAP deputy director Kolawole Oluwadare, the organization stated that the proposed minimum wage level in the executive bill is severely insufficient and fails to meet the standards outlined in international human rights treaties ratified by Nigeria.

SERAP emphasized the need for the executive bill to ensure Nigerian workers receive a living wage, aligning with international standards, as many workers struggle to afford basic living expenses despite being employed.

The letter read in part: “Any proposed minimum wage that fails to guarantee a life in dignity for Nigerian workers and their families would be entirely inconsistent and incompatible with international standards.

“Successive governments have persistently and systematically violated these guarantees. Millions of Nigerian workers remain poor due mainly to low wages and a lack of social security and social protection.

“If your government sends to the National Assembly any bill which fails to meet the requirements of international standards, and the bill is then passed into law, SERAP shall take all appropriate legal actions to compel your government to comply with our request in the public interest.

“The proposed recommendations are not unrealistic, as they are based on Nigeria’s international human rights obligations. Human rights are not a matter of charity. Upholding Nigeria’s international obligations regarding the right of workers to an adequate living wage would protect the purchasing power of workers in poverty.

“The preparation of the executive bill provides you and your government an important opportunity to respect, protect, promote and advance the rights of Nigerian workers to an adequate living wage and fair remuneration.

“We urge you to take concrete steps to defend the rights of Nigerian workers to an adequate living wage.

“This would ensure that the proposed executive bill protects not only against absolute poverty but also against relative poverty, as a source of social exclusion.

“Your government has legal obligations to reflect these guarantees in any executive bill on the new minimum wage to be sent to the National Assembly.

“The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights imposes clear legal obligations on your government to ensure and uphold the right of Nigerian workers to an adequate living wage that would ensure a decent standard of living for the workers and their families.

“We urge you to put the country’s resources at the service of human rights, and to advance Nigerian workers’ right to an adequate living wage by immediately cutting the cost of governance and implementing bold transparency and accountability measures in ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs).

“We urge you and your government to urgently propose cuts in the huge budgetary allocations to fund security votes, jumbo salaries and allowances paid to members of the National Assembly, and unlawful life pensions to former governors and their deputies.

“We also urge you and your government to immediately and fully recover missing public funds from MDAs, as documented in the several reports published by the Auditor-General of the Federation.

“These would enable you and your government to effectively comply with Nigeria’s international legal obligations regarding workers’ right to an adequate living wage.

“Article 27 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties of 1969, to which Nigeria is a state party provides that ‘[A] party may not invoke the provisions of its internal as justification for its failure to perform a treaty.’

“The minimum wage setting must take into consideration the relative living standards of other social groups and economic factors, including the requirements of economic development.

“This means that the level of wages to be proposed in the executive bill takes into account the current cost of living in the country, to ensure that it is sufficient to enable the worker and his or her family to enjoy other rights such as health care, education and an adequate standard of living.

“SERAP urges you to ensure that the proposed executive bill sets the minimum wage at a level that corresponds to the ‘living wage’, allowing Nigerian workers and their families to achieve an adequate standard of living.

“We would therefore be grateful if the recommended measures are reflected in the proposed executive bill.

“According to our information, you stated in your Democracy Day Speech on June 12 2024 that your government is finalising an executive bill on the new minimum wage which is set to be sent to the National Assembly.

“Under article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 7 (a) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, all Nigerian workers have the right to a remuneration which provides them, as a minimum, with fair wages and a decent living for themselves and their families.

“In the preamble of its Constitution, ILO calls for ‘an adequate living wage’, and in the Declaration concerning the aims and purposes of the International Labour Organization, ILO affirms its ‘solemn obligation’ to promote ‘policies in regard to wages and earnings, calculated to ensure a minimum living wage to all employed and in need of such protection’.

“In article 3 of the Minimum Wage Fixing Convention, 1970 (No. 131), ILO requires that minimum wage setting take into consideration ‘the needs of workers and their families, taking into account the general level of wages in the country, the cost of living, social security benefits.’”