The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) and several pensioners’ associations have asked the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Abuja to order the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to deduct the pensions, salaries and gratuities of pensioners and workers across several states of Nigeria from the statutory allocations of the indebted state governments.
They also want President Muhammadu Buhari to order the payment of same directly to the pensioners and workers on a-monthly basis.
In the suit marked number ECW/CCJ/APP/39/2017, the plaintiffs are suing over violations of the human rights of workers and pensioners to equality and equal treatment.
They want immediate payment of all outstanding pensions, salaries and gratuities through deductions from statutory allocations of the indebted state governments, and payment of adequate monetary compensation of N50 million to each of the pensioners and workers.
Other plaintiffs joining SERAP in the suit are First Bank of Nigeria Pensioners (Lagos); Mrs Comfort C. Owoha, Joseph Agabi; Osemwenkha G.O and Mrs J.E. Enabunlele. The plaintiffs are suing for themselves and on behalf of their members and other workers and pensioners across the country whose salaries and pensions have not been paid by the states and Federal Government for several months.
In the suit filed on their behalf by Solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana, the plaintiffs argued that the retirement system in Nigeria violated the right to equal protection of the law and dignity since senior public officials continue to receive “privileged pensions”, salaries and gratuities while the 2nd—7th plaintiffs, their members and several other Nigerian pensioners and workers continue to be denied their entitlements, salaries and gratuities.
They also argued that, “Under international law, Nigeria cannot invoke the provisions of its internal laws or the nature of its federation as justification for its failure to perform a treaty obligation. A fundamental rule of the law of State responsibility is that a State cannot escape its responsibility on the international plane by referring to its domestic legal situation.”
The suit read in part: “Ultimately, the Federal Government cannot escape its responsibility to achieve the effective realization of the rights of Nigerian workers and pensioners to timely and regular payment of salaries, entitlements and gratuities, as it retains ultimate responsibility to ensure the rights of workers and pensioners are fully realized.”
“Workers and pensioners in several states in Nigeria have been victims of violations of civil and political rights and even more severely, of economic, social, and cultural rights. The 2nd-7th plaintiffs and their members and other Nigerian pensioners and workers have experienced extreme poverty, discrimination, social exclusion, stigmatization, and deprivation of protections and entitlements on an ongoing basis due primarily to the failure and/or negligence of the Federal Government to ensure that several states of Nigeria pay accrued pensions, salaries and gratuities.
“By granting the reliefs sought, the ECOWAS Court would be recognizing and reiterating the need for the government and its federating units to protect the rights and interests of the vulnerable, disadvantaged, and marginalized groups.
“Despite their obligations to protecting the human rights of vulnerable, disadvantaged and marginalized individuals and groups, the government has failed to prevent the systematic violation by several states of the federation of a wide range of human rights as a result of the continuing failure and/or negligence to ensure that the states timely and regularly pay workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements and gratuities.
“The government has failed and/or neglected to ensure the timely payment of over 42 months of outstanding pensions and gratuities in Edo State of Nigeria despite Edo State receiving funds in the form of over N29 billion Paris Club refunds between November 2016 and July 2017 from the government.
“The government has since 2013 failed and/or neglected to ensure payment of accrued pensions and gratuities to about 4000 members of the Association of Retired Local Government Staff and Primary School Teachers in Delta State across 25 Local Government Councils of the State, leaving the pensioners to live in extreme poverty.
“Mrs Comfort C. Owoha served for 35 years as staff of the Sokoto State Primary School Board. But payment of her pensions expected to commence in 2001 after verification was inexplicably stopped by the Sokoto State Government.
“The government has failed to exercise due diligence, leading to the refusal and failure of the First Bank of Nigeria PLC to pay its pensioners accrued entitlements and gratuities and when pensions and gratuities are paid the Bank pay as low as N11,000, 13,000 as pensions despite the enormous amount in the Banks’s pension fund.
“The government has since December 2014 failed and/or neglected to ensure that Osun State of Nigeria remits monthly pensions deducted from the contributory pensioners. The government has also failed and/or neglected to ensure regular and timely payment of pensions and gratuities in Osun State, and that contributory pensioners have not been paid since January 2015.
“The government has failed and/or neglected to pay members of the Federal Civil Service Pensioners Association of Nigeria accrued pensions. The government continues to engage the Nigeria Union of Pensioners while deliberately sidelining the Federal Civil Service Pensioners Association of Nigeria and its members. The government is failing and/or refusing to ensure payment by several states of Nigeria of workers’ salaries and pensioners’ entitlements, amounting to billions of Naira in arrears.
“International human rights treaties to which Nigeria is a state party impose obligations on the government to ensure that economic difficulties and times of severe resource constraints cannot be used to undermine the enjoyment of the human rights of workers and pensioners in Nigeria, and disproportionately hurt them.
“The right to timely and regular payment of pensions and salaries is essential, particularly when a person does not have the necessary property available, or is not able to secure an adequate standard of living through old age or economic and social factors.
“According to the Nigeria Union of Local Government Employees (NULGE), 23 states of the federation currently owed workers arrears of salaries ranging from one to 24 months. NULGE gave the breakdown of states as follows: Bayelsa State: 10 to 16 months; Kogi State: between seven to 15 months; Delta State: eight to 14 months; Kaduna State:12 months; Oyo State: three to 11 months; and Edo State: 10 months.
“Others are Abia State: five to nine months; Kwara State: two to nine months; Benue State: nine months; Nasarawa State: seven months; Ondo, Ekiti, Imo States: six months; while Zamfara State has not implemented minimum wage. Adamawa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Plateau States are owing four months; Taraba and Federal Capital Territory: three months while Osun state has been paying half salaries for 24 months; and staff are owed few months in Enugu State.”
“A declaration that the continuing failure and/or negligence of the Defendant to promote and ensure timely and regular payment by several states of Nigeria of pensioners’ entitlements and workers’ salaries and gratuities cannot be justified under any circumstances.
“A declaration that the failure and/or negligence of the Defendant to provide an environment necessary for securing and promoting the enjoyment of the human rights of pensioners and workers at the federal level and in several states of Nigeria to equality and equal treatment; equal protection of the law and non-discrimination; to dignity and independence; is unlawful.
“A declaration that the failure of the Defendant to promote and ensure an effective remedy and reparation for pensioners and workers who have continued to suffer due to the non-payment of pensions, salaries and gratuities by several states of Nigeria is unlawful.
“A declaration that the refusal of the Defendant to ensure the payment of pensions, salaries, and gratuities of the Plaintiffs is illegal and unlawful.
“An order directing the Defendant to respect, protect, promote, and fulfil the human rights of pensioners and workers to timely and regular payment of pensions, salaries and gratuities and therefore, to equality and equal treatment; equal protection of the law and non-discrimination; to dignity and independence; to the respect of the dignity inherent in a human being; to adequate standard of living and well-being; to property; to work; to family life; and to economic and social development.
“An order directing the Defendant and/or its agents to provide effective remedies and reparation, including adequate compensation, restitution, satisfaction or guarantees of non-repetition that the Honourable Court may deem fit to grant to pensioners and workers that have continued to suffer due to the failure and/or refusal by the Defendant to promote and ensure payment by several states of Nigeria of pensioners’ entitlements and workers’ salaries and gratuities.”
Rivers’ll Ensure Safe, Secure Environment For Economic Growth -Wike .
Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, has said that his administration would continue to support security agencies in the state to ensure a safe and secure environment for the economic prosperity of citizens.
He said the Rivers State Neighbourhood Safety Corps, the Operation Sting and the revitalised C4i security outfits were set up to help provide security to stimulate growth and prosperity of all in Rivers State.
The governor spoke through the Secretary to the State Government, Dr. Tammy Danagogo, at the 2021 Conference/Annual General meeting of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations, Rivers State chapter, in Port Harcourt, yesterday.
“This administration has embarked on aggressive infrastructural development and a very deliberate urban renewal efforts around the capital to attract local and foreign investors to stimulate our economy.
“We have also opened up local governments through quality road networks. Upgrade of various social and recreational facilities in various local government areas,” he said.
He commended the state chapter of the NIPR for the choice of the theme of the conference: “Nigeria’s Security Situation: A Factor in Reputation and National Development”, adding that stakeholders must begin to act in a very different, drastic and positive strategy to remedy the already battered reputation of Nigeria.
He urged the NIPR to use its expertise and experience to thrive to galvanise and stimulate the populace and government at various levels for the resuscitation of citizens sense of pride and responsibility of whatever was left of the nation’s image and reputation.
“All hands must be on deck, especially reputation managers to call on government at all levels to begin to act in ways and manner that will help to revive the battered image of this country,” he added.
Welcoming guests and participants to the conference, the Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, who is also the state chairman of NIPR, commended the cordial relationship existing between the institute and the state government under the leadership of Governor Wike who is a honorary fellow of the institute.
“Governor Wike has been very supportive of all the activities of the Institute. That is what you also get from a visionary leader who has changed the landscape of Rivers State with infrastructure, with various developmental projects that touch the lives of the ordinary man,” he said.
Nsirim said the state chapter of NIPR was proud to associate with Governor Wike for the giant strides he has recorded and would continue to record until the end of his tenure in 2023.
“As a chapter that is responsive to the development of Nigeria, we have chosen the theme for this year’s conference as our own way of contributing to the national discourse,” he said.
He said the conference would produce a blueprint that would guide national discourse and urged participants to contribute robustly to the conversation.
“It is expected that the fallout of the conference will re-engineer national security and national development with the aim to put our country on the path of rapid growth,” he said.
In his speech, the President and Chairman of Governing Council of NIPR, Malam Mukhtar Sirajo, emphasised on the need for all Nigerians to collaborate to fight insecurity currently confronting the country’s economic and political stability.
He welcomed the theme of the conference, saying that it was coming at the time the institute had gotten sufficient worry about national security, peace and economic development.
In his keynote address, Dr. Ike Neliaku, chronicled the increasing violent crimes that had claimed thousands of lives in the various parts of Nigeria, and submitted that the rising insecurity situation in the country had impacted and would continue to impact negatively on corporate and national reputation.
He said the worrisome development would have concomitant consequence on individual and national development.
Chairman of the conference, Chief Felix Otuwarikpo, said the conference was put together to dissect the current carnage affecting the Nigerian nation.
“As an institute, we will leverage on the conference to proffer solutions to the security challenges affecting the nation,” he said.
The conference also featured the presentation of awards for good public relations and community development to some distinguished members and organisations.
Church Of Nigeria Honours Wike, Sanwo-Olu, Akeredolu, Others
The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has bestowed awards for exemplary leadership qualities in a challenging economy and dedication in the service of God and humanity on the Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike; Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu, and Ogun State Governor, Adedapo Abiodun.
Also honoured is the Lagos State Commissioner for Health, Prof Emmanuel Abayomi, with an award for quality and equitable healthcare delivery.
The awardees were honoured at the standing committee meeting of the Church of Nigeria, at the Diocese of Lagos, Archbishop Adebola and Oluranti Ademowo Resource Centre, Faith Plaza, Bariga, Lagos State.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, who conferred the awards on the recipients, said the political leaders were considered for the award for their outstanding role, courageous leadership, and standing firm in defense of Nigerians against insecurity, provision of basic infrastructure to the citizenry and the fight against Covid-19 pandemic.
Addressing the congregation on the state of the nation and the role of the church, Rivers State Governor, Chief Nyesom Wike, admonished the leadership of the church to encourage its members to be part of the governance process in the country.
The governor noted that a situation whereby Christians leave governance for politicians alone is no longer obtainable.
According to Wike, the effect of bad leadership will also affect the church if they remain passive to the issue of governance.
“You must be part of choosing leadership. Don’t say you have no role, you have a role. When you don’t participate, bad leaders will emerge and when bad leadership emerges, you are part of it.
“You must encourage your people to be part of leadership. I didn’t go to any school to study leadership.
“So, nobody should say that as a Christian you cannot be a governor, no. The head of SUBEB in my state is a priest and you can see the leadership he has given to that agency today. You will feel proud about it. That used to be the most corrupt agency, but today it is headed by a priest and you can see the difference.”
Wike decried the inherent injustice that has characterised the Nigerian State, and urged the church to speak against socio-political issues adversely affecting the progress of the country.
“We say we are all one Nigeria. We went to World Bank to borrow money to do specific projects. One of the states that make up Nigeria I hear is Rivers State. And I also know in paying this money back to World Bank, money that comes from the resources of my state will be used in paying back this money. But my state was denied to have projects from that loan.”
The Rivers State governor said a situation where states depend on the Federal Government to survive can no longer be tenable, and insisted that states must be allowed to collect revenues such as Value Added Tax (VAT) to enable them improve the welfare of their people.
“You have gone to take loan and I am one of those states that will pay back those loan and you deny me to benefit from the projects that that money will be used for. I have no problem with that.
“Allow me the one (VAT) the Constitution says I am entitled to, let me collect that one and develop my state.”
He regretted that some governors in Nigeria have refused to think out of the box on how to boost economic activities in their states.
“There is flood in my state, it requires N200millon, I will go to Abuja to beg. Even as a governor, I will knee down before a DG of an agency of government. You will knee down for a director just because of N300million. That is the status of some of the governors of some states.”
In his remarks, Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, commended the church for its support, and announced the waiver of N2billion for land acquired by the Church of Nigeria in Lagos State.
The governor stated that Nigeria and the rest of the world are going through difficult times amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, and used the occasion to canvass for mass vaccination of the citizens.
The Primate of All Nigeria Anglican Communion, the Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, while speaking on the theme of the conference: “Abiding in Christ: God’s Panacea in an Unstable World”, lamented that Nigeria was fast becoming a land flowing with tears and blood because of the impact of terror, banditry, herdsman attacks on communities and kidnapping.
He said a situation in which communities that are predominantly Christians are targeted one after another in some parts of Kaduna State and North-Central of Nigeria was unacceptable.
“We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to brand the bandits and herders attackers as terrorists and let them be treated as such.”
The Primate urged Nigerians to avail themselves the opportunity 2023 general election offer to exercise their right to choose new leaders.
He appealed to the Federal Government to urgently address the free fall in the value of the country’s currency because of the attendant impact on the store of value and confidence of investors.
Rivers Begins Process To Check Flooding
The Rivers State Government has said that it was working with relevant agencies to roll out the process that would check perennial flooding in the state.
The state Commissioner for Information and Communications, Pastor Paulinus Nsirim, disclosed this at a media briefing in Port Harcourt, last Wednesday.
Nsirim, therefore, called on those living and doing business in the state to play their part in line with the programme that would be executed by government to address the problem of flooding.
He frowned at the situation where residents of Port Harcourt had turned the drainage systems into refuse bins, and warned that “that is not what it should be.
“The present administration under Governor Nyesom Wike is desirous to make Rivers State a destination of choice and that is why the government has embarked on massive infrastructural development in line with its urban renewal programme.
“So, what is expected of those living and doing business in Rivers State now, is to co-operate with government to ensure that the urban renewal programme and the plan by government to make this state a destination of choice is realised,” he said.
He noted that the state government could not do it alone as it required the support of corporate organisations, civil society groups, religious organisations and the media to enlighten their publics on the need to behave as responsible citizens.
He called on the media to embark on massive enlightenment programmes along the line of the roles of citizens in checking flooding in the state.
“We believe that if the citizens cooperate with government, as government is out to ensure that everyone living and doing business in the state does so in a healthy environment, we believe that in the next few days or weeks we will find a solution to this (flooding),” he said.
Nsirim also announced the names of entrants selected for the essay competition on the title, “Our State Our Responsibility” introduced under the second phase of the #OurStateOurResponsibility advocacy campaign of the ministry launched at the beginning of this month.
He said those shortlisted were expected to be at the conference room of the ministry by 11am on Monday, September 27, 2021, for a physical test to ascertain their original ownership.
Those shortlisted are: Jessica Hart, Samuel William, Amarachi Chimezie, Jasper Dorcas, Jaja Tamunoimiegba Christian, Sophia Oyibo, Blessing Pepple, Anyiam kelechukwu, Deborah Adegbami, Gift Samuel, Okiche Golden, Okiche Miracle, Orovwigwo Deborah, Otuka Goodluck and Ziga Paago.
By: Beemene Taneh
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