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We’ll take states, employers who don’t pay minimum wage to court — Falana

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Nigerian human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), on Tuesday, reignited the debate surrounding the minimum wage by asserting that all states have the financial capacity to pay the increase agreed-upon.

He made this claim during an interview on Channels Television’s The Morning Brief, adding that the government cannot stop labour from embarking on industrial actions.

He also asserted that his law firm in conjunction with the labour unions will take legal actions against any state government, or employer of Labour who fails to pay the national minimum wage after it has been agreed upon.

“There is no state in Nigeria today that cannot pay more than the minimum wage because the government removed fuel subsidy last year and President Tinubu told Nigerians that the money made from that policy will be used,” Falana said.

“Any state government or employer of labour that does not pay the national minimum wage, we have agreed this time around (our law firm and the labour unions) we are not going to allow the non-payment of wages. They will be dragged to court.

“We are going to ensure the law is complied with, including the fact that we will be paying the court to make an order, deducting what belongs to the workers monthly from the source in Abuja. We cannot go like this.

“Once a new agreement, a new minimum wage becomes the law of the country. The Federal Government has a duty, and the Attorney General of the country has a duty to drag any state government that does not pay to court.

“I mean, the attorney general can just file a new case, which is a good development, by saying over the years, we have accused state governments of diverting emoluments for local governments,” he said.

Read Also: NLC, TUC suspend strike for one week to allow minimum wage talks

This statement comes amidst an ongoing standoff between organized labor and the government concerning the implementation of the new minimum wage.

Falana’s claim hinges on the government’s removal of fuel subsidies in 2023. President Tinubu, according to Falana, had promised that the savings from this policy change would be used to support initiatives like an increased minimum wage. The lawyer argues that these additional funds should now be directed towards bolstering state finances, allowing them to meet the minimum wage requirements.

This statement adds fuel to the fire of the ongoing minimum wage debate. Labor unions have been pushing for the implementation of the new minimum wage, arguing that it’s crucial for workers’ well-being in the face of rising inflation. However, some state governments have expressed concerns about their ability to afford the increase, citing budgetary constraints.

Falana’s argument presents a potential solution to the impasse. If the freed-up funds from the subsidy removal are strategically allocated, it could ease the financial burden on states and pave the way for the implementation of the new minimum wage. However, questions remain regarding the transparency and efficiency of such a resource allocation process.

Furthermore, Falana advocates for legal action against states that fail to comply with the minimum wage agreement. He proposes that the Attorney General take legal action against such states, ensuring adherence to the law. This approach could potentially expedite the resolution of the minimum wage issue, but it could also lead to protracted legal battles.

The coming days will be crucial in observing the government’s response to Falana’s claims. Whether they will prioritize utilizing the freed-up funds to support the minimum wage increase or if they will propose alternative solutions remains to be seen. With negotiations ongoing, Falana’s intervention has undoubtedly added a new layer of complexity to the minimum wage debate in Nigeria.

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