A non-governmental organization, Laws and Rights Awareness Initiative, has urged the National Industrial Court to declare that the Federal Government is subjecting Nigerian workers to forced labour with its failure to pay the N30, 000 minimum wage since April.
Counsel for the Incorporated Trustees of LRAI, Olumide Babalola, contended in the suit filed at the NIC, Abuja division, that the Federal Government’s non-payment of the N30, 000 minimum wage was a breach of Section 9(2)(c) of the National Minimum Wage (Amendment) Act 2019.
“The respondent’s payment of salaries less than the minimum wage constitutes forced labour in violation of the provision of Section 34(1)(c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended),” the lawyer said.
In a 10-paragraph affidavit filed in support of the suit, LRAI’s Project Director, Olivia Audu said she was aware that the two chambers of the National Assembly had earlier this year passed the National Minimum Wage (Repeal and Re-enactment) Bill 2019 into law.
“In April 2019, the respondent (Federal Government) assented to the said bill thereby making it an Act of the National Assembly.
“The provision of Section 3 of the Act increased minimum wage to N30, 000 with effect from April 2019.
“I know, as a fact that since April 2019 up till the time of filing this suit, the respondent has been paying less than N30, 000 stipulated as the minimum wage in the new Act.
“I know that the workers affected do not have a choice of work elsewhere, hence they are forced to remain in the employment of the respondent in spite of the inadequacy of wages earned.
“I believe that from the particulars given above, the respondent’s act of paying less than the minimum wage violates the workers right to dignity of the human person and it amounts to forced labour,” Audu said.