Government workers in Nigeria angry over unpaid salaries have taken their grievances to the United Nations’ labor agency, according to Premium Times Nigeria. The move follows months of dwindling federal revenues that have shrunk state budgets and led to many local governments being unable pay their employees, some of whom have gone more than 10 months without wages. Some have accused President Muhammadu Buhari’s government of being idle on the issue.
A complaint was filed with the U.N.’s International Labour Organization, which deals with labor issues related to international employment standards, over the weekend on behalf of Nigerian government workers. It was spearheaded by the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project, a nonprofit group based in Nigeria that promotes “transparency and accountability” in the public and private spheres.
The group accused governments of failing to pay billions of dollars in government salaries, pensions and entitlements across several states. “There is absolutely no justification why state governments or the Federal Government in Nigeria should not pay workers’ salaries,” the statement reads. “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 group added that “the failure to pay workers’ salaries also violates Nigeria’s obligations to respect, protect and fulfill the right to work [and shows] that they are unwilling to use the maximum of their available resources through insufficient expenditure or misallocation of public funds.”
Lawmakers last week called for a government bailout to cover the unpaid salaries. Governors from the country’s 36 states met Wednesday to discuss the bailout. They blamed Nigeria’s financial problems on declining revenues, largely the result of falling oil prices, and what they said were the bad economic policies of the previous administration under former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“The matter has become so serious that urgent action must be taken for a bailout for the states, as things are not getting better either,” Rochas Okorocha, governor of Imo state, told journalists. “We have sat down to review steps that should be taken, and we are calling for total overhaul of the system to block all the leakages in our nation’s economy.”
Some governors have taken austerity into their own hands. Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia state announced Monday he would cut his salary and travel allowance by 50 percent, according to Punch. He promised to “do everything possible” to get the state’s government workers back on the payroll.