The Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has taken the case of eleven state governors in the country to the International Criminal Court (ICC) over their failure to pay salaries to their workers.
The state governors included Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Abiola Ajimobi (oyo), Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Yahaya Bello (Kogi), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa) and four others.
In the petition dated July 7, 2016, signed by SERAP Executive Director, Adetokunbo Mumuni, the organisation urged ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to use her position to investigate allegations of collective punishment and crimes against humanity committed against thousands of Nigerian workers as a result of non-payment of their salaries for several months by their state governments.
SERAP said the non-payment of workers’ salaries by Bayelsa, Benue, Bauchi, Osun, Rivers, Oyo, Ekiti, Kwara, Kogi, Ondo, and Plateau states had made life impossible to live for the workers and families.
It stated that the governors had continued to hide under the excuse of limited allocations from Abuja to deny the workers the fruit of their labour while the workers’ individual liability have continued to rise.
SERAP said in the petition: “Non-payment of salaries for several months have reduced Nigerian workers to ‘bare life’, or life not worth living, thus taking away their human dignity.
“The inhumanity of the non-payment of workers’ salaries is illustrated by the serious threats this poses to the workers’ physical and mental health, and family life as well as their ability to contribute to the development of the country.
“The non-payment of salaries has created an environment of powerlessness for several workers and perpetuated a system of impunity in many states. The state governors ought to know that their actions and/or omissions would likely to cause serious physical or mental suffering or a serious attack upon the human dignity of workers whose salaries are not paid.
“Article 7(1)(k) of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court criminalises other inhumane acts intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health. The treatment of many workers in several states reaches the level of ‘inhumane acts’ covered under this provision.
“The same applies to the deprivation of adequate standard of living of thousands of workers such as adequate food, shelter, and medical care as a result of the non-payment of their salaries.
“International human rights law requires states to protect the rights of workers including to timely payment of salaries. The ICC can and should exercise its mandates under the Rome Statute to enforce these internationally recognized human rights by holding individual governors accountable for the crimes against humanity committed against many Nigerian workers.
“SERAP is seriously concerned that several state governments in Nigeria are failing and/or refusing to pay workers’ salaries, amounting to billions of naira in arrears.
“Aside from investigating violation of human rights, it further urged the prosecutor to investigate those crimes such as gross, systematic and widespread violations of workers’ right to timely payment of salaries that fall under the Rome Statute provision on “other inhumane acts” but remain unacknowledged as grave violations of human rights.”
“Investigating violations of workers’ right to timely payment of salaries will allow the ICC to realise a broad notion of complementarity, as it will enable the Prosecutor to provide justice to the workers that many of the states in Nigeria are unwilling or unable to protect.”