Falana: No Federalism in Minimum Wage

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Falana on Arise News
  • Says Melaye should end siege to his house

Segun James

Human rights lawyer and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Mr. Femi Falana, has said there is no federalism when it comes to the payment of living wages to workers in the country, stressing that it is wrong for state governments to insist that each state should be allowed to pay what they can afford as minimum wage.

The senior lawyer has also urged the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, to submit himself to the police for arrest without further delay so as to end the needless drama and the unwarranted inconvenience to which his family members and neighbours have been subjected for the past six days.

Speaking Thursday on Arise News, a sister broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspaper, Falana argued that even in the United States of America where Nigeria copied its type of democracy, the Congress prescribed the national minimum wage from which the states can only add but not reduce.

According to him, “Section 16 of the Nigerian Constitution does not talk of minimum wage alone, but a living minimum wage payable by the government of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, the labour movement has generous in asking for just N30,000 considering the living standard in the country today.”

He said that it was wrong for states to want to determine whatever they want to pay as minimum wage, saying this is not done in any civilised society.

“There must be an irreducible minimum wage payable by employers of labour, otherwise if you say you are going to liberalise the payment of minimum wage, many people would be paid what you may call a starvation wage.”

Falana added that the Minimum Wage Act of 2011 has to be amended, stressing that the National Assembly should not wait for the president to send the bill.

He said there is nowhere in the world where the state governments or the local governments determine what they want to pay. “In the US, which is a bastion of our form of federalism, and normally our reference point, has a national minimum wage act enacted by the Congress, not by individual state governments.

“Today the minimum wage in America is $7.25 per hour. But not less than 29 states pay higher! So when you set the minimum standard, state governments and local governments can then pay higher, but nobody can pay below the minimum wage,” Falana explained.

Meanwhile, the senior lawyer has urged the senator representing Kogi West, Dino Melaye, to submit himself to the police for arrest without further delay so as to end what he described as the needless drama and the unwarranted inconvenience to which his family members and neighbours have been subjected for the past six days.

Falana acknowledged in a statement yesterday that the fundamental right of every citizen to personal liberty is guranteed by section 35 of the Constitution of Nigeria and Article 6 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.

He however, added that the right may be violated by the State if there is reasonable suspicion that any citizen has committed a criminal offence. The rights activist recalled that the Nigeria Police Force recently announced its plan to arrest Melaye on the allegation that he committed the offences of criminal conspiracy and attempted culpable homicide.

He also noted that the senator did not respond to the invitation of the Police on the grounds that the permission of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, was not sought and obtained.

“Convinced that the senator has decided not to submit himself for investigation, a team of police personnel has surrounded his residence with a view to effecting his arrest. The siege to the house by the Police has needlessly lasted for six days. It has been reported that the supply of electricity and water to the house has been disconnected by the Police. Such action cannot be justified in law. There is no doubt that the Nigeria Police Force has itself to blame for the sensationalisation of the planned arrest of the senator. The Police ought to have effected the arrest of the senator under the relevant provisions of the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, which empower the Police and other law enforcement to break into any house to arrest if there is evidence that any criminal suspect against whom a warrant of arrest has been issued by any court has absconded or is concealing himself or herself so that the warrant cannot be executed,” Falana explained.

The lawyer insisted that by sending over 60 armed police personnel to arrest a citizen, the police are exposing the federal government to ridicule.

Falana added that contrary to the misleading statement credited to the leadership of the Senate on the procedure for the arrest of legislators, the Nigeria Police Force is not required to seek the consent or obtain the permission of the President of the Senate or the Speaker of the House of Representatives before arresting a member of the National Assembly who is alleged to have committed a criminal offence in any part of the country.

“Since legislators are not entitled to immunity under section 308 of the Constitution they are liable to be arrested, investigated and prosecuted if they are linked with the commission of any criminal offence. However, the arrest, investigation and prosecution must be conducted in strict compliance with the relevant provisions of the penal statutes and the Constitution,” he said.