Femi Falana

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.

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