A suit has been filed asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice to “order the government of President Buhari to deduct the pensions, salaries and gratuities of pensioners and workers from the statutory allocations of indebted state governments and pay the same directly to the pensioners and workers on a monthly basis”.
The action was brought by Federal Civil Service Pensioners Association, Association of Retired Local Government Staff, Primary School Teachers in Delta State and the Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP).
Filed on their behalf in Abuja by solicitor to SERAP, Femi Falana, the plaintiffs are also asking for N50 million compensation to each of the pensioners and workers.
They argued that non-payment of their pensions amounted to a “violation of their rights to equality and equal treatment, equal protection of the law and non-discrimination, dignity and independence, adequate standard of living and well-being, property, work, family life, and economic and social development”.
Other plaintiffs that joined SERAP in the suit (ECW/CCJ/APP/39/2017) filed last Friday are First Bank of Nigeria Pensioners (Lagos), Mrs. Comfort C. Owoha, Joseph Agabi, Osemwenkha G.O., and Mrs. J.E. Enabunlele.
The plaintiffs are suing for themselves and on behalf of their members and other workers and pensioners across the country whose salaries and pensions had not been paid by the states and the federal government for several months.
The plaintiffs contended: “The retirement system in Nigeria violates the right to equal protection of the law and dignity since senior public officials continue to receive ‘privileged pensions’, salaries and gratuities while the 2nd -7th plaintiffs, their members and several other Nigerian pensioners and workers, continue to be denied their entitlements, salaries and gratuities. ‘Dignity’ here refers to the right to live in security, free of exploitation, abuse and discrimination.”
They submitted: “Under international law, Nigeria cannot invoke the provisions of its internal laws or the nature of its federation as justification for its failure to perform a treaty obligation. A fundamental rule of the law of state responsibility is that a state cannot escape its responsibility on the international plane by referring to its domestic legal situation.”
Consequently, the plaintiffs are asking the ECOWAS Court of Justice for a declaration that the continuing failure and/or negligence of the defendant to promote and ensure timely and regular payment by several states of Nigeria of pensioners’ entitlements and workers’ salaries and gratuities cannot be justified under any circumstances.