Calabar branch of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, has described as appalling and outrageous, the attack on street sweepers protesting nonpayment of their wages for six months by the Cross River State government.
The association while vehemently condemning the brutalization of the street sweepers wondered why a government that boasts about dutifully paying the salaries of thousands of political appointees who are not required to work, will fail to pay what they described as paltry wages of street sweepers who are actually working and have no other means of livelihood.
The professional membership organisation also queried why Cross River State government is paying people in its employment below the legally approved minimum wage.
The Calabar branch of the NBA stated this in a release by the branch chairman, Attah Ochinke, Esq and the branch secretary, Eno Edet, Esq.
According to NBA, Calabar branch, “Yesterday, the 20th of October, 2021, women; widows, grandmothers and the not so young women, employed by the Cross River State government as street sweepers, hit the streets of Calabar in a peaceful march demanding for their unpaid wages.
“Their grouse is that the state government has not paid their wages for the past six months. The street sweepers revealed that they are paid N7,500 (Seven thousand, five hundred naira) a month for sweeping the streets every morning. The six months of unpaid wages sums up to N45,000 (Forty five thousand naira) for each person.
“The reaction of the state government to this peaceful demonstration by frail and aged women was to send a squad of the Nigeria Police to tear gas these women and disrupt the peaceful demonstration. The police dutifully and brutally carried out this request and gave these frail women a taste of teargas. The heartrending images of these impoverished women being brutalized by the police have dominated the internet in the last 24 hours. Interestingly, no official of the government has explained why the women have not been paid their wages for six months of dangerous back breaking work.
“The Calabar Branch of Nigerian Bar Association finds the attitude and conduct of the Cross River State government appalling and outrageous. A government that boasts about dutifully paying the salaries of thousands of political appointees who are not required to work, will fail to pay the paltry wages of street sweepers who are actually working and have no other means of livelihood.
“We note particularly, that the salary of an idle political appointee for month, will pay the wages of two street sweepers for a year. A street sweeper earns N90,000 (ninety thousand naira) a year. Those who have encountered these street sweepers will note that they are at their duty posts before 6.00am and sweep the streets with vehicles speeding past. Such hard labour deserves to be paid well and on time.”
On the minimum wage, the network of legal practitioners stressed that, “fundamentally street sweepers deserve wages not below the minimum wage. Why is the state government paying people in its employment below the legally approved minimum wage? The work of sweeping the street is literally back breaking and dangerous; sweeping dust on the streets is certainly a respiratory health hazard. We call on the government to review the wages of these street sweepers at least to the minimum wage applicable in the state. These street sweepers cannot be made to bear the opportunity cost of the horde of political followers appointed into non existing positions as a dubious strategy for sharing state resources in return for political loyalty.”