By Victor Akaa, Abuja
The International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) network, Nigeria Chapter, joins other individuals and pro-labour organizations in condemning Popular Farm, the rice mill company that held 126 workers against their will, in deplorable conditions and on starvation rations for three months in Kano, arising from which not a few suffer from varying degrees of injury.
A statement by the Director Public Relations Officer, Nigerian Labour Congress, Benson Upah for the ILAW Nigeria maintained that, holding workers against their will, false imprisonment, forced labour, threats and intimidation at work place, harassment, and starvation rations constitute not only unwholesome labour practices, they infringe on the rights and liberty of the individual as guaranteed, not onlt by International Standards established by the ILO but also the 1999 Constitution (as altered) Section 35 (1) and actionable in criminal and tort laws.
The statement further noted that,
“The fact that these workers were held in an overcrowded facility/factory during the Covid-19 pandemic, contrary to Section 8 of the Factories Act, 1987 makes this act more reprehensible.
“The conduct of the rice mill company is not only barbaric and nihilistic, it also goes against the grain of Decent Work Agenda to which we all subscribe.
“Accordingly, we call upon the police, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration (the company is alleged to be Indian) and other appropriate authorities not to relent in their efforts in ensuring that the full weight of the law be visited upon the culprits.
“This is made necessary and urgent by the fact that Popular Farm are allegedly not first time offenders. At the time of this infraction, they were alleged to be on suspension from the membership of the Rice Processors Association of Nigeria ” over some issues “.
“The ILAW Nigeria will continue to work with the Nigeria Labour Congress, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, the Unions and State councils of the Labour Centres in ensuring that extant labour laws are not observed in the breach by employers. The ILAW is particularly keen to be involved in all lawful and constitutional avenues of seeking redress to ensure observance of workers’ rights, including filing law suits, signature campaigns, etc, in order to protect the interests and dignity of workers.
“In pursuance of this objective, the ILAW, working with the NLC/TUC state councils and their affiliate unions in Kano, will embark on all lawful means to ensure that the Kano 126 get justice. And by this Statement, the ILAW is sending a clear and unmistakable message to unscrupulous employers of labour, Nigerian and foreign employers of labour, that the days of workplace tyranny are over.
“Nigerian workers lives matter!!