The International Lawyers Assisting Workers Network (ILAW), Nigeria Chapter, has criticised the Popular Farm, a rice mill company that allegedly held 126 workers against their will in Kano state.
ILAW said this in a statement signed by Mr Benson Upah, the Head of Information, Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Sunday in Abuja.
Upah, who signed on behalf of the ILAW Nigeria, described the situation as that of forced labour, alleged that the 126 workers were kept against their will in deplorable conditions.
He said they were also on starvation rations for three months in Kano, arising from which not a few suffer from varying degrees of injury.
According to him, holding workers against their will, false imprisonment, forced labour, threats and intimidation at work place, harassment, and starvation rations constitute unwholesome labour practices.
“It is also an infringement on the rights and liberty of the individual as guaranteed, not only by International Standards established by the International Lablor Organisation(ILO) but also the 1999 Constitution (as altered) Section 35 (1) and actionable in criminal and tort laws.
“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 also against the grain of Decent Work Agenda to which we all subscribed,” he said.
The ILAW-Nigeria, therefore, called on the police, Ministry of Labour and Employment, Immigration (the company is alleged to be owned by an Indian) and other appropriate authorities to ensure that the full weight of the law be visited upon the culprits.
Upah said that the action should be made necessary and urgent by the fact that the company was 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,” he said.
He said that the ILAW Nigeria would continue to work with the NLC, the Trade Union Congress of Nigeria, the Unions and State councils of the Labour Centres in ensuring that extant labour laws were not observed in the breach by employers.
He, however, said the ILAW was particularly keen to be involved in all lawful and constitutional avenues of seeking redress to ensure the observance of workers’ rights, which included filing law suits, signature campaigns among others, in order to protect the interests and dignity of workers.
Upah added that in pursuance of the objective, the ILAW, working with the state councils and their affiliate unions in Kano, would 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,” he added.
Meanwhile, the Kano State Police Command has confirmed that 126 workers were allegedly held hostage for three months at the Popular Farms and Mills Limited located in Challawaj Industrial Estate, Kano.
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Abdullahi Haruna, confirmed this in a statement in Kano.
Haruna revealed that on June 21, at about 6:00 p.m., a complaint was received from Global Community for Human Right Network, Kano, that some labourers were wrongly confined inside the said Popular Farms and Mills.
He gave the address of the firm as No. 54 Challawa Industrial Estate, Kano.
‘On receiving the information a team of policemen were deployed and when the search was conducted, 126 labourers trapped inside the factory for three months were rescued,’ he said.
According to him, four officials of the factory have been arrested.
Haruna said that the state Commissioner of Police, Mr Habu Ahmad, has ordered an investigation to unravel facts of the matter.
Edited By: Cecilia Ologunagba/Felix Ajide (NAN)
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