The International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, Nigeria chapter, has joined other individuals and pro-labour organisations in condemning Popular Farm, the rice mill company that held 126 workers against their will recently.
The workers were alleged to have been held in deplorable conditions and on starvation rations for three months in Kano, arising from which not a few now suffer from varying degrees of injury.
The group, in a statement signed by Benson Upah, said that holding workers against their will, false imprisonment, forced labour, threats and intimidation at workplace, harassment, and starvation rations constitute not only unwholesome labour practices, but infringe on the rights and liberty of the individual as guaranteed, not only by International Standards established by the International Labour 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,” he said.
Upah noted that the conduct of the rice mill company was not only barbaric and nihilistic, but it also goes against the grain of Decent Work Agenda to which Nigeria subscribes.
He stated that, “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.”