Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha
A 26-year-old lady, Miss Kaosisochukwu Enemuo, has accused some Chinese expatriates working at a factory in Onitsha Industrial Harbour, Anambra State of allegedly harassing her sexually.
The young lady who hails from Isuoffia in Aguata Local Government Area of the state said that the Chinese nationals allegedly beat her, smashed her phone and threw her out of the factory late at night when she turned down their offers to sleep with one of them. She alleged that she was promised the sum of N4000 if she did so.
The lady, a factory worker who was on night duty that fateful night, said that trouble started for her when the leader of their night shift called her out to go and see one of the Chinese men who was reportedly waiting for her outside. But on getting there, he (the Chinese) typed something on his phone and gave her to read. The import of the message was he would want her to sleep with him and collect N4000.
How it happened
Miss Enemuo who narrated her ordeal in Igbo language said: “It was on June 12, 2020 at about 9.30pm when the Chinese men namely, Owen, Big and Lee sexually harassed me, beat me and threw me out of the factory for refusing to sleep with one of them. I was in the factory, on night duty, when one of the Chinese workers, Owen, told the leader of our team to call me.
“So, I went out to answer the call. He gave me a phone to read the message on the screen. In it, Owen asked me to come to their residence to sleep with his brother called Big and added that they would pay me the sum of N4000 for that. I handed over the phone back to him (Owen) with a warning that they should stop disturbing me. I told him that I’m not interested.
“As I turned to go back to the factory to continue with my job, Owen kicked my bottom with his leg. In the process my phone I kept at the back pocket of my clothes fell and got smashed. Immediately afterward, Owen and Big pounced on me and started beating me. I started screaming. It attracted the attention of others including the security guards at the gate who intervened.
“Owen immediately went to his office and brought some undisclosed amount of money and gave to me and asked me to leave the factory. He said I have been sacked, and that I should not come near the factory again. He wanted me to go home that night but I rejected the money. He went to call Lee who came out to tell me to collect the money and go home. But I refused to collect the money. They insisted that I should leave the factory premises. But because it was late at night, I could not go home that night. I slept at the security post till the following morning. And, while there mosquitoes and cold nearly killed me.
“This is not the first time they had approached me to harass me sexually. On May 29, one of them, Owen, also approached me with the same text message because he doesn’t know how to express himself in English but only in Chinese. So what they do is to type their advances in Chinese language and their phone will translate it to English. But I rejected the offer and he threatened to sack me. I ignored him and went back to work. So two weeks after the first incident that is June 12, they came again.
“I’m not the only lady they sexually harassed in the factory. They had sacked some girls because of the issue. They sacked Chinasa, Mercy, Chinyere, Mmesooma and another Mercy. They pay us N25, 000 per month but we work like donkey. If we are on morning duty, we start from 7am to 6pm and when we are on night duty we start from 6pm to 7am nonstop. Since that time they have not paid me my salary, which I had worked for. I’m calling on government and security agents to intervene and look into the activities of the Chinese in that factory.”
NGO petitions Police Commissioner
Things however appear to have spiraled out of the Chinese hands; from the case of employer-employee face-off or misunderstanding, to that of sexual harassment, as a group of women lawyers known as Stand Up for Women Society has petitioned Anambra State Police Commissioner over the matter, praying for justice.
In a petition signed by the chairperson of the group, Adaobinna Edozie, its secretary, Nkolika Ebede and two other leaders and titled: “Cases of Sexual Harassment, Human Rights and Labour Violation,” and addressed to the police commissioner, they called for investigation of the matter in order to bring the culprits to book.
In the petition, a copy which was made available to Saturday Sun, they wrote “We seriously view these issues especially the manner and situations in which they occurred as breaches and harassment of the highest order by these expatriates. Termination of one’s appointment without any justification and without payment of any benefits, exposure of the young girl to harsh weather with the attendant health risks are also serious infringement of her fundamental rights. We hereby pray that you use your good office to cause a proper investigation into these atrocities and impunity with the aim of bringing the culprits to book.”
Chinese deny allegations
But the case took another turn when the Chinese parties invited for questioning on the matter by the police at the state police command flatly denied the allegations. Worse still, it was gathered that some security guards who came to the police to testify against them had been sacked from their duty posts.
One of the security guards, Mr. Isaiah Nwoke who confirmed their sack, in a chat with Saturday Sun, said that they were arrested and detained at Harbour Police Station when they refused to leave their duty post since it was their security company that posted them and not the Chinese themselves.
“We told the police the truth on what we saw that night when Kaosisochukwu was beaten by the Chinese and threw her out that night and she pleaded with us to sleep at the security post till daybreak. So, when we came back from police command where we were invited to testify about the incident, the Chinese called us and told us that we had been sacked.
“We asked them why, they said that they don’t need our services any longer and we told them that it wasn’t them that employed us, that our office should pull us out not them but they insisted and invited the police in the Harbour who came and arrested us and took us to their station before we were later released. This is because we said the truth about what happened at the factory that night,” he said.
Contacted on the phone, the State Commissioner of Police, Mr. John Abang confirmed receipt of the petition and said that investigation has commenced on the matter.
Nigerian lawyer to Chinese weighs in
When this correspondent visited the factory to get reaction from the Chinese nationals, one of them Mr. Lee referred him to his legal counsel, Mr. Bartholomew Ugochukwu Okafor. He denied all the allegations. He said that the matter is before the Deputy Commissioner of Police and that investigation was on to ascertain the truth.
“It is a malicious allegation intended to tarnish the image of the company,” he claimed. “As far as I am concerned, the genesis of the case is power tussle between the Chinese nationals and their Nigerian partner (he did not name the person). They are having serious issue over money, greed and so on and so forth. The same partner vowed to make things very difficult for the Chinese and that is exactly what he is doing. He has written petitions to police, Immigration, FIRS (Federal Inland Revenue Service).
“The girl in question is nice to the Nigerian partner. So, the Chinese has said they never did such act and they didn’t do it. They are yet to substantiate the sexual harassment allegation. Did she sustain any injury based on the beating? No. This is pure unfounded malicious allegation. They are banking on settlement just to get something from the company.
“The security guards were not sacked based on that allegation. They had been sacked before police invited them because the Chinese people had no confidence in them since it was the Nigerian partner that brought them to man the gate and that was the reason the Chinese told them that their services were no longer needed and they refused to leave before they invited police in order not to resort to self-help. So the police came before they left, to give chance for the new security outfit already engaged by the Chinese.”