Many Nigerians recently in outrage, woke up to yet another report of the lock-in of casual workers, toiling at the construction sites of a Chinese firm, for a whole weekend, ostensibly to prevent them from stealing the company’s goods. The report of the incident, exposed the travails of more than 30 Nigerian workers who had to spend three whole days behind bars without committing a crime. Of course, the incident is not without precedent and the culprit, Centre South Construction Company (CSCC), only reacted after the workers, who were released on Monday morning, embarked on a protest.
CSCC, the Chinese firm handling the construction of Sango-Ota – Mowe Road and which has three construction sites at Sango-Ota, Oke-Aro and Mowe in Ogun, explained that the lock-in was to prevent the workers on weekend duty from stealing the company’s property. Mr Ben Xhen, a senior official of the company, was quoted to have said the lock-in was based on advice by its security consultant, Pahek Security Services Limited, a claim an official of the outfit denied.Even more heart-rending, the workers claimed that the management also put out electricity and water supply in the three sites, prompting the hapless workers to rely on hawkers passing by the gate for their needs.
Incredible as the report may be in a modern nation-state, this cycle of man’s inhumanity to man has become a regular feature of Nigeria’s labour relations.From the use of containers to ferry construction site workers to the starvation wages being paid to locals after long hours of backbreaking labour, the story of the Nigerian casual worker in foreign firms has been an unhappy one.
It would be surprising if the latest incident does not follow the path of others—a mere storm in a tea cup. It is unfortunate the labourers are being labelled casual and could have opted out, but in a country where joblessness is rife, they have no choice.Many would not forget the sad tale of Citizen William Ekanem, a worker of Bedmate Furniture Company in Magboro, Ogun, who had his spinal bone broken by his boss, a kung fu specialist, in April.
Ekanem’s boss, simply identified as Master Wan, was said to have demanded to see the content of a bag of rice the 27-year-old casual worker had bought.When the young man warned his boss to stop poking his nose into his personal business after his bag was forcefully checked, the infuriated Master Wan was said to have given him a kick on the back, sending him sprawling on the ground. Not satisfied, he was said to have stamped his foot forcefully on the victim before he was rescued by other workers on the premises.
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