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Indians, Lebanese, Chinese Must Quit – Protesting Nigerian Workers

Source: BABATOLA MICHAEL - thewillnigeria.com


LAGOS, August 05, (THEWILL) - About one hundred Nigerians working in different Chinese, Indian and Lebanese companies operating in Nigeria today flooded a Federal High Court in Ikeja Central Business District, protesting what they described as the companies’ inhuman treatment, asking President Goodluck Jonathan for intervention.

The protest to the court was led by Citizens Right Watch Director of Operation, Comrade Overare Abraham where the suit the workers filed against one of the companies, Celplas Industries Nigeria Limited was supposed to come today, but the presiding judge, Justice J. S. Adah was absent unavoidably.

After the protest, counsel to the workers, Mr. Gabriel Ojumah said the suit filed established that Celplas Industries Nigeria Limited truly violated African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act 2004) and section 34 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

He said, "We immediately wrote to the company, asking them to address some of these issues within a specific period, failure at which we would take legal action against them. We asked them for their safety and employment policies because to employ casuals as operators of technical machines is inhuman and degrading."

In the suit, the workers demanded that anybody manning their machines "should be properly trained, failure to do so is a violation of fundamental human right and the provisions of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Ratification and Enforcement Act 2004.)

"Celplas kept deaf ears and hence we have to take this action. We are seeking declaration that the use of obsolete machinery which is dangerous to human existence and to the operators in particular is a breach of their right to life. The policy of employing casuals is inhumane, degrading and slavery. It is contrary to section 34 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria," the counsel argued.

Ojumah was also displeased with the lukewarm manner the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) on issues of casualization and maltreatment of Nigerian workers with all sense of responsibility, questioning the union.

He said: "We have made several representations. But so far, none of them has bothered to contact us. We even held a rally at the Labour House at Yaba. Unfortunately because we informed them beforehand, none of them showed up."

However, a General Manager at Celplas who declined to be named when contacted via phone said he could not say much since the matter "is already in court. He debunked the claim that they use obsolete machines, adding that the machines have a minimum lifespan of 25 years adding that they were purchased 8 years ago. He decline further comments and rather opted for an interview.

He said the company has functional workmen compensation policy and medical treatment which covered "all staff including those provided by our service providers."

But among the protesters were few workers who were allegedly sacked this week after suffering various degrees of life threatening injuries suffered in the course of work.

Some of injured victioms include Mr. Ejike Okonkwo, Mr. Yinka Oluwole, MR. Chinedu Nwachukwu, Mr. Ume Akran, Mr. Ilori Busayo and Mr. Uche Ozoemena.

The victims said there are about 30 different cases of casualty deaths and amputation allegedly recorded in different firms owned by Chinese, Indians and Lebanese in the country.

The placards they carried read: "Indians, Chinese and Lebanese, stop amputation of our leaders of tomorrow; Nigerian workers are treated as second-class in their country; Nigerian workers are no slaves; Indians, Chinese and Lebanese are slave masters; Labour Union has failed us; National Assembly has failed us; and Indians, Chinese and Lebanese must go" amongst others.