By Adedayo Akinwale
The House of Representatives has ordered an investigation to unravel the reasons why a Chinese company in Edo State subjected its Nigerian workers to slavish conditions and false imprisonment for three months since the lockdown in flagrant abuse of the federal government’s Covid-19 regulations.
To this end, the House has directed the Inspector General of Police (IDP) to immediately send a crack team to storm the company with a view to ascertaining the save-our-souls (SOS) message and to set free the said detained workers pending further investigations.
The Green Chamber also said that the Presidential Task Force on Covid-19 and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) be put on notice about the incidence to ensure post release management of the detained workers.
The House said considering the fact that Covid-19 regulations stipulate that all businesses and offices should be fully closed, except for those engaged in essential services, adding that given the fact that steel companies are not amongst the exempted essential services providers, the company’s actions therefore amounts to serious disrespect for Nigerian laws, as well as breach of their sworn social responsibility to Nigeria as a nation.
It therefore mandated “the relevant committees of the House to follow through on this report to ensure that an investigation is carried out and appropriate sanctions meted to the Chinese company if found culpable”.
The resolution of the House was sequel to the motion moved by the Minority Leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu, at the plenary on Tuesday.
Moving the motion, Elumelu lamented that Yongxing Chinese Steel Company located at Ugua community of Edo State, was alleged to have locked down its Nigerian workers within the company’s facility, thereby depriving them access to their families since March 24, 2020 till date.
He said that the workers numbering over 1,000, are holed up there in 10 persons to a room bunker, making them live in a hazardous environment which has hindered the health of most of the workers.
The lawmaker noted that these workers were being made to work in slavish conditions 24hrs round the clock, day in and out for the last three months.
Elumelu expressed concern that the said workers were blackmailed not to divulge their new work conditions to anybody, failing which they would lose their jobs.
According to him, through the company’s authority claims, the workers were held back for health and safety measures, but they were made to work within the precincts in gruelling conditions and compelled to swear to an oath of secrecy.
He stated: “Not only does the above situation amounts to an infringement of the fundamental right to liberty of the subjects, but to false imprisonment as well as a flagrant abuse of several laws of the land including the Covid-19 regulations 2020, labour laws and the Companies and Allied Matters Act 2004.”
The lawmaker recalled that in the thick of the global pandemic, Nigerians were forced to watch how the Chinese authorities dehumanised Nigerians in China by throwing them on the streets without shelter and protection of any kind.
Elumelu noted that this is yet another sad reminder of how the Chinese rode roughshod and treat Nigerians with so much disdain in their own country and sadly too in Nigeria shores, the trend is becoming very worrisome and totally unacceptable.