The National Human Rights Commission, NHRC, has said that it is probing reports of the “maltreatment” of Nigerians at plastic and hair-producing factories in Lagos State and will not hesitate to punish the firms if found guilty.
A recent investigation by TheCable had indicted three factories with foreign ownership of poor remuneration for workers, non-provision of personal protective equipment, amongst other forms of workplace mistreatment.
Dr. Lucas Koyejo, Director, National Human Rights Commission, Lagos Zone, gave the assurance during the anti-corruption radio programme, Public Conscience, produced by PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja.
Koyejo, while disclosing that NHRC was aware of the alleged maltreatment of Nigerians working in the Lagos factories, said, “The Commission will definitely take punitive action after the investigation if they are found wanting,” adding that the public will also be privy to the findings.
He identified the lack of monitoring by the Lagos State government and its agencies as a major factor encouraging some of the companies in the state to maltreat their workers while urging for legislation to broadly address the issue of casualisation of staff across the country.
“The problem here is the lack of proper monitoring of this companies and oversight by agencies and government functionaries – We have the Ministry of Commerce and Industry in Lagos State, and we believe they are supposed to monitor these companies and ensure compliance to the law generally.”
Speaking of the federal government reviewing the law on the casualisation of workers, Koyejo said, “As it stands, the law allows casualisation or contract staffing. We need a review of the law on these kinds of contracts.”
On his part, the National Coordinator of the Human Rights Writers Association, Nigeria, HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, declared that the rising cases of inhuman treatment of Nigerians working in companies owned by either Nigerians or foreigners are “unacceptable and a problem that deserves the attention of the Federal Government and the National Assembly.”
Onwubiko, while calling on the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment to defend workers’ rights, criticised the government for not acting well enough to deter companies from treating citizens without dignity in the workplace.
He maintained that corruption was a primary reason labour laws were not obeyed, and the government could not adequately regulate their activities.
His words: “What most citizens go through is not a story of just yesterday. It has been there for ages, and nothing has been done by the government at every level, at the state, and particularly at the federal level, to ensure that citizens who work in companies have their rights protected.
“You can’t afford to run a country without rules. You allow people to come in from all over the place, from China, from some of these inconsequential countries all over the world and set up companies, and they treat our citizens like monkeys. It is because there are no consequences.
“Corruption is a major reason why the government is adequately regulating the operation of these companies,” Onwubiko lamented.
He added that “Lagos State government has the primary responsibility of ensuring workers in the state are treated right.
“This is also why the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity was created. The job of that Ministry is not just to negotiate for salary increase; they monitor how workers are treated because a country becomes a country and is respected If the workforce is carefully handled,” Onwubiko stated.
Earlier, a journalist with TheCables, Kunle Daramola, said the factories indicted in the report were owned by Korean, Chinese and Saudi Arabian nationals, respectively.
Daramola noted that the working conditions of Nigerians in the factories investigated were appalling and range from issues of abysmal remuneration, workers operating machines without training or requisite experience, and non-provision of personal protective equipment, among others.
Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio programme PRIMORG uses to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.