Rights Abuse: We’ll Investigate Chinese Firms Over Dehumanizing Working Conditions – NHRC

National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has expressed readiness to probe allegations of inhumane treatment meted out to Nigerians employed at Chinese-run quarries in the Obafemi-Owode area of Ogun state, as well as other acts of abuse.

An undercover investigation published by TheCable Newspaper had indicted Chinese mining companies (Ding Xing, Xiyuan Quarry, and A & B Quarry) of exposing workers to hazards by flouting labour and occupational health safety laws in Nigeria.

The Assistant Director, Legal, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Department at NHRC, Mai Fatima Ahmed, assured that the Commission would swiftly launch an inquiry into the development during an anti-corruption radio programme, PUBLIC CONSCIENCE produced by the Progressive Impact Organization for Community Development, PRIMORG, on Wednesday in Abuja.

According to Ahmed, the investigative report by TheCable and the outcry of Nigerians who called into the radio programme have given the Commission a lead way to investigate cases of maltreatment and other anomalies happening at the Chinese-run firms in Ogun State.

Mai Fatima Ahmed, Assistant Director, Legal, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights Department at NHRC.

She emphasized that NHRC will not fail in its mandate of bringing culprits of human rights abuses to book and not afraid of any company or individual, adding that “the Commission will write to the affected Chinese firms and take necessary actions.”

“Ordinarily, when NHRC observes the rights of individuals that are likely to be trampled upon, they can swing into action, let alone this one that has already happened. So we are going to build on this report, we are going to investigate and address all the areas that need to be addressed, and in due course, we will come up with a better stead.

“This kind of report must not be swept under the carpet; it pains us how these multinational companies disregard the human rights of our people – Nigerians in these contexts. The maltreatment cannot even be defined; They are paid meager amounts; They are treated poorly, so it’s all cheating, and this kind of thing should not be left to continue,” Ahmed stressed.

She averred that the Commission is open to receiving similar complaints from the general public through petitions, reporting in person, or proxy.

TheCable’s Investigative journalist, Sodiq Ojuroungbe, who went undercover to unearth the maltreatment of Nigerians at the Ogun Chinese-run quarries earlier, revealed that neither the state nor the federal government took any known action since the report was published on January 12, 2022.

Ojuroungbe lamented the inability of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC), Ogun State Mines Association, Federal Ministry of Mines, and Solid Minerals to address the poor treatment of Nigerians working at Chinese firms in Ogun state despite drawing their attention to it.

Also speaking, during the programme, the Executive Director at Care for Legal Assist and Human Rights Protection (CLAHRP), Barr Sunday Adaji, called for labour law in Nigeria to be reviewed and sanctions made more stringent.

Adaji, who condemned the inhumane treatment, lamented that even some firms owned by Nigerians are also guilty of maltreating their workers. He called for the existing Labour Act to be strengthened to make room for tougher sanctions that would deter employers from violating land laws.

A sociology lecturer at Bingham University, Dr. Hope Cole, lamented that citizens who are victims of ill-treatment are losing confidence in the country following the continued negating of labour laws.

Cole noted that the casualization of workers in Nigeria is worsened by the high unemployment rate while alluding to the assertion that Nigerians could be aiding maltreatment of workers in firms run by foreigners.

She blamed organizations and agencies set up by the government to check compliance to labour laws for doing too little to prevent the current happenings.

“We have NECA – Nigeria Employers Consultative Association, it was constituted since 1957 for private employers to come together, that is a forum government have put in place to reach out to private employers, so they also have their mandate, they have their mission and vision to ensure that they bring together labour policies and socio-economic issues. If it is mandatory that every foreign employer who must come into Nigeria must be NECA compliant and must be CIPM (Chartered Institute of Personnel Management of Nigeria) compliant in terms of their human resource department, CIPM will now have the right to go down and check,” Cole stated.

PRIMORG Team and discussants during Public Conscience Radio

Public Conscience is a syndicated weekly anti-corruption radio program used by PRIMORG to draw government and citizens’ attention to corruption and integrity issues in Nigeria.

The program has the support of the MacArthur Foundation.

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