The Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) organized a demonstration on Wednesday outside the location of the new ECOWAS headquarters in Lugbe, Federal Capital Territory, effectively stopping all ongoing construction activity for many hours.
The demonstration occurred in response to allegations of poor treatment of some Nigerian employees by the Chinese company Shaanxi Construction Engineering Group Corporation.
NLC General Secretary Emma Ugboaja was in charge of the picketing.
Workers met at Labour House, the NLC’s headquarters, around 7:30 am to prepare for the picketing. Over 600 workers assaulted the workplace, but they encountered some opposition at the gate.
The NLC leadership and its picketing squad, who were carrying placards, initially tried to force the gate open but were unsuccessful.
Despite the commotion, neither the demonstrators nor the management of the construction company responded to Labour’s accusations.
The Chinese government is undertaking the initiative to construct an ECOWAS permanent secretariat in Abuja as part of its international aid program.
Ugboaja bemoaned the alleged inhumane treatment meted out to site workers when he spoke to the protesting employees. He claimed that after receiving complaints about poor working conditions at the building site from its FCT chapter, the workers union took action.
Ugboaja claims that the Chinese corporation hired the workers on an as-needed basis without attaching any conditions to their employment or providing any welfare or medical benefits.
He grieved that one of the employees, a driver named Augustine, passed away from neglect and a lack of proper medical assistance as a result of the appalling working conditions at the location.
While the picketing action is still in progress, according to Ugboaja, the NLC leadership wishes to have a conversation with the management of Shaanxi Construction Engineering Group Corporation about the issues that their employees are raising.
In reference to the driver’s passing, Ugboaja stated: “Mrs Ruth Augustine moved to Abuja with her husband and family to come and earn a living. Now the man, in an effort to aid in the construction of the ECOWAS Secretariat, has ended up six feet below the surface, leaving his poor widow to deal with the vicissitudes of life without a pension, gratuity, food, or water, as well as an explanation of how assistance will be provided.
“We beg the government for some form of social security every day, but to no avail. The difficulty we face is that. This problem really exists.
Ruth described her story, saying that her husband had been engaged as a driver by the Chinese company last year under strict working circumstances that prevented him from going home after work.
“He worked from Monday through Sunday. I questioned him about receiving bonuses for the extra labor and overtime he was putting in. He rejected it. My husband would be required to work nonstop from morning until night without access to meals. He would not even spend an hour at home before going back to the scene, the woman bemoaned.
She remembered that after the Christmas celebrations, her late husband returned to work in January and stayed back at the company for two months without leaving.
But when she started to worry, she called him.
She recalled, “From the dialogue, I realized he was really unwell.
She claims the business failed to transport her husband to the hospital and continued to deny him permission to receive care at home.
“His predicament had gotten worse by the time they finally let him go home. He appeared to be severely undernourished and had a large neck, she claimed.
She claimed to have taken her husband to the National Hospital, where he passed away, after first taking him to the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital in Abuja.
The widow claimed that throughout the entire process, the Chinese corporation ignored her cries for help and instead sent her husband a letter terminating his employment.