Attention FG: Slave Labour In Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC)

Professor Ishaq Akintola

Workers of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) which was
privatized along with others a long time ago did not receive their
letters of appointment until May 2015 (two months ago). The letter
stated that salary would depend on the percentage of total commission
in each month. To their dismay, the May 2015 salary which was paid on
Thursday, 11th June, 2015 allegedly fell short of expectation as some
of the workers received 50% of their full salary while some got less
than that.
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is dismayed by this development and
we strongly condemn it. It is dehumanising, debasing and degrading. It
runs counter to the principles of human dignity, liberty and equal
access to the dividends of democracy. We are surprised that some
Nigerians could still be treated like slaves in their own country 55
years after independence.
Any reduction in workers’ take-home-pay in these hard times is most
likely to result in additional suffering for the underpriviledged. The
Nigerian proletariat is the producer of our common wealth. Therefore
workers deserve wages commensurate with their efforts. A situation
where labour is overworked, underpaid and overtaxed can only produce
socio-economic disequilibrium.
Shortchanging workers and exploiting them in any form is not only
inhuman, it is ungodly. The Glorious Qur’an Chapter 16 (Surat an-Nahl)
verse 90 commands fairness, justice and equity. It says, “Allah
commands justice, good deeds and generous giving to kith and kin. He
forbids impropriety, exploitation and rebellion. He counsels you that
you may be reminded.”
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also enjoined employers to pay
workers promptly and adequately. He said inter alia, “Aatuu al-ajiir
ajrahu qabla an yajifa ‘araqahu”, i.e. Give the labourer his wage
before his sweat dries.
Maltreating workers is therefore an infringement on their Allah-given
fundamental human right. The Supreme Creator gave every worker the
right to be paid promptly and commensurately too. He also game every
man dignity of his human person. “We have honoured the children of
Adam, We provided them with means of transportation and sustenance on
land and sea, then We conferred on them special favours above all
other creatures” (Qur’an 17:70).
If Almighty Allah who created us has honoured us, why should BEDC
deprive its workers of this honour? Is BEDC saying that its own
employees are less human and should be subjected to slave labour?

MURIC contends that BEDC has flagrantly violated the Labour Act
Chapter 198 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 as in Part I
General Provisions as to the protection of wages.

We therefore charge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency,
wade into the matter. We also call the attention of the Nigeria Labour
Congress (NLC) which is the umbrella organization of all labour unions
in the country to come to the aid of the oppressed staff of BEDC.

NLC should be able to find out if this obnoxious policy is peculiar to
BEDC or to all privatized companies and take such steps that will
ensure the protection of workers’ interests in those companies.
Another term of reference in which NLC may show interest is to find
out if it is true that  Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan, wife of  Dr.
Goodluck Jonathan,  former head of state, owns 60% of BEDC shares and
how far this has encouraged the company’s management to engage in acts
of impunity.

Is this how those elected by the people are expected to treat poor
workers? Are they supposed to privatise public property, sell such
properties to themselves, their wives, their children, family members,
concubines and friends at the expense of the downtrodden? Any public
office holder who does this has broken his oath of office.

We urge the Buhari administration to show interest in this angle. All
recently privatized companies should be investigated with a view to
identifying the buyers and whether or not due process has been
followed. It will serve as deterrent for public officers who have the
noun ‘thief’ and the verb ‘to steal’ in future.

As far as MURIC is concerned, oppression of one is oppression of all,
regardless of religion or tribe. We believe that Nigerians should be
set free particularly in this new dispensation of ‘Change’. We remain
oppressed until every Nigerian worker is adequately paid, until every
hungry Nigerian is fed and until every illiterate Nigerian is

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Professor Is-haq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC),
E-mail: [email protected].uk
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