Some former workers of Mayor Biscuit Company Ltd (MABISCO) located at Agbara, Ogun State, have been arrested by policemen who posed as journalists of Nigeria's leading newspaper, SaharaReporters.
The former workers, Usman Yahaya, Bisiriyi Babatunde and Olayiwola Akin were arrested by the police officers following a story by SaharaReporters exposing how the company has been paying its staff members slave wages of N1,000 daily despite working up to 13-hour shifts.
The company owner, Mr Felix King Eiremiokhae, who was not happy with the report ordered their detention.
“One man called and told them he is a staff member of SaharaReporters. He said his name was Dotun Ajulo Silver. He said a story done recently about the company by SaharaReporters was done by him.
“He lied to them that they should see, so that they can give him more documents and evidence about how they were treated by the company. He called and gave an address that they should meet; he told them to come to his office at Ikeja.
“So this morning, he called and gave them an appointment to meet him but when they got there, they were arrested by policemen. There were four of them that went there, so one of them refused to enter. So the man came out with one other policeman in mufti, but before you knew it, they were arrested and taken to Panti (State Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department),” a source told SaharaReporters.
The Publicity Secretary of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers' Rights (CDWR), Chinedu Bosah also confirmed the arrest in a statement sent to SaharaReporters.
The statement read, “Three former workers of MABISCO, a company that manufactures biscuits, were arrested today at Allen Avenue, Ikeja, Lagos and are currently detained at Panti Police Station, Yaba.
“They are Usman Yahaya, Bisiriyi Babatunde and Olayiwola Akin.
“They were arrested by policemen who posed as journalists from the Sahara Reporters interested in the poor working condition at MABISCO. In actual fact, Sahara Reporters reported the poor working conditions workers are subjected to on Tuesday, November 23, 2021, with the headline: 'Ogun Biscuit Factory Suspends Workers for Protesting N1000 Slave Wage'.
“The company owner, Mr Felix, who was not happy about the report ordered the arrest of these workers.
“The arrest took place at No 6 Allen Avenue, Ikeja, the office of Citizens Aid for Social Justice. The secretary who came to pick these workers at the bus stop is one Miss/Mrs Joyce.
“The three workers are currently detained at Panti Police Station for no reason. Kindly call and send protest messages to Mr Felix (MABISCO CEO) on 08171229888 to demand their release. Also, call and send protest messages to Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos State Commissioner of Police.”
In a story published by SaharaReporters on November 23, some workers accused the management of the firm of subjecting them to inhuman treatment for demanding their entitlements.
The affected employees - many of them casual workers – accused the company of paying them slave wages of N1,000 daily despite working up to 13-hour shifts.
They slammed MABISCO for refusing to pay their overtime allowances and for failing to remit their pension and taxes deducted from their salaries.
Some of the aggrieved persons disclosed that the poor working condition at the factory and the inhuman treatment workers were subjected to, had caused many of them to develop ailments that put their health in a terrible state.
"Mayor Biscuit Company Ltd is a slave camp where anti-labour practices and crimes are flagrantly committed.
"Management pays poverty wages to most of the workers. Casual workers who constitute 80 per cent of the workforce are paid N1000 daily while the regularised staff members earn N35,000 monthly.
"We are made to work overtime from Monday to Saturday (7:00 am to 6:00 pm) without payment of overtime allowances. The working condition is miserably poor as we are denied severance entitlement and other benefits.
"The management recklessly violates Pension Reform Act and consequently denies us our right to a pension.
"So brazen is the level of violation such that the management deducts workers contribution (8%) and pockets it instead of remitting to the Pension Fund Administrator. The management also does not contribute its own share of the pension which is 10%. This constitutes a gross violation of the Pension Reform Act.
"They also deduct tax from workers' salaries and do not remit to the tax authority and government.
"This situation is affecting many workers emotionally and psychologically, thereby leading to health conditions that put our colleagues at risk," one of the affected had workers said.
Another casual employee of the manufacturing company disclosed that many of their colleagues, who confronted the management over the issues, were either suspended indefinitely or sacked without any form of compensation.
"The management subjects workers to intimidation, harassment and arbitrary sacking and do not pay their earned entitlements.
"For instance, Musa Ibrahim has been placed on indefinite suspension since May 2019 for requesting his overtime entitlements to be paid. He has not been sacked and his entitlement is yet to be paid.
"This injustice takes place every day. We are treated like slaves just because we are trying to earn an honest living at MABISCO," he had said.
Other workers of the firm, who also expressed anger at the situation, revealed that the leadership of the National Union of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employees refused to intervene in the matter despite several reports made to them.
A management staff member of the company contacted by SaharaReporters over the issue claimed that most of the workers were using blackmail to extort the company of money and run it out of business.
"All allegations by the workers are not true. You can check with the Ministry of Labour and other relevant authorities to see if we run a slave camp like they claimed or ever denied any worker their entitlement.
"They are doing this because the company is owned by a Nigerian and they think they can blackmail him into giving them whatever they demand.
"We are a responsible organisation operating under the standard labour laws of Nigeria, we have nothing to hide," the official, who asked not to be named, said.
In August 2019, the company accused workers of causing it N30 million loss after a protest that grounded operations for several hours.
The workers, who stormed the Agbara, Ogun State factory of the biscuit company in several trucks, had attempted to burn down the place but were repelled by policemen from a station nearby.
Disagreements between workers and the management of the company have become a regular feature since that period, it was gathered.