NLC shuts down Chinese construction firm over inhuman treatment of Nigerians


Protesting members of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) on Wednesday prevented work activities at the premises of Shaanxi Construction Engineering Group Corporation, a Chinese construction company responsible for building the new headquarters of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Lugbe, Abuja.

The NLC expressed their protest against what they described as dehumanizing working conditions endured by Nigerian workers at the Chinese company. They aimed to liberate the workers from what they perceived as slavery-like conditions.

Initially, the Chinese company resisted the entrance of the NLC leadership and their picketing team onto the company premises. However, they later opened the gate and received the complaint from the workers’ union.

The management of the construction company did not comment on the protest or respond to the allegations made by the NLC.

The Chinese government had undertaken the construction of the new ECOWAS Secretariat as part of an aid package to the West African regional organization.

During the protest, the General Secretary of the NLC, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, expressed concern about the alleged inhumane treatment of workers at the construction site. He stated that the NLC had responded to a complaint from the construction workers’ union in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) regarding poor working conditions at the site.

According to Ugboaja, the Chinese company engaged the workers on an ad hoc basis without providing any employment terms or welfare benefits, including medical services.

He expressed regret that due to the deplorable work conditions, one of the workers, a driver named Mr Augustine, had died due to neglect and lack of timely medical attention.

Ugboaja mentioned that while the picketing action continued, the labour leadership hoped to engage in discussions with the management of Shaanxi Construction Engineering Group Corporation to address the concerns of the workers.

Referring to the deceased driver, Ugboaja said, “Mrs Ruth Augustine migrated with her husband and family to Abuja to come and earn a living. Now the man, in an aid to help build the ECOWAS Secretariat, has ended up six feet down, leaving his poor widow to face the vagaries of life: no pension, no gratuity, no food, no water, and no explanation. Where will help come from? Every day we plead with the government to provide a minimal social security net, to no avail. That is the challenge we have. This challenge is real.”

Ugboaja emphasized that, contrary to critics accusing labour of crying wolf where there are none, the widow of the deceased was present to share the tragic story of her late husband’s experience.

Ruth, the widow, narrated her ordeal, stating that her husband had secured a job as a driver with a Chinese company last year. However, the conditions of his employment did not allow him to return home after work.

“He would work from Monday till Sunday. I asked him whether they gave him a bonus for the overtime and extra work he was doing. He said no. My husband would work from morning till night without food, and he would not be allowed to come home. Even when he did come home, he would not stay for more than an hour before hurrying back to the site,” the woman said.

Ruth explained that after her husband returned to work in January following the Christmas festivities, he stayed at the company for two months without visiting home. Worried, she called him.

“From the conversation, I knew he was very sick,” she said.

According to her, the company failed to take her husband to the hospital and also did not allow him to go home for treatment.

“When they eventually permitted him to go home, his condition had worsened. He had a swollen neck and looked highly malnourished,” she said.

The woman added that she took her husband to the Gwagwalada Teaching Hospital in Abuja and later to the National Hospital, where he passed away.

Throughout this ordeal, Mrs Augustine stated that the Chinese company failed to heed her pleas for assistance. Instead, they gave her a termination letter for her husband.