An article in Nigeria Punch earlier this year narrated how Chinese and Indian companies are maltreating their Nigerian staff in Nigeria. The writer described the inhumane treatment was best as slave-like. Despite this ill-treatment, new people flocked in and would rather stay at the job so their daily break is secured.
Foreign investors may be awful towards their Nigerian staff, the truth is that Nigerian owned companies are by miles worse. All foreign companies learn their horrific attitude towards staff from their Nigerian buddies and as common with humans, the only thing they did was to ‘up’ the ill-treatment a notch.
To demand to be treated at our jobs the way human beings should, we need to start by taken on companies owned by Nigerians first, then foreigners will naturally follow suits or successfully forced to.
During my brief time in Lagos after high school. I once had a job at a coal factory in Idimu Lagos. It pays ₦50/day. The pay was appealing so I quit my ₦350/month job for the coal factory job. I went to the factory with my sister’s neighbours and really excited about the prospect of earning more money.
The coal was in a big container (seemed so), about a hundred people working round the big heap of coal, some sat on top with sacks in their hands if they can’t find spots to sit on the floor. My job was to pick chunks of coal and arrange neatly in 5kg paperbag – a bit of bonus at the end of the day for those who picked most.
I don’t remember if there were any windows for ventilation as the lights were on throughout the day and the entrance door left open. Entering in the first instance, it was dark but after adjusting to the environment, one can see clear enough to get the job done and chat with a few fellow workers. We picked coals with bare hands, I used my scarf to cover nose.
Most of the jobs I have ever done up to that day have always been physically demanding jobs which wasn’t too bad as mind is left to wander and dream freely, however, I have never had to do any job that is synonymous to voluntary death sentence – I was 19 at the time.
I wanted to be ‘tough’ so went the second day. For the next two weeks, everything that came from my nose, throat, ears even eyes was black. My sister didn’t demand for rent or contribution towards food so easy for me to call it a quit. Mama Abasi, my sister’s neighbour stayed for almost a month before she left – actually she was terribly sick, complained of chest infection so had to stop.
I would not be surprised if this company (can’t remember its name) is still there today operating the same way. The saying was – soldier go, soldier come, barrack remains.
It never occurred for the sick to complain about the working environment because there is no one listening to the small people or cared about their health or poor pay.
If we are genuine about wanting better working conditions, we need to take on Nigeria owned company in the first instance.