The Travails of Workers of Dangote Cement

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It appears that the nation has not yet seen the end of victimizations and maltreatment of workers by the Dangote Group. A May 1 2012 online edition of the Workers Alternative gave an account of the gross injustice going on at the Pasta subsidiary at Ikorodu. In this current report, the workers bearing the brunt of the now familiar Dangote’s sword of Damocles are the Apapa cement workers.

The travails of these honest and diligent workers started when they dared to demand that their conditions of service be put in black and white. The workers were employed and given employment letters that stipulated that a Company Employment Handbook, in which the conditions of service were laid down, would be given to them.

However, years after their employment, the workers found out that no such thing existed and that management had no interest of even publishing such. Upon this realisation, the workers sought the advice of a lawyer who then wrote to Management to make the Handbook available forthwith so that workers should cease to be in the dark as far as the condition of service under which they work is concerned.

That management considered the demand of the handbook too much to ask became very apparent to the workers when Mr. Justin Igboanugo and Mr. Christopher Danladi, two very vocal and courageous leaders of the workers were given the sack. This was after a series of queries, molestations and victimizations. Their offense was ‘anti-organizational activities’; that is, they had to be sacrificed because they had mobilized other workers to contribute money to hire a lawyer to fight their cause with them.

Months after the exit of these leaders from active service because of the unlawful and unjust termination of their appointments, the management of Dangote Cement, Apapa, still could not produce the Handbook containing the conditions of service. It was at this point that the next round of battle began and once again, these heroic workers found their way to the court. A case was filed on July 2, 2010 to compel management to issue the Handbook in contention. True to type, the Dangote group’s response to this was terrorise the perceived leaders of this struggle again, particularly Mr. Adedeji Badusi.

As a result of an amendment to the Constitution in regards to workplace dispute, the case was withdrawn from the High Court and re-filed at the National Industrial Court. Mr. Adedeji Badusi, whose name appeared as the lead litigant in the case was not spared. His appointment was also summarily terminated!

In an attempt to best the workers and pull the carpet under their feet, the Dangote Cement management hastily put together a handbook, which they issued to the workers on the condition that it would take effect from 01/11/2010.

This fraudulent excuse of a handbook was unsurprisingly rejected by the mass of the workers as it was glaringly a document contrived to pave way for illegal layoff of workers without adequate payments or benefits.

It is noteworthy that the relationship between Dangote Cement management and the workers was that of master-slave, in which the workers were expected to just continue to work like robots without a thought for their own welfare. Arbitrariness and high-handedness was the norm as far as management was concerned.

It is saddening that the above scenario is the case especially when one considers the fact that these workers were daily exposed to life-threatening chemicals such as the ones used for making cement.

In April 2012, instead of Dangote Cement organising a serious compensatory package for them, these workers were repaid for all their years of sacrifice and hard work at the Dangote Apapa factory, with victimizations, sacks and little or no compensation. The reason for their sack being that the company has moved to a new site in Ibeshi! Thus, confirming the workers worst fears that led to the struggle for the Handbook containing the conditions of service in the first place.

It is vital that the Nigerian Labour Movement take up Dangote and defend these victimized workers. Dangote continues to commit all forms of crimes against humanity on a daily basis yet receives praises from the bourgeois media. Again, we can see the real source of the wealth of the richest Blackman.

Workers in all of the Dangote groups are living a hell. 

Labour activists must join in the campaign against these attacks and put more pressure on the leadership of labour to take on Dangote concretely.

We call on these workers to remain steadfast and undaunted. That they have already started organising is a good omen. We enjoin them to keep the fire of the struggle burning not only in the law court but also through political actions such as picketing and rallies. And link up with other victimized workers in the Dangote group and with Labour activists nationally. They should never forget that he who dares to struggle dares to win.