Oyo House committee hearing on Sumal workers doesn’t hold
CDWR meeting with Oyo State House Committee on Employment, Labour, Productivity and Pension was dispersed without a definite time to reconvene
The conduct of Hon. Mustapha Hakeem Olawale during the preceding suggests a bias and compromise
Journalists were barred from covering the proceeding!
A new stage in the long running labour dispute at Sumal Foods in Ibadan developed when the Oyo State House of Assembly Committee on Employment, Labour, Productivity and Pension wrote a letter, on 18 November 2019, inviting members of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) to a meeting of the committee to “deliberate on your petition titled ‘petition Against Violation of Labour Act by some outsourcing companies and Sumal Foods Limited in Ibadan’”. This meeting was scheduled take place at 12 noon on Friday 22nd November 2019 at the Conference Room of the New Assembly Complex.
The meeting kicked-off at about 12:32pm with the official introduction of members of the committee including the Clerk and the representatives of both the Campaign for Democratic and workers’ Rights, CDWR and Sumal Foods Limited were equally invited for the meeting. This was after several minutes of informal contentions over the number of representatives that will be entertained from both sides. The CDWR contended the initial conditionality stipulated in its letter of invitation that only two of its members will be allowed to be part of the meeting. This was when it became obvious that more representatives of Sumal Foods were to be accommodated to participate in the meeting. At the end of the day, all the CDWR members who were present, over 8 in number, were allowed to enter the venue of the meeting. This excluded members who were asked to hang around.
Unfortunately, the meeting was held without the coverage of the media. The journalists, who are largely the correspondents of the Oyo State House of Assembly, were sent out at the instance of Hon. Mustapha Hakkem Olawale, a member of the House representing Kajola constituency, immediately after the official introduction. Hon. Mustapha argued that the journalists had no right to cover the proceeding except they were invited by the chairman of the committee. Members of the CDWR argued against the unilateral decision of Hon. Mustapha, to order the journalists out of the venue of the meeting. We saw it as a deliberate ploy to ensure that the proceedings were held in secrecy.
The chairman of the Oyo State House of Assembly correspondents, Mr Abiola, later came into the venue to protest the decision to prevent the journalists from covering the proceedings. He courageously defended the right of the journalists to cover the proceeding as he maintained that the issue of violation of Labour Act and indecent labour practice brought by the CDWR against the Sumal Foods is of public interest and therefore urged the committee of being careful to avert a situation whereby the House will be accused of conniving with Sumal Foods the same way the 8th Assembly was accused of connivance when similar petition against the same Sumal was brought before the House a few years ago.
Despite the intervention of Mr. Abiola the journalists were not allowed to cover the proceeding instead the chairman himself was ordered out of the meeting by the same Hon. Mustapha after which he openly declared that the meeting should be discontinued even when the presentation/submission expected to be taken from both the CDWR and Sumal Foods was yet to be taken. Earlier before this point there were several attempts by Hon. Mustapha to give a false impression that the CDWR petition against SUMAL could not be entertained by the committee. His argument was that the issues raised in the petition are also before a court and that Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye, the coordinator of the Oyo State chapter of the CDWR, who also signed the CDWR petition is the defendant in all of the cases in question.
This impression was subsequently defeated in the response of Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye who among other things stated that the issues raised in the petition are violation of Labour Act and indecent labour practices by the outsourcing companies in connivance with Sumal Foods. These are quite different from the all of the issues that are involved in legal cases instituted by Sumal Foods against Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye at the Magistrate and Industrial courts. For instance, the case at the Magistrate Court 9 Iyaganku Ibadan, Oyo State is a criminal matter while the one in Magistrate Court 2 at the same Iyanganku, Ibadan and the other two at Court 1 in Federal Industrial Court, Ibadan are an application for an order to restrain Comrade Bamigboye from initiating or participating a protest within Sumal Foods.
The false impression that the petition was authored by Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye was also corrected. The petition was initiated by the CDWR. It was only signed by Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye on behalf of the organization. Comrade Bamigboye further insisted that that his membership of CDWR up to the point of signing a document of the organization is his democratic right as it is guaranteed in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and that such a right can never be taken away from him with the fact that he is standing a trial in the court.
At this point the Chairman of the committee who was frequently interrupted by Hon. Mustapha Hakeem Olawale, was forced to begin to appeal for calm and understanding while also trying to invent new and fresh reasons for the need to bring the meeting to an end. The first reason raised was the issue of quorum. According to him, the committee is made up of 7 members of the House of Assembly. He therefore appealed for the meeting to be rescheduled given the fact that just three of the members were in attendance. He also informed that members of the House of Assembly just returned from Abuja and were tired, therefore he pleaded that the meeting should be rescheduled because they might not be able to stay for the long time that is required to attend to issues raised in the petition. The third reason was that they would also like to go for Jumat service.
While members of CDWR did not raise any objection against the plea to reschedule the meeting, nevertheless we posed a question of whether or not the committee had now agreed that the CDWR petition against violation Labour Act and indecent practice is now a credible petition to be entertained by the committee against the erroneous impression earlier given by the Hon. Mustapha Hakeem Olawale. Unfortunately, this question and the CDWR proposal for a democratic agreement on the next adjourned date since the committee had resolved to reschedule the meeting was not addressed before the meeting was arbitrarily dispersed.
One other important feature of the meeting was an attempt to give an impression that the CDWR petition was a call for an amicable settlement for the ongoing legal battle between Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye and Sumal. This erroneous impression which was painted by Hon. Mustapha Olawale was rejected. The motive behind the petition was to call the attention of the House of Assembly to habitual cases of violation of Labour Act and indecent labour practices often perpetrated by the outsourcing companies and Sumal Food Limited. This is with a view to solicit for an independent and democratic investigation into these allegations by the Oyo House of Assembly
We of the CDWR frown against the conduct and biased attitude exhibited by Hon. Mustapha Olawale Hakeem. The conduct did not only suggest a bias and compromise but also connivance to sweep the petition and the role expected of the committee under the carpet. This is so especially when all the plea by the representatives of Sumal Foods was that the petition should be disregarded.
It is in the effort to defeat this ploy and ensure that this petition is not swept under the carpet that we call on members of general public: workers, students, unemployed youths to prevail on members of the Oyo State House of Assembly Committee on Employment, Labour, Productivity and Pension to immediately fix a new day for a meeting to openly discuss the petition.
Protest messages can be sent to the following numbers: 08023920344, 08171168313 and 08073721326 to demand as follow:
(1) A new date for the Oyo State House Committee on Employment, Labour, Productivity and Pension to reconvene in order to begin to address the urgent issues of public interest contained in the petition of the Campaign for Democratic and Workers Rights (CDWR) alleging Sumal Foods Limited and some outsourcing companies in Ibadan, Oyo State of violating the Labour Act and subjecting workers to slave working conditions.
(2) For the right of the media to cover the proceedings of the committee anytime it reconvenes.
(3) For the Committee to ensure an open, transparent, unbiased and democratic process throughout the stages that will be required in handling all of the issues that are raised in this petition.
(4) That a thorough investigation that will include the participation of the Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Trade Union Congress, TUC, Federal Ministry of Labour including civil society organization like ours (CDWR) and members of the public should be conducted in Sumal Foods Limited with a view to substantiate the allegations above.
(5) That similar investigation of the working condition under which thousands of poor workers groan should also be conducted across many factories and workplaces in the state
(6) Adequate compensation to victims of proven cases of indecent labour practices and violation of Labour Act.
(7) Immediate halt to casualization and outsourcing. We also demand regularization of all casual staff in Sumal Food Limited and recognition of their right to belong to any union of their choice.
(8) Recall of all workers who were summarily sacked for agitating and protesting against Sumal Food Limited anti-labour practices cited above.
(9) Immediate halt to the witch-hunt and persecution of Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye, the Oyo State Coordinator of the CDWR, by the police and management of Sumal Food Limited who have instituted criminal and civil cases against him both at the Magistrate Court Iyaganku and the industrial court in order to victimize him for solidarsing with poor casual workers and exposing anti-labour practices and slave conditions going on in the company.