Thursday, July 9, 2015


9th July, 2015

Workers of the Benin Electricity Distribution Company (BEDC) which was privatized along with others a long time ago did not receive their letters of appointment until May 2015 (two months ago). The letter stated that salary would depend on the percentage of total commission in each month. To their dismay, the May 2015 salary which was paid on Thursday, 11th June, 2015 allegedly fell short of expectation as some of the workers received 50% of their full salary while some got less than that.  

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is dismayed by this development and we strongly condemn it. It is dehumanising, debasing and degrading. It runs counter to the principles of human dignity, liberty and equal access to the dividends of democracy. We are surprised that some Nigerians could still be treated like slaves in their own country 55 years after independence.

Any reduction in workers’ take-home-pay in these hard times is most likely to result in additional suffering for the underpriviledged. The Nigerian proletariat is the producer of our common wealth. Therefore workers deserve wages commensurate with their efforts. A situation where labour is overworked, underpaid and overtaxed can only produce socio-economic disequilibrium.        

Shortchanging workers and exploiting them in any form is not only inhuman, it is ungodly. The Glorious Qur’an Chapter 16 (Surat an-Nahl) verse 90 commands fairness, justice and equity. It says, “Allah commands justice, good deeds and generous giving to kith and kin. He forbids impropriety, exploitation and rebellion. He counsels you that you may be reminded.”

Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also enjoined employers to pay workers promptly and adequately. He said inter alia, “Aatuu al-ajiir ajrahu qabla an yajifa ‘araqahu”, i.e. Give the labourer his wage before his sweat dries.    

Maltreating workers is therefore an infringement on their Allah-given fundamental human right. The Supreme Creator gave every worker the right to be paid promptly and commensurately too. He also game every man dignity of his human person. “We have honoured the children of Adam, We provided them with means of transportation and sustenance on land and sea, then We conferred on them special favours above all other creatures” (Qur’an 17:70).

If Almighty Allah who created us has honoured us, why should BEDC deprive its workers of this honour? Is BEDC saying that its own employees are less human and should be subjected to slave labour?

MURIC contends that BEDC has flagrantly violated the Labour Act Chapter 198 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 as in Part I General Provisions as to the protection of wages.

We therefore charge the Federal Government to, as a matter of urgency, wade into the matter. We also call the attention of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) which is the umbrella organization of all labour unions in the country to come to the aid of the oppressed staff of BEDC.

NLC should be able to find out if this obnoxious policy is peculiar to BEDC or to all privatized companies and take such steps that will ensure the protection of workers’ interests in those companies. Another term of reference in which NLC may show interest is to find out if it is true that  Mrs. Dame Patience Jonathan, wife of  Dr. Goodluck Jonathan,  former head of state, owns 60% of BEDC shares and how far this has encouraged the company’s management to engage in acts of impunity.

Is this how those elected by the people are expected to treat poor workers? Are they supposed to privatise public property, sell such properties to themselves, their wives, their children, family members, concubines and friends at the expense of the downtrodden? Any public office holder who does this has broken his oath of office.

We urge the Buhari administration to show interest in this angle. All recently privatized companies should be investigated with a view to identifying the buyers and whether or not due process has been followed. It will serve as deterrent for public officers who have the noun ‘thief’ and the verb ‘to steal’ in future.   

As far as MURIC is concerned, oppression of one is oppression of all, regardless of religion or tribe. We believe that Nigerians should be set free particularly in this new dispensation of ‘Change’. We remain oppressed until every Nigerian worker is adequately paid, until every hungry Nigerian is fed and until every illiterate Nigerian is educated.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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