The damning report of the Australian anti-slavery campaign group, The Walk Free Foundation that Nigeria sweeps the board in mustering the highest number of people living in modern slavery in Africa is not only on the threshold of verifiable truth, but also in the crucible of sordid reality. The foundation which defines modern slavery in the vistas and themes of human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, forced marriage, sale and exploitation of children, tangentially obviates work place slavery, seedy and sub-human working conditions. However, for this pardonable lacuna, it blares out, “Victims of modern slavery, have their freedom denied, and are used and controlled and exploited by another for profit….” That notwithstanding, it is logical and tenable to aver that if the organization had considered critically Nigerian work places and the working conditions of Nigerian workers, the published figures of 670,000 and 740, 000 (Nigerians living in modern slavery) would have quadrupled.
The lachrymal truth is that some Nigerian work places are concentration camps, and working conditions in Nigeria are below the crust of salubrious standards. To add verisimilitude to this assertion, here are human testaments to work slavery and tragedy in Nigeria.
Femi works as a financial planner for a financial institution in Nigeria. It is his fifth year on the job; still Femi is a casual staffer. That is, his employment is on a contract basis, and as such he can be kicked out at the whim of his boss. Perhaps, when his boss finds his face too familiar, and needs a comely and nubile face to look upon and forget the forbidden badgering of his wife.
Femi does everything in the human capacitance to keep his contract valid. Five hundred million is his quarterly target. This is against the back drop of the insulting pittance he receives as salary. For him, it is better than staying unemployed. He makes sure he builds new skyscrapers of customers every four months. This is a grueling and humiliating task which involves begging and groveling to people of different venoms of contumely, arrogance and prejudice. But he manages at the end of the day to get a life line as luck never abandons him. The street where he chances on prospective customers is his office as there is no time for respite. In spite of all the sweaty money he has raked in for his company, Femi is still a run-off-the-mill contract staffer subject to varying degrees of work indignities. He is a stompie, and necessary garbage that can be easily discarded after its necessity reaches nadir.
Most devastatingly, Femi is intellectually and aptitudinally dislocated. He is totally unfit for another job. He has been used for long to dust-bin status that all he knows is begging and groveling to prospective customers for business. In his five year work slavery, his company has not deemed it fit to sponsor him for development courses; he is just a bloody contract staffer, milking him through the rectum is the main idea. Even if he considers taking courses for personal development, the vagaries and vicissitudes of his job discourage that. How can he take development classes when he has a target of over hundred million naira every month to chalk up? He is just one hapless work slave in a treacherous treadmill. In addition, he does not nurse the wishful and exorbitant idea of promotion for that is a chimera. Femi subsists on hope in a work concentration camp.
Analogous to Femi’s fix is Mary’s depressing story. Mary works as a relationship officer for an event management company. She has “lavished” two odd years on the job, still she is on probation. Her probationary period never ends. She brings business to the company, but in the thinking of her employers that is no guarantee for putting an indelible seal of approbation on her appointment. She must poop all the contents of her genius before she can be given a permanent space. She just has not bled enough. Coupled with this indignity, her salary for six months has not been paid. Again, her slave drivers refuse pigheadedly to make internet facility available to her. Instead, they badger her like tormented penitents to use the internet browser on her phone to research on important official assignments. If she must keep her job, then she must eat their dung. This how egregious it is. Mary too subsists on fate in a work concentration camp.
It is without a doubt that some organisations in Nigeria do not adhere to labour stipulations as regards the treatment and working conditions of their employees. The Nigerian labour organisation too is spindly and malacus when it comes to defending the rights of workers. This a rough blot on the Nigerian work system. The rising tide of unemployment too has foisted a mentality of “I work or I die” on Nigerian workers that they endure execrable depths of maltreatment, expurgating their rights from the rule books. The present conditions of Nigerian workers call for accelerated actions in giving jagged teeth to labour laws protecting Nigerian workers from misuse, abuse, and capital dehumanization by their employers. Workers in general must be treated with dignity, fairness, and respect if maximum output is expected of them. It is when they are treated right that employers can avail themselves of the best of them.
Fredrick Nwabufo is a writer and a poet. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org 08167992075.