For the trio of Hanatu Bulus, Gloria and Janet, working from 6:30 am to 6: 00 pm everyday inside the Abuja Light Rail project plant in Idu Industrial park is like a ritual.
Both Hanatu and Gloria live in a neighbouring village of Gulumi and needed money to further their education to the secondary school level having completed their primary school stage.
They are expected to bend 1200 piece of irons that are being used in the molding of concrete sleepers for the Light Rail. When they do this daily, they are entitled to a sum of N400 as their wage.
The three girls are however few of the Nigerian girls who have found succour in the Light Rail project as a place where they get means of livelihood.
There are others in other sections of the project on the site. Gloria told our correspondent that she started the work in January this year when someone informed her that the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC), handling the Abuja Light Rail project was recruiting casual workers.
She disclosed that for her and others to earn N400 daily, they have to bend up to 1200 piece of iron failure of which may lead to pay cut for the day and an eventual lost of the job.
But to Janet who is 20 year-old, the job, though strenuous with its attendant body pains especially in the chest, is a better alternative to the subsistence farming she was into at her Gulumi village.
She complained however that she has been having chest pain due to the force she has to exert each time she has to bend an iron using a long tail rod which she must turn about 360 degree on a workshop table before she can satisfactorily bend an iron to the specified position.
Asked whether she is satisfied with the daily pay of N400 given, Janet said that the Chinese who are in charge of the project had asked anybody who was not satisfied with the remuneration to leave. She had no option than to continue with the job even with the paltry pay package, according to her.
On her own part, Gloria said they were trained by the Chinese how to bend the irons in just one day as the work does not require much skill but strength.
Putting on a safety helmet and a pair of hand gloves the girls form the core of casual workers in the factory as others who are not in the iron bending section were made to man and operate other machines.
In his reaction, the Personal Assistant to the Project Manager, Leo Yin explained that the casual workers were employed based on skills they possess and are assigned duties as well as paid on the same basis.
He revealed that the reason behind more ladies in the plant is due to the fact the girls were more patience at carrying out assigned duty and that they measure more accurately than the boys. But he would not agree that the pay for the girls is small.
The Abuja Light Rail project was awarded in 2007 by the FCT administration to the Chinese company as part of moves to tackle the problem of transportation in the nation’s capital.
It is estimated that a sum of N357.6 billion ($235 billion) would be required this year to continue the project.
Tayo from Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 2:58 AM (EST)
Dear Editor, a pathetic story but that is the rule and not an exception with all Chinese and Lebanese companies operating in Nigeria. Sadly these aliens confidently perpetuate this atrocity with the overt,covert and tacit support of conscienceless Nigerians who are their business partners and go between. A particular Chinese company came 2 Nigeria 2 set up business and when their Nigerian partners saw the planned renumeration for the staff they demanded for it to be reviewed downwards by 50%. So it is Nigerians who are given these people confidence to enslave their own people.
Jonathan from Surulere Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 2:53 AM (EST)
These are the kind of organisation(s), labour union should be picketing. This is a reinvention of slave trade, they pick girls because they know boys will revolt against the standard of pay.
BUKIE from Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 3:29 AM (EST)
This is what happens in a country where there are no labour laws to protect employees. N8,000 a month is totally ridicules for this kind of job or any job at all. Infact, just the thought of it is frightening. It is pure abuse and CCECC should be told clearly that Nigeria is not China where labour is cheap.
Priscilla from Abuja said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 4:26 AM (EST)
This is completely a human right violation. Its incredible, in this jet age. Where are the women rights groups such as FIDA and indeed the labour unions in Nigeria? This is an issue that needs to be taken up with the Chinese coy
tajudeen kanmi from ibadan said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 4:26 AM (EST)
This is a challenge to our law makers. The issue of minimum wage must be all inclusive. Our labour laws must be looked into and necessary review should be made to prevent exploitative tendencies on the part of employers. The issue of casual workers should be viewed seriously to protect human dignity. Nigerians should not collude with expatriates to exploit fellow Nigerians.
Bernard from London said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 4:54 AM (EST)
I think the Chinese and other multi-national companies in Nigeria should now be informed about Nigeria Minimum Wage Bill. The law in Nigeria must be respected by all. Nigeria and its leaders must apply the law equally for everyone otherwise there will be unfairness to a section of the society.
First lady from lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 5:36 AM(EST)
It is terrible! This cruel slavery must be stopped. How can foreigners maltreat the indigenes? It is even pathetic that most of these Chinese, Indian do not have legal stay permit and I wonder if they pay their tax and they have the guts to pay the girls 400 naira to bend? It is high time men stood for their rights, and education as power!
Roko from London said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 5:42 AM (EST)
Am happy that @least d girls didn't take on some ugly lifestyles in other to make ends meet but I will affirm stand that “this is slavery” in your own land, be it anywhere, abroad or @ home, what are the authorities doing about this? The concerned department should be called into action, investigations carried out n equivalent measures given to the company or employers who misuse human beings (here in the UK a steel fixer (iron bender) makes £10 per hour which is about 2000 naira or over...... What is good for the goose is good for the gander.....I rest my case for now
Charity Ogwugwa from Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 6:01 AM (EST)
This is quite disheartening in a country flowing with milk and honey. Our youths are the future of this great Nation and deserve to be well treated. Granted that these girls are just secondary school leavers, should they be paid such paltry sum all in the name of it 'being commensurate to their qualification' where does this leave us with the current minimum wage. Asian companies are known to milk their employees whereever they operate. Our Labour leaders over to you.
Samuel Olukayode from Lagos, Nigeria said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 6:35 AM (EST)
What do you expect in a country that careless for her citizens? If Jonathan and Sanbo actually have a plan, let them do something, this is one case out of many. Let them act now.
Samuel Efosu from Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 7:33 AM (EST)
What's the hullabaloo about? 400 a day gives N12,000.00 a month, which is more than the current minimum wage of 7,500. They only need to add 200 more to make the new minimum wage which I am not sure is yet in force. Govt and labour need to take the issue of minimum wage determination serious. What is there to jubilate about the new minimum wage when it is a mere N600.00 daily?
Ade from LG said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 9:07 AM (EST)
What do you expect of a country where the few law makers are earning about 25% of the total gain of the country’s gross earning? I am yet to see legislation passed to support good education, open doors for a competitive market where small business will not be destroyed in favour of big companies, support research and provide an environment where labour law will benefit Nigeria citizens. It is pathetic that these girls saw a future and unfortunately our government are looking at their own pocket, reducing them and means of their greatness into another form of slavery. Who can work for that period of time and still concentrate studying? 400 Naira? Some will prefer to spend money to cause trouble, political and religious riots instead of spending for the dignity of humanity! This is sad....Oh my beloved country....I am sure the girls in question risk loosing those jobs for speaking up if those companies are investigated...with that said, we have opened up our doors for this human slavery...May God deliver us.....
Omobobo from South Africa said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 8:24 AM (EST)
Please, how can I send message to the editor personally? I do not want it to appear on this page.
Peter Amaechi Ogwuru from Olorunda LCDA Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 9:09 AM (EST)
Dear Editor, This is de-humanising, despicable and unacceptable. Umar, should have the apparatus to monitor these kinds of maltreatment at the work place. Thank God we now have a National minimum wage. Whilst their Chinese bosses are busy wining and dining at the various Chinese restaurants, these Nigerian daughters of the soil are slaving it away. Even, the human resources manager is a Chinese in Nigeria. Can it ever happen in China? Certainly calls for the Ministry of Labour's intervention. PAO
'Gbenga from USA said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 10:02 AM (EST)
Of course there are labor laws in the books but enforcement is lax. Of course people expect the Ministry of Labor to step in and ensure enforcement of the set minimum wage+8 hour workday BUT the reality is that sometimes all that's needed is for one brave person among these girls to test the legal waters and file a suit for enforcement. When you break it down, these girls are being paid N34.00 per hour. This is exploitation at its worst but only in a country where ordinary citizens do not know their rights, are too afraid to stand up for their rights, and rely on an irresponsible government to enforce these rights, will these injustices occur. The society and the people that fail to defend themselves are doomed.
GEORGE from Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 12:34 PM
I think people should be studying the remarkable life and example of the outstanding people of the PRC who are showing us the great prospects socialism opens up for cooperation with our underdeveloped country. The contracts they have been awarded are at such low prices that no western (American, British, German) company can ever accept. But since their calculations on the project execution are in the context of a socialist working environment, am afraid it may not be of any real value here , because ours is under capitalism and hence a predatory system. If there were no Chinese companies to handle this project, Western and American companies which control our government will only be gearing us for the only profitable business they promote here, namely waging wars against each other. Let the discussions focus on the good sacrifices of both the girls and the Chinese that will ensure that there will be a railway system operational or in effect according to plan at the end of the program. We should commend their strenuous efforts not call them practitioners of slavery. Recall the refineries, Steel plants and PHCN's Generating Plant elephant contract projects handled by the European companies and the Scandalous Billions spent with nothing on ground to show for their efforts and it will be clear why our thinking must be reappraised.
Mary E from Lagos said on, Monday, February 28, 2011 2:20 PM (EST)
What a pity,the girls get less than N12000 a month for such strenuous job! That would not event take care of their hospital bill if they fall sick for such devilish job. Why don't they just go selling groundnut and pure water instead of being enslaved by these wicked Chinese and Lebanese companies. They could make double of what they are given with less stress and also have time for other things that would develop their persons!
Eteyen from ABAKALIKI said on, Tuesday, March 1, 2011 10:37 AM
I hope this so called chinese company will be covered when mr president finally sign the minimum wage into law.