Information reaching 247ureports.com indicated that Kano state Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has tasked security agencies to speed up investigation into the hostage-taking of 126 Nigerian Workers by a Kano-based Indian Company, the Popular Rice Mill Company Limited.
Also, an inside Source of the Popular Rice Mill Limited confirmed that the management would be guests of the Kano state Commissioner of Police, at the early working hours of Thursday.
247ureports.com reports that some of the 126 workers rescued by police from the company, have narrated their ordeals, insisting that they were forced to work for long hours against their wish for three months during the lockdown period, occassioned by the dreaded COVID-19 pandemic.
A reliable Source from Kano Government House insisted that, Governor Ganduje is only waiting for the completion of the investigation launched by the police, before taking drastic action against the company.
“I must tell you that His Excellency, Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is not happy over what is happening. The Governor expressed concern that the company refused to obey the lockdown order. He is also dismayed that workers could be treated in such an inhuman manner.
“He is waiting to get the full report from security agencies before taking any action; but I can assure you that drastic measures must be taken by the state government to address the situation,” the source added.
Some of the workers who spoke to journalists on Wednesday said the management of the company subjected them to hard labour under hash working condition with a threat of sack or non-payment of salary.
The rescued workers alleged that they were disallowed from visiting their families, made to work long hours and sleep under harsh weather, with only N5, 000 incentive for three months.
However, a human rights group, Global Human Rights Network being led by Mr. Kabiru Yahaya Kabara sponsored a petition which prompted the police to raid Popular Farms Rice Mill located in Challawa Industrial Estate, where 126 workers held hostage against their wish were rescued.
Some of the aggrieved workers who spoke to 247ureports.com said they were held hostage within the Rice Mill premises by the management of Popular Farms since March 2020, even in the face of the lockdown order, occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rescued workers also alleged that they were treated below humans as they were being fed with little food, but subjected to hard labour all day long.
According to them, they were also disallowed from seeing their families who could only visit the factory to see them at the permission of their employers.
247ureports.com recalled that BBC Hausa Service had interviewed one of the rescued workers, Hamza Ibrahim (28) who claimed to have gained employment in the Indian company in 2019 after completing his degree programme at Bayero University Kano (BUK).
Ibrahim told BBC Hausa Service that as a degree holder, he is being paid N28,000, per month by the Indian Company, which he alleged had little or no regards for their Nigerian workers.
According to him, they were forced to remain and work in the factory since the first lockdown order imposed by the Kano state government in March to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.
He added that despite the fact that the government ordered all factories to shutdown, Popular Farms ignored the directive, only to force them into an unfavourable working condition with additional pay of only N5,000.
He said the management of Popular Farms, a subsidiary of the Stallion Group of Companies threatened to sack and punish workers who opposed to the obnoxious decision.
According to him, “I am among the workers that were rescued by the police from Popular Farms rice mill on Monday. We were held in the factory since the Kano government imposed the first lockdown to tackle coronavirus.
“Instead of obeying the government order, our employers promised to increase N5,000 on our usual salaries so that we could continue to work. This is what enticed many of us to stay.
“After sometime, our employers threatened those who refused their offer with dismissal and then went ahead to lock us in the factory and forced us to work for long hours.
“They only give us little time to rest and we were not even allowed to perform our five daily prayers. They don’t allow our families to visit us.
“This is how we spent three months here. I know a colleague that worked 24 hours non-stop.
“I am very happy to be rescued from this inhumane situation. I also appeal to the government to establish these kind of factories so that foreigners would not be coming here to enslave us.”
Speaking to 247Ureports.com on Wednesday, the PPRO of Kano state Police Command, DSP Abdullahi Haruna, said the Commissioner of Police, Mr. Habu Sani has ordered for a thorough investigation into the matter.
According him, “on the 21 June, 2020, at about 6 P.M., a complaint was received from Global Community for Human Right Network, Kano, that some labourers were wrongly confined inside Popular Farms and Mills Limited located at No. 54 Challawa Industrial Estate Kano.
“On receipt, teams of Policemen were deployed and when search was conducted, 126 labourers trapped inside the Factory for three months were discovered. Investigation is in progress.”
Meanwhile, the Indian Rice Milling Company Media Team confirmed that the company management has been penciled down as one of the guests of the Bompai Headquarters of Kano state Police Command, Thursday Morning.