How Indians forced us to work against our will–Kano rice mill workers

A worker sleeps on the floor at the Indian rice factory. Photo: BBC

Nazifi Dawud

Some workers who were rescued on Monday  by the Kano Police Command from an Indian rice factory, where they were allegedly held against their will for three months have narrated their grim experiences.

DAILY FOCUS reports that police personnel raided the Indian rice factory, Popular Farms, in Challawa area, where they rescued over 100 workers.

It was gathered that the raid followed a petition to the police by a human rights group, Global Human Rights Network, led by one Kabiru Yahaya Kabara.

The workers, who spoke to journalists said they were prevented from leaving the factory premises by their Indian employers since March 2020 and forced to work for long hours with little food and time to rest.

Others alleged that they were blocked from seeing their families who had been visiting the factory to know why their breadwinners did not return home.

One of the workers, Hamza Ibrahim, 28, told BBC Hausa that he joined the Indian company in 2019 after completing his degree programme at Bayero University Kano (BUK).

Mr Ibrahim, who said his salary was N28,000, explained that 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 spread of the coronavirus.

He said even though the government ordered all factories to close, the management of Popular Farms ignored the directive and asked them to continue working, adding that those who objected were threatened with sack.

“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,” Mr Ibrahim said.

Not allowed to pray

But he added that “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,” Mr Ibrahim said.

How the situation was exposed

On his part, Mr Kabara, the human rights campaigner who filed the petition that led to the workers’ rescue told BBC Hausa that he received a distress call from one of the workers who was weeping.

“Around 5pm on a Sunday, I received a call from a man who I could heard crying over the phone and begging me to help them.

“He informed me that a company has locked them up for three months and prevented them from performing prayers or visiting their families. He said even if they fell sick, they were not given medical care,” Mr Kabara explained.

“I obtained the address of the factory from him and immediately informed the police. Together we stormed the factory and rescued the hostages.

“I was shocked by what I saw at the factory. The place where the workers were sleeping is not fit even for animals. No enough food, no salaries and no medical attention when they fell sick,” he added.

Police close factory, arrest five 

Police spokesperson DSP Abdullahi Haruna said they have shut down the factory and arrested five management staff after rescuing the workers.

He said the issue bordered on human rights violation through holding people against their will.

“We raided the factory and rescued the workers. We have launched an investigation on the issue and we will inform the public on the outcome in due course,” he said.

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