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Indignity of Labour: The Bitter Tales Inside Nigeria Flour Mills’ Sugar Eestate

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Sunti Flour Mill Estate
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By NGIJ team of Oluwasegun Abifarin and Olawale Abideen

The smoke of accusation and counter accusation has continued to rise over the indignity of labour and bitter working condition by workers of Sunti Golden Sugar Estates Limited, a subsidiary of Flour Mills Nigeria Plc.

Located on the banks of River Niger, in Mokwa, Niger state, Sunti Golden Sugar Estates Limited features 17, 000 hectares of irrigable farmland and a Sugar mill that process 4,500 metric tons of sugarcane per day. At full capacity, the estate is expected to produce 1 Million tons of Sugarcane which roughly translates into 100,000 metric tons of sugar yearly.

When Flour Mills of Nigeria took up loans amounting to about 60 Billion Naira facilitated by the Nigerian Government to acquire and complete the Sunti Farms in order to establish a sugarcane farm and set up a factory, the workers and host communities thought their sweet and happy moment had arrived.

And on 15th March, 2018, when the company was officially launched amidst pomp and pageantry, expectations and hopes were raised as there were promises of better living for host communities, their youths and the workers.

This eventually turned to a forlorn dream going by the layers of worker/labour indignity going on in the company.

One star case till date is the story of Mr. Amusa Monsuru Adewale who joined Nigeria Flour Mills on the 9th of April, 2014 as a Draftsman. The Human Resource Manager, Mr. Chatjock Chom on the basis of the strong recommendation from Adewale’s boss, Mr. John Beverley, confirmed his appointment as an Architect and also as a senior staff with job class 8 reward level 10.

In the course of Adewale’s employment, the company seconded him to Sunti Golden Sugar Estates Ltd where he has been working directly under the supervision of Engr. Akeem Kolawole Gbadamosi.

But on the 15th day of September, 2016 Mr. Adewale had an industrial accident on site which affected his left eye. Despite the accident, he continued to work diligently in the company, but on the 7th day of November, 2016 his was diagnose with severe keratitis on the left eye and he was placed on drugs. After some months, the Doctor recommended a Cornea transplant surgery for a clearer vision.

On the 3rd of June 2018, he received the bill for the surgery which he submitted to the Human Resource department. Prior to the submission of the bill, Adewale alleged that his boss, Gbadamosi had threatened on different occasions, to sack him “without any reason.” And upon submission of the bill, Adewale said he received two queries within one week.

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After answering the query, Gbadamosi recommended to the Human Resource department for him to be sacked, but the recommendation was declined and instead a 5 day suspension was given to Adewale on the 2nd of July 2018.

After his resumption on the 9th of July, Gadamosi demoted him to the position of a store keeper .And by a letter dated 9th of April, 2019, Adewale was sacked, citing medical grounds as the reason.

Adewale’s Counsel, Chief Afe Babalola, SAN however disputed this, saying his client is medically fit to undertake his responsibilities and that no medical examination was conducted to support the company’s claim.

In a bid to resolve the matter amicably, Flour Mills invited Adewale and his lawyers to a meeting in Apapa, Lagos on 21st June, 2019 by 10:00a.m, whereat it was agreed to convey the resolution to the management of the company and get back to Adewale’s team to know the next alternative to explore. Till date, nothing has happened.

Another sordid case is that of Adeleke Wuraola, a Procurement Manager Sunti Golden Estate. As one of the oldest employees in the company, he was reputed to be very intelligent and good at his job, but he allegedly had issues with the wife of the General Manger.

It was gathered that for years, they plotted his removal until he fell into the trap of one Magdalene, a female staff allegedly brought by the GM and his wife to do the hatchet job. “Magdalene does not have the intelligence and confidence to come up with this grandiose scheme. She is being pushed and encouraged by someone in management,” Adeleke said.

For now the GM is said to have brought a family friend who is out of job from South Africa to replace Adeleke.

The case of Dr. Akande Yusuf who manages the Sunti Clinic is another sore point. Yusuf, had reported verbal assault and several episodes of interference in patient management as well as the open confrontation on the professionalism of the medical team at the clinic by the General Manager’s wife.

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Specifically Yusuf recalled that on January 30th, 2019, the wife of the General Manager came to the clinic, assembled all the clinic staffs and dressed him down that he is “useless, unprofessional, and that she is ashamed of me.”

The medical doctor added that GM wife added that “she is the one paying my salary and that she can fire me if she wants; and when the GM’s wife is talking, I should not say anything ever again that I am disrespectful for thinking I can say something; that we are all fucking idiots.”

In his letter to the HR Manager, dated February 14, 2019, Yusuf lamented that “I have been brooding over these utterances in the last two weeks against the background of prior confrontational threats and intimidation from the GM and his wife on 18th of October 2018 in which case a lot of hurtful words and insults were hauled at me.

“Permit me to sincerely note that the derogatory remarks, verbal abuse, offensive words, threats, emotional and psychological subjugation from both the General Manager and his wife are having their toll on me and by extension, the other medical staffs. Our morale are down.”

On the frosty relationship between the company and the host community, Samuel Iboroma, FMN Corporate Communication Manager had maintained that Sugar Golden Sugar Estates has enjoyed very cordial relations with its host communities.

He also sent a letter of appreciation sent by the Etsu Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar acknowledging the receipt of four thousand cartons of chicken indomine noodles donated to the community by FMN recently.

But a recent letter by the host community addressed to the Chairman of FMN points to another direction. They complained that the Sunti GM “has been showing so much disrespect to the community leaders and the citizen together with the Community Liaison Officer, Mr. Samuel.”

According to them, “the community no longer has source of income for our livelihood because of the activities of the Company and the autocratic nature of the GM has also led to the termination of the appointment of many skilled, and experienced personnel from the company.”

Sources informed us that communities such as Kusogi, Jaagi, Batagi, Kupanti, etc suffered most from the activities of Sunti Golden Estate.

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On the allegation of poor working condition, Iboroma argued that the “assertions all wrong,” adding that “like most of our investments in the food value chain, we are creating jobs and empowering our communities through active collaboration.”

But some of the workers who spoke to our correspondent in the estate last week countered Iboroma’s assertion arguing that “slavery continues here.” They pointed to the meagre salary and the un-abating casualization of workers as a major twin evil. “A graduate earns N30, 000 here, an amount too little for the so called expatriates to spend at a shopping,” one of the workers told us last week.

Attempts to get the company’s reaction to the latest allegations were futile last week. There was no reply to mails and messages sent to Iboroma’s through phone, wattsapp and emails address.

Instead, Sources at Sunti hinted early this week that the company is planning to bring some selected journalists to the Estate to ”come and see things for themselves.”

“It is expected that journalists will be around within this week, and they have been improving on things they believe could implicate them. Presently, they have been going about begging workers not to speak ill of the company,” a worker told our correspondent last week.

Strangely, some of the journalists have also been calling our correspondent to back off from the story, pleading that “Flour Mills is their client.”

Author Profile

Abdulrahman Obaje
Abdulrahman Obaje
Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 805 939 5252 or send i-witness report directly to me on news@informavores.com.ng.

Business and Economy

Nigeria Central Bank To Inaugurate N15 Trillion Infrastructure Fund In October 2021

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The CBN Governor, Godwin Emefiele has disclosed that   the N15 trillion infrastructure fund would be inaugurated in Oct. 2021.

Emeifele who made this known at the 14th Annual Banking and Finance Conference of Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria in Abuja, stated that the innovations like the Nigeria/International Financial will provide a gateway for capital and investments, and digital currency, e-naira, will enhance inclusion.

He said the regulatory body had been working with the Bankers Committee to scale the challenges posed by Covid-19, which include reduction of interest rates on loans, increasing the moratorium for payments, and injecting N3 trillion loans in the private sector.

“We do expect that the pace of inflation will moderate as we approach the harvest season,’’ he added.

President Muhammadu Buhari says N300 billion has been disbursed to farmers while 1.6 million poor and vulnerable households are currently benefiting from the Conditional Cash Transfer programme.

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The president who  revealed this while virtually declaring the conference open, said that  some of the various initiatives embarked upon to boost agricultural trade in Nigeria include the Anchor Borrowers Programme.

He stated that the Central Bank of Nigeria had made more than N300 billion available to over  3.1 million smallholder farmers of 21 different commodities.

He said the commodities included Rice, Wheat, Maize, Cotton, Cassava, Poultry, Soybeans, Groundnut, Fish, cultivating over 3.8 million hectares of farmland.

“It is on record that 80% of rice consumed in Nigeria is now produced locally,’’ he said.

He added that the National Social Register of poor and vulnerable Nigerians had 32.6 million persons from seven million poor and vulnerable households identified, imploring bankers to play a stronger role in improving livelihoods.

President Buhari said the National Social Investment Programme was biggest in Sub-Sahara Africa and one of the largest in the world.

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To further strengthen recovery and enable more Nigerians, President Buhari said, last year, he approved the establishment of InfraCo Plc, a world-class infrastructure development vehicle, wholly focused on Nigeria, with combined debt and equity take-off capital of N15 trillion.

“In May 2021, the Rural Electrification Agency announced the planned deployment of solar-powered grids to 200 Primary Health Centres and 104 Unity Schools nationwide.

“Under the Family Homes Fund Limited, Social Housing programme incorporated by the Federal Government of Nigeria, more than two thousand hectares of land with title documents have been issued by 24 states with the capacity to accommodate about 65,000 new homes.

“The Central Bank of Nigeria is providing a N200 Billion financing facility, with a guarantee by the Federal Government,’’ he said.

The president affirmed that the theme of the conference, “Economic Recovery, Inclusion, and Transformation: The Role of Banking and Finance’’ was most appropriate, following the global shocks from COVID-19.

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“I salute the Institute and the entire banking and finance industry for the commitment towards charting a practical path for economic recovery and transformation of our country, Nigeria, and by extension Africa as epitomized by the theme of your conference.

The President commended CBN, working in collaboration with the Bankers’ Committee, for providing single-digit financing to young Nigerians in the fields of fashion, film, music and Information Technology through establishment of the Creative Industry Financing Initiative.

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Made In Nigeria Phone To Hit Market Soon – ITF

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The Director General and Chief Executive of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Sir Joseph Ari has disclosed that the Fund is set to acquire machinery for mass production of ITF Mobile in Nigeria.

He said the Industrial Fund will soon hit the nation’s market when it commences the mass production and it launching into market the ITF mobile phones.

The DG in a press statement signed by the Director, Public Affairs Department, Suleyol Fred Chagu and made available to Journalists yesterday in Jos the Plateau State maintained that the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) has initiated processes for the procurement and installation of a production line specially dedicated for that purpose at the ITF Model Skills Training Centre (MSTC), Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.

Ari, disclosed this when he received the leadership of the two in-house Unions of the Fund in his office at the Headquarters where he also revealed that since the symbolic presentation of the ITF Mobile phone to President Muhammadu Buhari, the Agency has been inundated with requests for partnership from corporate entities within the country.

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In his words, “I have given directive to the Director of Technical and Vocational Skills Training Department, who is also the zonal Director of the ITF MSTC to get all the immediate machines so that we will be able to set up the production line.

“Since the good news, we have also received a lot of requests for partnership, including one from AfriOne, who want to
partner with us. This is good as we cannot do it alone because we are not an island unto ourselves. The main thing is that this product is a home grown product and this lends credence to the fact that we too can do it in Nigeria” he boastfully stated.

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The DG expressed gratitude to the leadership of the two union bodies, “the Senior Staff Association of Statutory Corporations and Government Owned Companies (SSACGOC) and Amalgamated Union Public Corporations, Civil Service Technical and Recreational Employees (AUPCTRE)” for identifying and supporting the Management, saying.
For him, “every leader should have a strategic vision. But you also need followers that will key into the leaders’
vision and happily, that’s what has happened in the ITF. The Unions have been great partners in progress. You
have at all times remodeled, looked at the vision, reviewed it along with us and the areas where you find us going
wrong, you took us back on track”.

He stressed the need for continuous dialogue as recipe for industrial harmony. “The relationship between the ITF, Management and the two Unions gives credence to the fact that it pays to dialogue.

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President of Senior Staff (SSACGOC), Comrade Kayode Alakija and the Acting Chairman of AUPCTRE, Comrade Lawal Mohammed Ado earlier on in a separate remarks showered praises on the DG for the milestone achievement and urged the need to speed up the mass production of the android phone which, according to them, would be another source of revenue for the Agency.

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BECCIMA Lauds FG For Initiating To Establish Cottage Industries In 774 LGAs

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The Benue State Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (BECCIMA) has lauded the Federal Government for establishing cottage industries across all the Local Governments Areas (LGAs) in Nigeria

President of BECCIMA, Dr Paul Ubwa, made the commendation at a news conference on Friday in Makurdi.

“It is a well thought out initiative by the Federal Government to set aside the sum of one trillion naira to establish cottage industries in each of the 774 LGAs in the country.

“This all important news was disclosed by the Hon. Minister for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, George Akume.

“We the organised private sector in Benue express our sincere appreciation to the government of President Muhammadu Buhari for coming up with this unique initiative.

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“The initiative is aimed at creating wealth for the common man,’’ he said.

According to him, the initiative when implemented will go a long way in eradicating poverty in Benue State and indeed Nigeria and the president’s name will be written in gold for posterity.

“In Benue state, we are hoping that in order to ensure stability, sustainability and longevity of the proposed cottage industries, each should be incorporated as a company with a Board of Directors.

“This should be made up of indigenes of the catchment area or host community.

“The plan will involve the local government council itself, traditional institutions, cooperative societies and associations, youth/women groups, existing entrepreneurs, traditional land owners and other interest groups.

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“We are assured of and envisage the support of the Benue State government’’

Ubwa also appealed to the Federal Government and most especially, the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs to make Benue one of the pilot states for the take-off of the programme.

“On our part, we stand ready to co-operate with the ministry and other support agencies to ensure success and sustainability of the initiative,’’ he said. 

Author Profile

Abdulrahman Obaje
Abdulrahman Obaje
Prince Abdulrahman Obaje is a Media and ICT Consultant, Journalist, online marketer, social media strategist, Mathematician and Computer Scientist based in Abuja, Nigeria. He is the Founder and the Publisher of The Informavores!. You can reach me on +234 805 939 5252 or send i-witness report directly to me on news@informavores.com.ng.

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