As previously reported, the police in south-western Nigeria appear to be working hand in glove with the owners of Sumal Foods Limited (http://sumalfoods.com) to prevent its workforce winning gains and establishing a militant union presence in that company (see: http://www.socialistworld.net/index.php/international/africa/nigeria/10206-nigeria-action-needed-to-free-abiodun-bamigboye)
Last Tuesday (May 28) comrade Abiodun Bamigboye (Abbey Trotsky), acting national chairperson of SPN, and comrade Azeez Arowosegbe (a worker sacked from Sumal), alongside comrades of DSM and SPN from Osun and Oyo States, returned to the regional Police 2 Headquarters in Osogbo to meet the Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIG), in charge of Zone 2 (Osun, Oyo and Ondo States), over the odious petition written by management of Sumal Foods Company.
Sumal Foods are hoping to use the police to harass comrade Trotsky and workers of the company into submission, seeing that a new agitation is on the horizon over poor working conditions and the flouting of labour laws and the minimum wage act.
Sumal, through the police, is claiming that last year Comrade Trotsky invaded the company’s premises and incited workers with a view to cause economic sabotage for the company and the state. On the contrary, it was workers of the company in Ibadan, the capital of Oyo State, that approached Comrade Trotsky, being well known for his defence of workers’ interests, to lead them in their struggle, after the officially recognized union denied them this, claiming that casual workers are not their members. In fact, it was the management of Sumal, along with Oyo State government officials, that invited Comrade Trotsky to a negotiation meeting, after the workers collectively recognised him as their representative.
These negotiations actually led to a limited victory for workers including an over 30% rise in pay, a 30-minute break for workers who used to work for 12 hour without a break, access to the factory’s clinic for any sick or injured worker and provision for protective kits for factory workers. This minimal victory has spread the struggle to other factories in Ibadan.
Last Tuesday, despite the official 8.00 am appointment time, the AIG attended to Abbey and Azeez at around 1.45 pm, more than five and half hours later. Sumal’s team was led by its Human Resources Manager and included compromised union officers from the Food, Beverage and Tobacco (FOBTOB) union.
From the onset, it was obvious the police authority has been worked on by the Sumal management. In fact, before the arrival of the AIG, various background meetings were already being held between Sumal reps and police officers, resulting in hostility towards Abbey and the Sumal workers. A sign of this was that, at the office of the AIG, Abbey and Azeez, alongside comrades that accompanied them to the meeting, were not allowed to sit down, apart from their lawyer, while officials of Sumal were given reverent treatment.
The lawyer of Sumal, who gave the company’s side, portrayed Comrade Abbey Trotsky as an interloper who incited workers against the management. He also expressed the fear of the company that a new struggle is on the horizon and the basis of their petition is to behead this struggle early enough, and Comrade Abbey Trotsky is seen as central to this.
Abbey has given a vivid account of what transpired. It was the workers that invited him to help, based on his activist role in the state and flowing from the rotten role of official in-house union leaders who denied the casual workers any rights. He actually intervened, based on the request of the workers, who had no platform to represent them. He subsequently negotiated between the workers and Sumal management, alongside Oyo State government officials who acknowledged his role in resolving the issues.
Despite all the facts stated, the police authorities, including the AIG, were hell-bent in defending the Sumal management, even when it was clear its case was bad. The AIG also acknowledged that he has been bombarded with lots of protest messages, which we and the Sumal worker activists appreciate.
As things stand now, the police have again asked Comrade Abbey Trotsky to return to their regional headquarters on Tuesday 5th June 2019. They have also threatened to take Abbey to court if necessary. This is aimed at extracting a rotten compromise from him. We see this new invitation as another attempt to wear down Abbey Trotsky and the worker activists in an attempt to get Abbey and the workers to agree to a rotten compromise. This demonstrates the classical relationship between the state (represented by the police) and the capitalist class (the Sumal Company) against the working people. It also shows the rotten and corrupt nature of the Nigerian Police.
Immediately after the meeting with the AIG, several cartons of biscuits were offloaded by policemen from the vehicles that had brought the Sumal Food reps! One can only imagine how much must have exchanged hands, given the fact that the Sumal management at one point even tried to bribe Comrade Abbey Trotsky; an offer he rejected. In fact, some of the casual workers’ representatives, originally elected to represent the workers, have been bought over by the Sumal management and are now being used as informants against Abbey Trotsky. The rotten role of the compromised union officials (of FOBTOB) also explained in practical terms what Leon Trotsky said about how the leadership of the working people can be an actual problem for the working people.
Given the large financial backbone of Sumal, which rakes in billions of Naira monthly, and its connections to political power, we know we are against a formidable representative of the capitalist class. But we know that with the support of the working people and activists, we can defeat them and lay the basis for a victory for the workers against terrible working conditions.
This is why we are calling for more solidarity support. We will roll out a series of actions between now and Tuesday when Comrade Trotsky will appear again at the Police headquarters. We call for your support.
Please send protests to:
Assistant Inspector General of Police Zone 2
AIG Leye Oyebade: +234 802 343 1079; +234 803 301 4905. Send text messages if no reply on phone/Wattsapp!
Contact local Nigerian Embassies and High Commissions.