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17 July 2017

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DANGOTE GOT HIS WEALTH FROM EXPLOITATION OF WORKERS LIKE ME - SAYS IBRAHIM ABUBAKAR, FORMER EMPLOYEE AT DANGOTE CEMENT PLC.

Ibrahim Abubakar was a truck officer with Dangote Cement PLC until about 5 months ago. On the morning of 4 February 2017, Abubakar and 800 other truck officers were sacked in breach of their contracts. Since then, they have organized themselves in the Forum of Dangote Cement Truck Officers and have been campaigning politically and in the courts to get justice. In this interview with Socialist Democracy (SD), the sacked worker who is the leader of the Forum bares his mind on their travails as well as the ruthless exploitation that forms the basis of capitalist accumulation.

SD: You and your co-workers have been on a campaign against Dangote PLC, what are the issues?

Abubakar: This is our plight as Truck Officers in Dangote Cement Transport, a division of Dangote Cement PLC: In April 2015, the company announced both in print and electronic media a Truck Entrepreneurship Scheme that seeks to empower graduates financially. The scheme entailed eventual ownership of a truck each by every successful employee (Truck Officer) who was able to cover 400,000km with the truck. We excitedly applied for this offer with the required documents, and were eventually shortlisted. Thereafter, we went through the first training process that lasted from June to October 2015 at Obajana (Kogi State), Ibese (Ogun State), and Ikeja (Lagos State).

This we promptly did at our own cost. It is noteworthy that the agreement provided a monthly remuneration of N60,000 for every Truck Officer including a performance bonus of N90,000 on meeting the monthly target.

In May 2016, we got a call asking us to report to Ibese plant for immediate commencement of duty, some on 12th and others on 13th May 2016. This we did, and this time, we were allocated one truck each to supervise. Later on, the trucks we each handled increased to four, then to six for those in Ibese and seven for those in Obajana in violation of the contract that stated that a worker will only manage a truck at any given time.

Overall, 800 truck officers were employed both at Ibese Ogun state and Obajana Kogi state between May and September 2016.

On Sunday 8th January 2017, a Truck Officer, Oyelami Adekunle Ismael, slumped and died on duty in Ibese plant due to the workload and hazardous environment, and all our management did was to ask some Truck Officers to accompany the corpse in an ambulance to his hometown with a paltry sum of N50,000 (fifty thousand Naira).

On Saturday 4th February 2017, we were suddenly summoned by our management via Whatsapp to report to the plant for a very important meeting. To our surprise, military men were stationed at strategic positions around the plant. In a Gestapo manner, workers were forced to sign letters of disengagement.

SD: At what stage is the struggle now?

Abubakar: On February 23rd 2017, we staged a protest to the Company head office at Ikoyi Lagos. Immediately they got wind of the move, the top management quickly came to meet us at our convergence point near their office and they agree to meet with us 4 days later at a meeting in their office, we thereafter went about our protest. However 24 hours before the meeting one Mr. Tony Chiejile the head of Corporate Communication of Dangote Group called us to cancel the meeting. His reason was that we staged a public protest against the company.

On the 3rd of March 2017, we also staged another protest to the Lagos state house of Assembly but the members of the House and their leadership failed to intervene despite assurances. The same treatment we got from the Kogi State House of Assembly after we protested on 9th of April, 2017. Perhaps, the parliamentarians are business partners to Aliko Dangote.

On the 23th of May 2017, we, through their lawyer (Barrister Toluwani Adebiyi) sued the company at the National Industrial Court. After so much delay, the management filed their defense on the 5th of July, 2017, on the same day the matter came up for mention. Hence, the matter has been adjourned to October 11, 2017. We equally staged another protest at Civic Center Victoria Island Lagos on 24th May 2017, the venue of Dangote Cement Plc Annual General Meeting (AGM). We seized that opportunity to once again make our voice heard publicly. Aliko Dangote, the acclaimed richest man in Africa, was there and he saw us clearly as his car drove out of the entrance of the Center in high speed like somebody running from away from his bad deeds after being caught.

The management suddenly paid N60,000 in April 2017, what for? We don't know, because in our 8 month of service with the company, there was no month we received complete sum of N60,000, there were always deductions that reduces it to about N57,000.

SD: Oxfam recently reported that Aliko Dangote and 4 other billionaires have enough money among them to banish poverty in Nigeria. In particular, the report revealed that Dangote earn 8, 000 times more in a day than an average worker spends on basic needs in a year. What do you think of these revelations?

Abubakar: That the company makes so much money is no more news. During the time we worked at the company, in December 2016, we were loading 450 trucks a day. These are no commercial trucks that come in to load direct for their dealers, what am saying is the company trucks, 450 of them, coming into the loading bay to load 900 bags of cement each and distribute to customers from Ibese were I worked to the South West, South-South and South East of Nigeria. The profit for the year increased from N213 billion as at December 2015 to N368 billion as at December 2016. No doubt Aliko Dangote gets richer by the day but this feat was achieved through the enslavement of thousands of workers and exploitation of millions of Nigerians.

He surrounds himself with screwed top management staff that would stop at nothing other than see the company squeeze life out of the workers for the company to make more profits.

SD: How has life been with you since the sack?

Abubakar: Life has been painful and difficult. We thought that we were going to build our career in the transport industry as an entrepreneur in line with the "own your vehicle" scheme. Most of affected Truck Officers have not been able to meet their families' needs with many facing quit notice for not being able to pay rent, feeding has been difficult and children are dropping out from schools. The remedy is for Dangote to pay compensation in line with the scheme without further delay.