Steel workers in Nigeria threaten court action over lock out

Abdulwahab Abdulah

05 April 2012, Sweetcrude, LAGOS - The internal crisis rocking AKS Nigeria Limited, a steel company located in Ikorodu, Lagos may have taken another dimension with over 500 workers of the company, allegedly forced out of job, threatening court action.

Already, the workers have lodged complaints with relevant authorities including organised labour in the nation’s steel and engineering sector, hinging their complaint on the provisions of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2009.

However, in a reaction, the applicant in the suit that led to the court’s order which appointed a receiver manager for the company, Chief Anthony Obinwa, said the “claims of forceful eviction by the workers are all false.”

According to him, “several opportunities have been given to them, but they refused to cooperate with the receiver manager whose duty was to carry out a court order.”

Obinwa alleged that quite a number of the employees are not on regular appointment, hence the efforts of the receiver manager to regularise their appointments.

He added that their uncooperative attitude and campaigns in the media was “an attempt to blackmail the receiver/ manager’s work.”

According to the leadership of the labour union in the company, acting under the aegis of Steel and Engineering Workers’ Union of Nigeria (SEWUN), the workers were locked out sequel to an ex-parte order dated December 15, 2011 executed by a Receiver/Manager.

According to the workers, they were not party to the suits leading to the said ex-parte, but lamented that the lockout was having an adverse effect on their families.

The workers claimed that they were asked to stay away from the company only for three days to enable the Receiver/ Manager take inventory of the factory but their efforts to return to work had yielded no result.

On their decision to take legal actions, including approaching the court for remedy, the branch Chairman of SEWUN in AKS, Andrew Ebere alleged that “on the fateful day some people and policemen were brought in to force all the workers – both Nigerians and expatriates – out of the factory located at Plot 27, LSPDC Industrial Estate, Ikorodu.”

According to Ebere, workers who reported back to duty after two days were prevented from gaining entry into the factory by security at the gate without any explanation.

Ebere, the union chairman, said, “The ex-parte order of the court as claimed was not served on any officer of the company neither was it posted on the wall of the factory. Worse still, the supposed motion on notice was not served on us neither was it posted on the wall of the factory. The situation has remained so till date.”

While appealing to concerned authority to intervene on their plight, the workers vowed to use available legal machinery in ensuring that they were “not thrown out of our means of livelihood illegally.”