By Gowon Emakpe, Abuja
For fears that it work would be stagnated during the COVID-19 lockdown, a Chinese company with Head Office in Abuja, allegedly detained some of its staff in its office for over four months.
Tyungi Groups, a Chinese company located at No. 105 Ebitu Ukiwe Street, Jabi Abuja, DAILY ASSEST investigations revealed, detained over 50 of its Nigerian staff during the lockdown from March to August, 2020 for fear that if they were allowed to go home they might contact COVID-19 and transmit to others in the company.
It would be recalled that following the outbreak of COVID-19, President Muhammadu Buhari initially ordered two-week lockdown in the nation’s capital, Abuja, Lagos and Ogun States, towards the end of March as a major step to stem the pandemic.
DAILY ASSEST gathered that the company locked up Nigerians working in the firm and refused to let them go to their houses as they were forced to do dehumanized work from 7am to 7pm during the Lockdown as they were denied going home.
The workers were being held against their wish despite the company owing them months of unpaid salaries.
The staff allegedly slept on one inch sized mattresses placed on double bunks in the makeshift residential accommodation within the office complex.
It was learnt that food were shared to the staff at intervals on a daily basis, while management seriously frowned at any attempt by the employees to visit their residences including those who had families among them.
The company’s management was alleged to have threatened the staff with summary dismissal should anyone violated the strict instructions to remain in the premises.
In the course of the investigations, a letter was sent to the Managing Director of the Company, and acknowledged by one Charlie Edwin on September 4, 2020.
The letter titled “Clarification on news items” was addressed to the company’s Managing Director. It Read:
“Our Newspaper is working on news stories for publication and would like to seek clarification as it relates to your company.
“Accordingly, we request your response on the following issues: How many expatriate staff do you have in Nigeria,? Since COVID – 19 lockdown in March, 2020 your Nigerian staff have been detained in your office. How true is this? Are all the foreign staff having valid work/ residence permits? If not, how many have valid papers? Apart from road construction, what are the other business your company is engaged in? In anticipation of your response.”
When the Newspaper visited the company it discovered that to cover up the alleged unlawful detention of Nigerian staff in a compound, which can hardly accommodate 10 persons, the company conspicuously pasted a notice at its gate, which reads: “COVID-19, no Guesting, Online Working, Thanks for Co-operation”.
When Daily ASSET took a letter to the Managing Director, a security staff at the gate went into the company and called one of the staff who received and acknowledged the letter.
Reacting to one of the questions on how many of your Nigerian staff were detained in the office since the COVID-19 lockdown in March , 2020, one Charlie Edwin, who collected the letter for the Managing Director, and another in the premises who would not like his name mentioned, said though he was not speaking for the company, some staff of the company voluntarily stayed back at the company’s premises during the lockdown for fear that they might not get vehicles that will convey them to work if they went back to their houses as after close of work due to the restriction of movement within the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
Asked about the number of expatriate staff in the company’s employment and whether they have resident permits, he said it was only the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS) that could determine whether their permits have expired or not.
Responding, Charlie Edwin, Human Resource Officer, Tongyi Group Limited, on September 18, 2020 sent an e-mail to DAILY ASSET on the matter. The e-mail is reproduced below:
“Re: Clarification on News Item
Sequel to the letter we received from your company on clarifications on news items concerning our organization. We wish to respond accordingly to the items: “Issues concerning expatriates are handled by the appropriate Nigerian authorities and we have been complying with all regulations concerning expatriates.
“We are a corporate organization and have been doing business with
government agencies and understand fully well the implications of seizing the rights of employees, due to the nature of our job some employees volunteered to stay back during the lock down and they were paid allowances for staying every two weeks.
“Also, all our staffs were paid full salary during the lock down when other organizations were paying fifty percent, some companies did not pay while some laid-off. You must agree with us that the Covid -19 was really a challenging time for businesses globally; your agency we believe must have been faced with one or two challenges during the lockdown.
“Our company take issues with work permit serious and employee due diligence is carried to ensure we hire the right employee who in turn provide the company with all necessary valid document and details in the case of emergencies.
“We are into Construction and Mining, these two industries were hit heavily during the Covid 19 time and remember during this time, the Nigerian Government ordered lockdown of all activities, we were in compliance during this period to reduce the risks of spreading the deadly disease, despite the blow suffered by our organization, we paid salaries to staffs and did not lay anyone off due to low work, this is a commendable feat which most local and foreign companies in Nigeria could not meet.
“In view of this, we hereby put to you that your information source has done a disservice to us and has the capacity of defaming our company’s good image. We hope your office can be guided by genuine information sources for clearer picture.
We appreciate your company for taking out time to seek for clarification of issues of this nature and not working based on hearsay and hope the answers provided will help clear any doubts in the future”. Warm regards.