From Maduabuchi Nmeribeh, Kano
The management of Popular Farms and Mills Limited has denied recent reports that it enslaved 126 employees who were alleged to have been forced to work during lockdown period.
Speaking to journalists on the issue, the Administrative Manager of the Company, Mr. Saka Kareem, described the report as, “baseless and malicious.”
According to him, “the news is completely baseless and false and is being stoked by perpetrators to willfully defame the company for their vested interests. It is sad to see such abuse of media by some with ulterior motives and undermining the good work done by the organization to alleviate the circumstances of COVID- 19 in Kano.
” The hygiene measures adopted including weekly fumigation and disinfestation, and other facilities at the organization are a testimony to the fact that there are ZERO COVID-19 case within company staffs including of contractual workers over the last three months despite a very challenging situation outside the company premises.”
He added that, “all workers living in the premises were provided with the provisions of toiletries, feeding allowances and monthly appreciation bonus in addition to the contractual payments as agreed. Company Staff not been able to come to work due to pandemic or due to adherence to the guidelines were paid due salaries while at home.
“The workers who are alleged to have been rescued from the rice mill are presently & still working in the Rice Mill and pleading with the company to be allowed to still stay within the premises.”
According to Mr. Kareem, “being a part of the essential industries category, the plant continued to operate during the lockdown with limited employees of the mill and temporary labour that were under the aegis of labour contractors.
” The resources were advised on restricted movements outside of the premises to limit exposure from COVID – 19 as they come in contact with edible consumables in day to day operations. Safe and comfortable stay arrangements with provisions of good utilities were done for the employees which also included expatriate staff within the premises of the mill that were certified fit by the local health and safety authorities.
“The employees and workers were never unlawfully restricted against their will. They were free to go visit their families and on their return were kept in isolation for 14 days before resuming work in line with the safety guidelines.
“The isolation set up was also made inside and outside the mill premises with complete basic facilities including designated areas for stay, ablution prayers etc. The feeding allowances of N500 naira per day in addition to salary is also provided by the company during such isolation and quarantine period and there were no pay cuts even while being in quarantine.”
He said, Popular Farms is working in close coordination with all stakeholders and the government to tackle the pandemic that has caused a social and economic mayhem in the country impacting frontline workers and lots of daily wage earners who are most impacted by the lockdown.
“The company pledged free rice for three months to hospitals dedicated to COVID – 19 care in Nigeria. 25 State hospitals across 15 states in Nigeria are beneficiaries of the relief execution programme. The organization is also proud to be involved in Rice supply to the Presidential Scheme.
“Popular Farms and Mills Limited has been pushing forward the agenda of opportunity, sufficiency & security in Nigeria by entering into a partnership with over 1,000 cooperative groups, having direct access to more than 40,000 member-farmers for increasing the rice and sesame production and developing agro business in Northern Nigeria.
” The group imparts several training programmes and distributes free rice farming tools to out growers across the rice producing states in Nigeria as part of fulfillment of its dedicated service towards achieving Rice sufficiency in the nation,” he stated.