Kano State Police Command has rescued over 300 people locked in a rice-processing factory and forced to work throughout a coronavirus lockdown.
The workers said they were held hostage and forced to work from the end of March, adding that they were threatened with their jobs if they opted to leave the Indian-owned mill, Popular Farms, in the northern city of Kano.
Policemen stormed the factory on Monday after obtaining a court injunction, arresting four managers and releasing the detained workers.
According to BBC, the workers said they were promised an additional N5,000 a month on top of their N25,000 monthly salary – those who did not accept were threatened with the sack,
Some of the men who spoke with journalists said they were forced to work most of the time during their incarceration, with little food.
“We were allowed to rest for only a short time, no prayers were allowed, no family visits,” 28-year-old Hamza Ibrahim, one of those rescued, told the BBC.
Another worker, Haruna Salihu, said he had been in the factory since March 28 and was denied time to visit his family and parents.
“Our family members are seriously disturbed, as they don’t know the (condition we are in). My wife and my kids used to come to the factory’s gate and I couldn’t go and meet them.
“We were tricked to stay in the factory for five days, then (it was) extended to seven days, then two weeks and subsequently extended to one month. We are now detained for over three months. There are about 600 workers in the factory. We are sleeping in a very poor environment. I am appealing to authorities to allow me to go back to my family.”
According to another employee, though he was not forced to stay, he was threatened with dismissal if he decided to go outside the factory.
Also, a truck driver, Hashimu Isa, who brought paddy rice from Kebbi State, narrated how he was kept in the factory for three days without going out.
“I brought paddy rice from Yauri, Kebbi State. I couldn’t go out of the factory, since my entry three days ago. Even if you attempted to go out, the security will not allow you. I couldn’t go out to give my boy money to buy food. Someone sent me ten thousand Naira, but I couldn’t go to the bank to withdraw it. I was waiting to (offload) the rice, so that I will leave,” he said.
Police spokesman, Abdullahi Haruna said that the factory had now been shut down and the owners were being investigated for “holding the men against their will”.
“We have found many workers locked and enslaved in the factory. The commissioner of police, Habu A Sani, has directed for thorough investigation. So far, we have arrested four management staff and investigation has commenced,” Mr Kiyawa said.
The manager of the rice mill, who identified himself as Abdulkareem, regretted the incident, saying he was not aware of the workers’ terrible condition.