Labour unions, CSOs move to stop import of ‘stolen’ natural resources from Morocco

TRADE unions and advocates under the Nigerian Movement for the Liberation of Western Sahara (NMLWS) have demanded that Nigerian companies should put an end to “buying stolen phosphate, fertiliser, and fishes from Morocco”.

These items, the unions say, are unlawfully extracted from the Sahara Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) more commonly called Western Sahara.

The demand was made on Wednesday at a press conference held in Abuja. The NMLWS, chaired by former foreign affairs minister Ibrahim Gambari, is a coalition that comprises the Nigeria Labour Congress, Trade Union Congress, Academic Staff Union of Universities, as well as 17 Civil Society Organisations.

The NMLWS said it plans to bring to book all companies in Nigeria who profit from an “unholy theft” by receiving phosphate “stolen by the kingdom of Morocco from Western Sahara to produce fertiliser”.

“This movement supports the development of Nigeria, but not with stolen resources,” the press statement from the conference obtained by The ICIR said.

“We insist that although our country needs fertiliser, but not that produced with the blood of our brothers and sisters in Western Sahara.”

“About this, we are definite. This principle is planted in the Nigerian culture of non-exploitation of other peoples and defender of colonised peoples as we did in the struggle for the liberation of countries like Guinea Bissau, Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe,  Namibia and South Africa.

“Nigerians are freedom-loving peoples, not accomplices of leaders of a country like Morocco who against all known tenets of African brotherhood, religious obligations and social justice, would invade and occupy a member country of the African Union, dehumanise its people and plunder its resources which it sells to European Union (EU) countries and companies in Nigeria.”

The NMLWS recalled that in December 1984, Nigeria, then led by military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, had recognised Western Sahara as an independent African country.

“It is, therefore, inconceivable that thirty-five years later, under an elected President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria would tolerate the occupation of the same country by a sister African country and be receiving the natural resources of Western Sahara plundered by Morocco,” it observed.

The group also lamented human rights violations committed by Morocco’s occupying forces against the Saharawi.

Citing instances, it said, a lady was crushed to death by a police car after people from Western Sahara jubilated following Algeria’s victory at the African Nations Cup.

“As we speak, fifteen Saharawi youths are still in prison just for celebrating a football victory,” it noted.

Prepare to be sued and picketed

The NMLWS warned all companies receiving resources taken from Western Sahara to be ready for demonstrations at their offices and legal battles if they do not desist.

“After giving this notice to the Nigerian companies dealing in stolen Western Sahara resources, we will picket them across the country and bring them before our courts,” it said.

“This also includes supermarkets selling sardines and fishes from Morocco because 92 per cent of these fishes is stolen from the Western Sahara coast.

“It is in furtherance of this we have invited these lawyers to meet, exchange ideas, and plot our legal strategies and commence legal actions.”

    The movement urged Nigeria to deal decisively with the problem and learn from South Africa, where a court in May 2017 ordered “the seizure of a 55,000-tonne cargo of phosphate illegally extracted and stolen by Morocco from Western  Sahara”.

    AU, UN must act … and other demands

    The Nigerian Movement for the Liberation of Western Sahara urged international organisations such as the African Union, United Nations, and European Union not to “remain silent in the face of atrocities perpetrated by Morocco in Western Sahara”.

    It also made the following six demands; that:

    • The Moroccan monarchy and leadership be called to order and brought to book for gross human rights violations in Western Sahara.
    • The consent and permission of the Saharawi people through the SADR government be secured before the natural resources of the country is utilized or traded in any form.
    • The AU defends its member SADR by giving  Morocco a timeline to vacate Western Sahara and if it fails, to expel and impose stiff sanctions against it as we did to Apartheid in South Africa.
    • The UN expands the mandate of MINURSO to include human rights violations so its Mission can protect the Saharawi people.
    • Morocco vacates the parts of Western Sahara it is occupying and allows the Saharawi like other Africans and peoples of the world to freely govern themselves and develop their country without any interference.
    • All should be done to ensure that the Moroccan-Saharawi armed conflict is not re-ignited as renewed war can lead to an avoidable international conflagration.

    The press conference on Wednesday had in attendance Gilles Devers, Western Sahara’s European Lawyer; Femi Falana, Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and Western Sahara’s lawyer in Africa; and Oubi Bachir, former Ambassador of Western Sahara to Nigeria and its current representative in France.

    'Kunle works with The ICIR as an investigative reporter and fact-checker. You can shoot him an email via [email protected] or, if you're feeling particularly generous, follow him on Twitter @KunleBajo.

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