© 2019 - International Centre for Investigative Reporting
Police rescue eight Nigerians ‘locked in’ for four months by Chinese couples in Abuja
THE Police in Abuja on Tuesday rescued eight Nigerians who have been locked inside an apartment for the past four months by their employers who are Chinese nationals.
Acting on a tip-off, a team of six police officers from FCT Divisional Police Command in Utako raided House No. 117 at Jabi area of Abuja, the residence of the Chinese nationals whose neighbours said are couples.
Some of the police wore bulletproof vests on mufti while others were in mafia suit with police insignia emblazoned on it.
The arm-bearing policemen arrived at the place around 9:30 am did not allow residents of the area to come close to the house.
The operation followed a call by a radio listener to Human Rights Radio on Tuesday morning, alerting the presenter of a prime time programme, “Berekete Family” of the Nigerians who have been locked in for four months by their employers.
It was not clear what kind of services the Nigerians were rendering to the Chinese, but they were said to be the domestic staff of the couples.
One of the rescued Nigerians who gave his name as Alex said he works as a driver for the Chinese couples, he and seven others are domestic workers and have been locked in since the outbreak of COVID-19 late February.
“They never allowed us to go out since February,” Alex told The ICIR.
“If anyone of us goes out and they know, a certain percentage of his salary will be deducted.”
“Even yesterday, when this man (pointing at one of the workers) sent someone to buy him water, N500 was deducted from his salary that is yet to be paid,” Alex added.
He said the Chinese did not care about their feeding since the house arrest.
Another worker who did not give his name disclosed that N3000 was deducted from his salary because he defied the house arrest order when he went out to fill his pension form.
One of the workers, a woman, who was livid with anger said they have been facing maltreatment in the hands of the Chinese since the house arrest.
“When I was seriously sick, I was asking these people (Chinese) to open the gate for me, they did not until I got very angry,” she said.
She said N1000 was deducted from the salary of one of them who was ill and needed to go out to get drugs.
“ I know my work would be at risk, I don’t mind, let us go to the police station,” the angry woman said.
During the rescue operation, the two Chinese were arrested by the police, though there were four of them sighted in the house.
While operatives of the police attempted to arrest them, the couples made frantic efforts to call a particular person as they refused to be taken into the waiting vehicle of the police.
But it appeared that the person they were calling instructed them to go with the police, as the wife was heard on phone saying “okay, I would go, I would go.”
As at the time of filing this report, the two Chinese and their victims are at the Utako Police Station for interrogation.
Officers at the police station declined comments but referred our reporter to Anjuguri Manza, Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), FCT Command.
When called on his mobile phone, Manza did not answer calls and did not respond to SMS and Whatsapp messages sent to him.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, there have been other cases of mistreatment of Nigerians by foreign employers.
Six days ago, the Nigerian Police had rescued more than 100 workers who were locked in and forced to work at Popular Farms, an Indian-owned rice mill factory in Kano state.
Some of the men were reportedly forced to work during their incarceration with little food while no family visits were allowed.
One of the victims of the incarceration, 28-year-old Hamza Ibrahim told the BBC that they were only allowed to rest for a short time and no prayers were allowed.
On April 15, a video went viral on youths protesting alleged detention and forced labour by a Chinese company in Ogun State.
The workers in the video alleged that the company refused to let them go out for 14 days, but subjected them to hard labour without pay.
A worker alleged that after the 14 days of work and hungar, they were being released without any compensation by the company.
@renoomokri Nigerian youths protesting against a Chinese company (Goodwill ceramics) in Ogun Guangdong Free trade zone Igbesa. We were held inside the company for 14 days of the lockdown without proper feeding and they're now asking us to leave without giving us anything. pic.twitter.com/gI376R8ZPu
— Wilfred (@Wilfredshady) April 13, 2020