Will MTN exit Nigeria over harassment fines?
- July 12, 2018
Mobile giant MTN Nigeria may exit the Nigerian market over incessant harassment and threats to its operations from many quarters in the country.
This came as Cyril Ramaphosa, President of South Africa arrived in Nigeria to meet with President Muhammadu Buhari to reassure of safety of Nigerians, following the killings of many Nigerians in renewed xenophobic attacks in South Africa.
But the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) had on Monday began the picketing of MTN offices, which NLC claimed was in protest against non-unionisation of its workers.
The leadership of the NLC and other members had barricaded the head office of the company in Lagos for hours, preventing workers from carrying out their daily duties.
Tobechukwu Okigbo, Corporate Relations Executive, MTN in his reaction, said the “the violence and the needless destruction of property is deeply saddening. As always our primary concern is the safety and well-being of our employees, some of whom were attacked by supposed NLC operatives and have sustained injuries.
“We do not prevent our employees from associating amongst themselves as they deem fit and owe our employees the obligation to ensure they are not compelled to join associations. MTN supports the freedom of association as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution.
“All workers have rights that should be protected. We work hard to not only ensure that this is done but also to ensure that our company is a great place to work. We will continue to champion our peoples’ rights, whether they are part of a union or not and work hard to minimise disruptions in service to our customers” he added.
But another official said that the network firm may consider shutting its Nigerian operations if the hostilities continues.
MTN is facing a plethora of challenges in Nigeria ranging from incessant imposition of fines and penalties by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to endless harassment by the National Assembly through Senate probes.
Sometime ago too, the Senate began harassing the company over alleged illegal transfer of $13.2 billion.
Full statement of President of Nigeria Labour Congress, Comrade Ayuba Wabba on the issue:
“Tuesday, July 10, marks the second day of the picketing of MTN offices nationwide by the Nigeria Labour Congress and its civil society allies. This press statement is intended to explain the reasons for this action as well as debunk the false information being fed to the public by MTN that our members have been unruly in prosecuting this action which is intended to divert attention from the real issues.
“MTN Nigeria, since it commenced operations in Nigeria and in clear violation of extant national and international labour laws, especially ILO Conventions 87 and 98 has denied its workers the fundamental principles of the rights at work.
“It similarly indulges in other anti-labour practices such as casualisation for nearly all types of work, fixed- term contract work for Nigerian workers, worst forms of precarious work, etc.
“It is on record that the Nigeria Labour Congress, on several occasions protested to the MTN and government about these unwholesome practices.
The World Decent Work Day marked on October 7th last year marked a watershed in these protests as NLC briefly picketed their Maitama office in Abuja.
“In response to this action of NLC, MTN reached out to NECA (Nigerian Employers Consultative Association) which brokered a meeting. However, due to inexplicable reasons, MTN opted out of the negotiations to the chagrin and embarrassment of NECA.
“Thereafter every effort by NECA and NLC to get MTN to the negotiating table failed. Frustrated, NECA pulled out of the negotiations. Subsequent efforts by NLC yielded no response either. Left with no other choice, NLC served MTN notice of a picket in line with the provisions of the law. This action commenced across the country yesterday, Monday, July 9, 2018.
“And in prosecuting this picket, our members have been peaceful and orderly.
We have not destroyed the property of MTN and we do not intend to do so as that is not our objective anyway. There is no doubt that we are clear about our objectives and we shall not allow anything to distract us. We are responsible workers and we are alive to our duties and responsibilities.
“Even when MTN sponsored members of a private security company (with which it works) to attack and injure some of our members, we resisted the option of a proportionate response.
“The Falomo police have in their custody one of the attackers and an ID card of one of the assailants.
“MTN therefore, instead of resorting to cheap blackmail and propaganda should do the needful, give to Nigerian workers in their employ, their rights to freely associate, and hold an opinion as guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution, the Labour Laws and Conventions 87 and 98 of the ILO.
“It is equally important to explain that Nigeria is the only country MTN refuses to allow workers to unionise. In South Africa where the company comes from, workers are unionised. Indeed, our counterparts in South Africa are worried that we have allowed this matter to linger for so long as MTN may choose to try to impose similar conditions on them.
“In Ghana, workers are unionised as in every other country MTN carries on business. It is important to point out that MTN makes over 60 per cent of its global money in Nigeria. Why then must it be so disdainful of our laws and people.
“However, its acts of impunity are not entirely new. Nigerians may recall it was the same MTN in clear breach of national security that imperiled the lives of our security personnel in the Northeast over which it was fined.
“We insist that companies, no matter how rich or powerful must obey the laws of the land. We insist they must treat Nigerians fairly and decently. No one should be above the law. Let all Nigerians know we are committed to this operation. We have the will and the means to sustain it.
“Finally, we commend the Nigeria Police so far for their exemplary conduct. We single out for special commendation the police in and around Falomo, Lagos.”
Source: Nigerian Communications Week
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