Accuses Kwara Government of preferential treatment
Some staff members and residents living around International Tobacco Company, ITC, Ilorin, the Kwara state capital have expressed concern that the state government is condoning the company and some others as they continue to operate in violation of the state lockdown order.
The reaction follows reports that ITC workers, in their hundreds were compelled to continue normal duty despite concerns over the spread of coronavirus.
The fear was heightened after management of the company reportedly told one of the casual workers to stop coming to work, because of his alleged close relationship with one of the people in isolation.
Since Tuesday, SMS and whatsapp messages raising apprehension over the incident had been trending, one of which was sent to Royal Times newsroom.
Speaking with Royal Times, the workers who spoke on condition of anonymity, said their lives are in danger considering the number of people working in the factory.
They also lamented the lack of Personal Prevention Equipment, PPE, despite the ravaging coronavirus pandemic, adding that all efforts to make the management consider the safety of workers was rebuffed.
A resident, who simply identified himself as Mr Najeem, frowned at the development. He argued that the company could not have been working without the consent of the state government.
He argued that many of the companies to include ITC, supported the state government with cash donations and materials in support of the fight against COVID-19 for selfish reasons.
“Let me tell you, go and check all those companies in operation. They are the ones that donated to the state government. It is not in the interest of the people. It is a Greek gift to allow them to continue operation,” Najeem said.
A commercial cab driver also lamented unfair treatment. Mr Abdulmalik wondered why some people are allowed to continue business when people like them are instructed to stay at home.
According to him, this is unfair, “how can people like me who earn daily living be told to stay at home and a big company that produces cigarette will be permitted to work? Is the government fair like this?”
Another resident, who sells food around the premises, said many of the workers who are conveyed to work in official buses, are mostly in fear of disease outbreak, but are scared to protest so as not to lose their source of livelihood.
They called on the state Governor, AbdulRasaq AbdulRahman to investigate the incident, saying no staff is expected to be working at the moment in a company providing non-essential products.
When Royal Times correspondents, visited the tobacco company in Ilorin on Thursday morning, vehicles numbering 15 were seen parked at the front of the gate, while official activities were seen taking place within the premises.
The reporter was denied access to the company for over an hour while calls and messages to the company Human Resources Manager, were ignored.
The reporter was not allowed in until, Mr Aluko Oladimeji, a representative of the Kwara State Technical Committee on COVID-19 arrived the company.
Oladimeji, after a brief meeting with the HR, affirmed our correspondent’s findings that the tobacco company was currently working.
He however said the management was warned to provide Personal Protective equipment for all staff members.
When asked if the tobacco company belongs to the group of exempted companies providing essential services, the government official was unable to respond to the question.
Oladimeji, a member of the State Technical Committee on COVID-19, said only the committee can ascertain if a tobacco company meets the criteria that determine those offering essential services.