• Begins investigation in to the standard and quality of Inner Steel Company products

The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, FCCPC, has locked a battle with an Abia State based steel company, Inner Steel Company Limited over the company’s alleged discriminatory employment practices against Nigerian workers.

According to the Chief Executive Officer of FCCPC, Babatunde Irukera, who explained what had transpired, he said, on Wednesday August 12, FCCPC became aware of credible reports of unfair treatment of Nigerian employees at Inner Steel Company Limited located at Obehie, Ukwa-West Local Government Area, Abia State.

He said, “The information received alleged unscrupulous and potentially illegal treatment and working conditions at Inner Steel’s factory. Although it was unclear how the subject conduct falls within the mandate of the FCCPC,” he wondered.

“Regardless, the Commission proceeded in an abundance of caution, considering treatment of citizens was implicated in the report, and the urgency required made it expedient to deploy anyway,” Irukera stated.

As at yesterday, August 13th, operatives of FCCPC from the South-East and South-South zonal offices conducted an investigatory stop at the company’s location in Abia State. Company executives and representatives were cooperative and provided requested information.

From initial findings, FCCPC established that employees are housed on work premises in less than ideal boarding conditions and some employees felt restrained on-site and unable to leave, even though going home has been their preference.

 Highlighting some of the findings established, the CEO of FCCPC said, “A workplace injury previously occurred and led to an amputation with respect to an employee. Employees were required to work non-stop shifts of 11 hours with inadequate breaks, and there are possible questions about the company’s compliance with prevailing standards for the steel/iron products it makes.”

Although the vast majority of the conducts discovered are labour relations and not consumer issues, FCCPC secured an express and urgent commitment from the company to immediately and forthwith, take steps to improve the living conditions of on-site employees including immediately purchasing foams/mattresses for their bunk beds, and cooling fans.

Other agreements reach include that the company should modify required working hours from 11 to 8 hours daily effective immediately. While immediately discontinue mandatory quarantine on-site for employees who desire to depart the facility as well as improved on-site medical access and responsiveness.

With respect to the work-related accident that led to serious injuries (amputation), considering the circumstances are currently subject of litigation, the company was disinclined to make statements.

Regarding the quality of the company’s products, FCCPC has opened an active investigation and is commencing materials testing to determine compliance with prevailing standards.

The company recognizes it is under monitoring and supervision pending the satisfactory resolution of all outstanding or open issues.  The Commission is making a fuller report and transmitting to the more relevant Ministry/Agency for follow up, monitoring and compliance.

The enforcement mechanisms including penalties (where applicable) under relevant laws and processes of the appropriate ministry, department or agency, for violations in these circumstances should take their course.

FCCPC commended the courage and commitment of the investigative journalist who followed this through, and welcomes credible intelligence that leads to robust enforcement of its competition and consumer protection mandate.