'How We Arrested Workers'


The policeman who arrested five former workers of Unilever Nigeria Limited accused of misdemeanour and breach of public peace, Inspector Joseph Kalu, has described how they were arrested.

Testifying at the resumed trial of the accused persons before Magistrate T.A. Akanni of the Ikeja Magistrates’ Court, Lagos, Kalu disclosed that he arrested them within the premises of the company during a protest by the workers against the management.

The accused, Richard Okubo, 41, Shittu Kabiru, 38, Richard Ossai, 48, Obasi Ejike, 30 and Arowolo Sikiru, 35 were arrested and arraigned on a five-count charge of disturbing public peace on November 6, 2008 two days after they allegedly participated in a protest held by over 65 junior workers at the company’s premises in Oregun and Agbara.

Kalu who was being cross-examined by the defence lawyer, Mr. Adekunle Ajasa, told the court that he led other policemen to the company’s premises in response to a distress call received by the police.

The protesting workers, he explained, had blocked the gate leading to the company and confined the company’s Chief Security Officer, Salako Lateef and other expatriate staff inside the compound against their wish.

The witness claimed that it was through the effort of the armed policemen that the hostages were later released around 8.30 p.m. on the said date.

According to him, over nine persons, including the five accused were arrested by the police during the protest by the junior workers who were demanding improved working conditions.

Kalu, however, told the court that he did not investigate the cause of the protest but only went in to rescue those held within the company’s compound.

He said he did not know why only five out of the over 65 protesters were charged to court even after they claimed that they were only acting on the directive given by their union.

The witness claimed that he was in the team that arrested the accused persons but could not ascertain if they were leaders of the union.

Kalu also failed to explain to the court why he gave his statement three days after the accused persons were arrested which the defence claimed was not a standard police procedure.

Ajasa, while maintaining the innocence of the accused persons claimed that they were being victimised for carrying out a peaceful protest in line with the directive of their union.

The 65 workers who were dismissed after the protest had also instituted a civil suit against Unilever Nigeria Limited before an Ikeja High Court presided by Justice Titilola Ojikuti-Oshode, to challenge their wrongful dismissal.

The matter has been adjourned till October 31 for continuation of trial.

—Bakare Ibrahim and Tunmise Ige

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