Yongxing Steel Company, a Chinese firm based in Edo State, has urged foreign investors to take advantage of Nigeria’s growing economy and invest in the country.
Mr. Frank Wang, the Company’s Managing Director, stated during an interactive meeting with journalists at the Company’s headquarters in Ogua Village, near Benin, that his company has so far created 700 direct jobs and 10,000 indirect jobs.
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He stated that investors who were hesitant to invest in the Nigerian economy at this time stood to lose and regret their decision in the future, given the potential of the country’s construction industry.
Wang, represented by the company’s spokesman, Mr. Ben Den, expressed the firm’s willingness to support the country, adding that Nigeria’s challenges were not reason enough for investors not to take advantage of the country’s large population and growing economy.
“I want to take advantage of this opportunity to encourage other foreign investors not to abandon Nigeria. There is no economy that does not face challenges. Our responsibility is to assist the country in overcoming these challenges.
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“Those of us in the construction industry need to be a little more patient with Nigeria. Nigeria’s economy is expanding and will continue to expand.
“With the country’s massive infrastructural gap, the construction sector will continue to grow, and any foreign investor in that sector is unlikely to be disappointed in the end,” he said.
The company’s waste-to-wealth program, according to the Managing Director, has created hundreds of job opportunities while also ensuring a cleaner environment.
“As many of you are aware, the basic raw materials for our production are derived from sources that are otherwise harmful to the environment.
“We empower people to collect waste materials that litter the entire environment, we pay for them, we recycle them using technology, and we produce some of the best steel products used in the construction industry.”
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“In this way, we are not only creating jobs, but we are also cleaning up the environment and contributing significantly to the construction sector, which is critical to a growing economy like Nigeria,” Wang added.
He did, however, credit the company’s success, which began operations in 2013, to the support of stakeholders, particularly the staff and the host community.
“We prioritize the well-being of our employees, just as we have contributed to the development of our host community in our own small way through Corporate Social Responsibility” (CSR).
“As for the staff, we have ensured regular training both within and outside the country, as well as the provision of shelter, a health insurance program, and a safe working environment.
“For the community, we have built markets, stores, provided water, and given out palliative care on occasion,” the Managing Director added.
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Concerning the contentious issue of unionization in the company, Wang stated that management was willing to unionize the workers “as soon as they indicate interest in that and put themselves together for such a purpose.”
“As a company, we are open to suggestions. We prioritize the welfare of our employees, which is why we established the monthly, quarterly, and yearly reward system, which has resulted in some employees traveling to China for three weeks,” Wang added.
The Enogie (duke) of Ogua, Chief Ogie Aghaghowen, also spoke at the session and praised the steel company for creating an economic environment as well as ensuring peace in the Ogua community.
“Not that we don’t have issues,” he said, “but we have a way of resolving them.”
However, drama ensued when two factions of the Company’s workers expressed opposing views on the issue of unionism.
Comrade Emos Iorsang, Vice President of the Steel and Engineering Workers Union of Nigeria, told journalists, “The issue we have with the company is that the management is maltreating us.” When a factory accident occurs, the management is unconcerned.
It has been in operation since 2013, but employees do not have letters of appointment.
“We are treated as second-class citizens. We are requesting assistance from the parent body because, since August 19, the company has locked us out simply because we demanded unionism to prevent maltreatment.”
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However, another employee, Mustapha Mohammed, stated, “We don’t want a union because the company provides everything we need.” Unions are civil society organizations that come to wreak havoc. They intend to come in and destroy the company.”
Meanwhile, Comrade Kassim Kadiri, National Secretary of the National Union of Steel and Engineering Workers of Nigeria, has hinted that Edo State Governor Godwin Obaseki has formed a committee to investigate the company’s unionism.
In response to questions about the issues surrounding unionizing the iron construction company’s workers, Kadiri stated that the national body “got to know about the company in 2013, and we tried to unionize the place, but what they did was organize some workers inside the company, who said that they don’t want a union.” We wanted to meet with the management, but they kept turning us down until 2014, when we filed a Trade Dispute against them.”
“Along the way, the Edo State Ministry of Labour stepped in. Mr. Igbiniovia was one of those sent by the ministry to mediate. We signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) for the parties in 2O15.
Among the agreements reached were: (a) the company’s recognition of the union; and (b) the management and the union meeting to discuss how the union could be formally inaugurated. This agreement was not honored by management until we declared another trade dispute in 2018. So, through some divine intervention, they agreed to meet us again.
“At that meeting, management arranged for about 20 workers (supervisors) to meet with us and tell us that they do not want a union. So we left them until 2021, when some workers approached us in Lagos and asked us to come and unionize them.
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“When we arrived in Benin for the purpose, the management informed us that the MD had been away since the COVID-19 period. Even during the COVID-19 period, no one was allowed to leave the dormitory; they were kept there for months. The workers held an election on September 14, 2021, and officers were elected. So the next morning, they transferred the newly elected chairman to Kano, where they have a warehouse where they collect scraps.
“The governor of Edo State has intervened and established a committee to mediate; it was discovered through the committee that none of the 900 workers there have employment letters. And we’ve been dealing with them ever since,” Kadiri explained.