Home Investigations How Union Leaders Enable Casualisation in the Food Sector

How Union Leaders Enable Casualisation in the Food Sector

by Isiyaku Ahmed
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From forcing companies to sack or retrench their perceived enemies through redundancy to aiding and abetting casualisation, to the collection of check-off dues from casual workers, trade union leaders in the food and beverages sector are caught in the intricate paradox of mixing trade union principles with internal power politics.

In this investigative report, Ibukun Omole unveils the story of how union leaders in the food sector boost anti-worker practices to hold on to power for personal, selfish interest while the workers they are supposed to serve perpetually grapple with slavish working conditions.

Although the food sector of the Nigerian economy used to be a major hub for both qualitative and quantitative employment, a prevailing aura of casualisation has transformed the sector to be amongst the most hostile to workers, investigations by National Record have revealed.

Our findings indicate that while the food sector in Nigeria, comprising the food processing, beverages, and tobacco sub-sectors, is doing quite well despite the global economic misfortune occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, food sector workers in the country, on the other hand, are increasingly being traumatized as a result of pervasive insecurity of tenure of employment, with the majority of the workers under casual employment and are therefore denied basic benefits that are statutorily guaranteed under full-time employment.

Casualisation or precarious employment, as it is also known, has basic characteristics such as lack of contract of employment (translating to insecure jobs), long hours of work, low and uncertain wages, generally poor working conditions, lack of freedom of association or right to join a union, among others.

In casualised work arrangement, the worker is not entitled to any perks that naturally come with employment, such as transportation allowance, paid leave/maternity leave, medical allowances, special benefits package, hazard allowance, right to belong to a union, compensation in case of an injury at work, etc.

While employers prefer the terms ‘contract staff’ or ‘outsourced jobs’ to describe casual employment, perhaps in order to blunt the nuances or severity of rights violations, hazards, and other deprivations originally guaranteed under the Trades Union Act and various ILO conventions, employees in the food sector are hapless and helpless victims of a compromised industrial relations system on the altar of exploitation.

The first in the layer of this system, this reporter finds, sits the profit-crazy employers in the industry, who despite the declaration of profit year in, and year out, continue to strip workers of their fundamental rights and benefits.

The second is the cabal of compromised and rigged trade union leadership in the National Union of Food Beverage and Tobacco Employees (NUFBTE) popularly called Food Union, which has over the years turned itself into a big and willing weapon in the hands of employers.

The third and obviously enabling component in the trinity of forces are the combined powers of labor bureaucracy in the Ministry of Labour and Employment in sync with top-notch leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC).

Our findings indicate that the combination of these forces, particularly the unusual silence, inaction, and ironic obeisance of the NLC leadership inexorably emboldened and ripened the unconstitutionality in the Food Union to full-blown autocracy at the expense of workers who have been pummelled into submission.

At the moment, the Food Union is made up majorly of casual workers from whom check-off dues are also being mined without getting corresponding union services from exploitative leaders that investigations reveal violate not only the union’s constitution but also all known trade union ethos.

Both current and former members of the union, our findings reveal, are in deep dread of the leadership of the Food Union led by Comrade Lateef Idowu Oyelekan against the backdrop of an entrenched terror symbolised in either brutal termination of employment or subtly through redundancy.

Our findings indicate that Comrade Oyelekan has constructed an iron-cast relationship with employers and their managements in major companies in the food sector such that his desires often become policies, particularly in Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), makers of Coca-Cola, and other soft drinks.

It is this relationship; members of the union say, he has exploited to full effect in calling for redundancies through which union members opposed to his continuous stay in office are constantly flushed out of their jobs and ultimately out of the union.

Redundancy and casualisation, National Record gathered, have become accepted industrial relations norms in the food sector, with the Food Union leadership often being the one calling for it.

Comrade Lateef Oyelekan, NUBFTE President, shakes hands with Dr. Chris Ngige, Minister of Labour and Employment in this file photo when the union leadership paid the Minister a courtesy visit.

One of the worst affected food companies in Nigeria where workers have of recent years lost every iota of right and increasingly consumed by the menace of redundancy is Seven-Up Bottling Company Plc, where an unspecified number of workers, said to be over a thousand, lost their jobs as fulltime workers in the past three to four years.

Similarly, this reporter also gathered that the sword of redundancy also swept through the Nigerian Breweries Plc and Dufil-Deunited Food Industry Limited, makers of popular noodle, Indomie, following requests allegedly from the leadership of NUFBTE whose representatives eventually signed an agreement to seal the sacking of over 500 workers from both firms.

Similar efforts to force the management of Nestle Nigeria PLC and Promasidor Nigeria Ltd failed as the two companies told the leadership of the union that they lack the resources to pay off sacked workers.

While the popular soft drink company, Coca-Cola, Oyelekan’s employers, who are fully behind his leadership for what they are benefiting from his leadership, have not carried out the massive shredding of jobs as others, the company has over the past five years drastically reduced the number of its full-time workers while at the same time increased its intake of casual staff.

Both full-time workers and their outsourced comrades who spoke to National Record under the cover of anonymity for fear of retribution said workers in the company (Nigerian Bottling Company) are as scared of the existing situation as their counterparts in other food and beverage companies.

Coca-Cola, National Record gathered, used to have at its plants over 8,000 full-time employees nationally with less than 2,000 casual workers. At the moment, the reverse is the case, said a source who told this reporter he is now a casual staff, downgraded from full-time staff in 2020.


Comrade Abiodun Adewumi, a trade unionist and former staff of NBC (Coca-Cola), confirmed to our reporter that full-time staff strength is up to 8,000. “We used to be 8,000 permanent staff with 21 plants nationwide, now reduced to about 8 plants with less than 2,000 permanent staff,” Comrade Adewumi said.

Reliable sources at a Viju Industries Nigeria Ltd factory in Lagos disclosed to this reporter that the factory operates with less than 50 permanent workers but has up to 500 casual employees – a 91 percent casualisation figure.

A full-time staff of one of the most productive distillery factories based in Lagos/Ogun/Oyo, Nigerian Distilleries Ltd, has under its full-time employment about 140 employees as opposed to 800 casuals – an 85.1 percent casualisation figure.

Similarly, Guinness Nigeria which is a global brand and also doing very well nationally, reportedly has less than 500 full-time staff nationally with burgeoning crowds of casuals, an unimpeachable source disclosed.

As a result of this gale of redundancies and job losses, and in the face of propaganda orchestrated by the Oyelekan leadership to deal with workers who support those opposed to him, there seems to be no visible agitation beyond those already known to be championing the cause for the exit of Oyelekan and his cohorts even as we gathered that there is an underground coalition with some members at the union’s national secretariat.

Aiding and abetting

Our investigation uncovered a new dimension to casualisation in the food sector where union leaders collaborate with the management of companies to fuel casualisation. Contrary to trade union practice where union leadership at all levels ensured the protection of jobs and welfare of its members, the past three to four years in the Food Union witnessed the ballooning of casualisation majorly because the national leadership, for political reasons, encouraged companies’ managements to declare redundancies and hired back the same workers as casuals with little or no rights.

Comrade Abiodun Philip, the Deputy Chairman of the Ogun State Council of the NLC, also a frontline member of a faction of the Food Union under the aegis of Redemption Group, told this reporter that though the Oyelekan leadership does not in any way represent the interests of casual workers, it however still collects check-off dues from them, remitted directed by the company to the union.

“The casuals are not being represented on any platform, but the union insisted that check-off dues be deducted from their wages, their meager wages, and paid to the union. They collect check-off dues from these casuals and there is no single representation for them [casuals] at any level,” Comrade Philip, a full-time employee of Nestle Nigeria Plc, told National Record mid-last year when we began this investigation.

Comrade Abiodun Olawuwo, a staff of Promasidor Nigeria Ltd and staunch member of the Redemption Group, while corroborating Philip, said casualisation became a political tool in the hands of the Oyelekan leadership against union members he sees as detractors to his plot to be life president of the union.

Comrade Abiodun

“As many people that will come up and say, Mr. Man, do the right thing, the next thing is to get them out of their employment. The president has done it in so many companies. You can see what he has done in Nestle Nigeria Plc; what he has done in Nigerian Breweries and what he has also done in Seven-Up, and even in Coca-Cola where he works,” said Comrade Olawuwo, who stressed that the recent redundancies in the sector were at the behest of Comrade Oyelekan to depopulate his vocal opponents.

He alleged that the redundancy of up to 350 workers in Seven-Up was politically motivated as according to him, the soft drink company was doing well when the redundancy happened and therefore had no cause to carry out any redundancy.

Comrade Olawuwo said Oyelekan is emboldened to do what he is doing because of the backing he gets from the President of NLC, Comrade Ayuba Wabba. “Oye has the support of Wabba, and if he doesn’t, Wabba would not have been at that conference at that ugly hour,” Olawuwo said referring to an emergency delegates conference the Oyelekan leadership held in the wee hours of August 21, 2020, to grant him what the Redemption Group termed an illegal tenure extension.

Olawuwo said Wabba lacked the trade union character and zeal demonstrated by his immediate predecessor who mediated in the Food Union’s crisis during the tenure of the late Comrade John Onyenemere.

“I was out of employment for one year and two months during that crisis, and the then NLC President, Comrade Abdulwahed Omar, came and discussed our issue and they reinstated me. He came directly and didn’t send anybody. That is the zeal we expected from this man, Ayuba Wabba but unfortunately didn’t get,” Olawuwo said.

Political redundancy

A former General Secretary of the Food Union, Comrade Bamidele Busari, himself a victim of Oyelekan’s ambition to continually stay in power, confirmed to National Record that the target of the redundancy in Seven-Up and Nigerian Breweries was to weed out people considered as dissidents.

Comrade Busari, who because of his opposition to Oyelekan’s tenure elongation, was sacked in 2020, and the matter is still pending at the Lagos Division of the National Industrial Court, told this reporter in an interview that “the redundancy was actually carried out to victimise our members.”

Comrade Busari, former NUFBTE scribe, sacked by Oyelekan for supporting democracy and constitutionalism in the union.

Busari said the most senior union official who was Oyelekan’s key target was Comrade Peter Onoja, the then National Signing Trustee of NUFBTE. “Comrade Onoja happened to be the only NAC member that came out to say that what these guys [union members opposed to the tenure extension] are doing is right. He was the only one bold enough to challenge Oye.”

Busari noted that a stone of redundancy was used to kill many birds – Comrade Onoja and those supporting his opposition to the redundancy got sacked, and many permanent staffers got converted to casuals.

Busari said: “You now sent them [workers] into the labour market in the guise of redundancy, in the guise of excess of manpower, and then you now bring them back as outsourced workers, where there is no housing allowance, no transport allowance, no shift allowance, no holiday, nothing at all. That is why I call it political redundancy. It is not a normal redundancy because they [companies] were making profits. There was no reason for the Seven-Up redundancy. Supporters of Comrade Onoja within the union were not re-employed even as casuals.”

Like Olawuwo, Comrade Busari thinks that Comrade Wabba shares a lot of the blame for the festering crisis in NUFBTE.  “Ayuba Wabba was the one that backed them the most unconstitutionally,” Busari said, adding: “He uncritically throws his weight behind every wrongdoing in the Food Union and that is why they (Food Union leaders) are doing what they are doing.”

Activist indicts Oyelekan’s leadership

Beyond the allegations from members of the Food Union accusing the Oyelekan leadership of fuelling redundancies and casualisation also came an independent indictment and corroboration which came from Oyo State-based activist, Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye.

Comrade Bamigboye, who is the chairperson of the Oyo State chapter of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN), in an interview with National Record, alleged that some members of the union’s leadership or their friends are part owners of outsourcing firms. He said as a result of this, the leadership of the union is not keen or committed to any genuine effort to defend workers’ interests.

File Photo of Comrade Bamigboye, addressing journalists during a protest against anti-union high-handedness by SUMAL Foods Nigeria Ltd.

“One of the factors militating against any prospects for any solution [to redundancy and casualisation is that the current leadership of this union – many of them are also directly or indirectly in ownership of some of the outsourcing companies that recruit these workers for the company. What that means is that anytime they see a staff member that’s beginning to ask questions, they sack them so as to serve as a deterrent to others,” Comrade Bamigboye stated emphatically, although he did not mention any unionist’s name or offered documentary evidence to corroborate the claim.

According to Bamigboye, there are three different layers of collusion in the casualisation chain. The first layer is between union leaders and companies’ management; the second is between outsourcing companies and companies’ management; and the third is between union leaders and outsourcing companies.

He described how these bodies came together to bully him with arrests and sue him in court for assisting workers at Sumal Foods Ltd, Ibadan to unionize.

As an example of the collusion between union leaders and outsourcing companies, Comrade Bamigboye named an Ibadan-based Atunwa Ventures Nigeria Ltd, said to be owned by Comrade Shittu, a former trade union leader in the Agricultural and Allied Union Employees of Nigeria (AAUEN) in Oyo State.

The cycle of collusion engendering casualisation in the food sector in Nigeria.

Atunwa Ventures is currently said to be one of the leading Ibadan-based outsourcing companies with an operational presence in a number of companies in Oyo State and beyond.

In the collision between companies’ management and outsourcing companies, Bamigboye said in the advent and popularisation of outsourcing, many management-level workers, particularly Human Resources (HR) personnel, quit their jobs to use their experience and contact to become outsourcing managers for the same companies.

An example of such a firm, found in the course of our investigation, is Pebnic Ventures Limited owned and managed by Mr. Funso Soyoye, who was formerly General Manager and Head of the Business Unit at Coca-Cola HBC. Presently, Pebnic is said to be the outsourcing company for the workers in forklift and warehouse section of Coca-Cola.


Efforts to speak to Comrade Lateef Oyelekan, NUFBTE President, and Comrade Mike Olanrewaju, the General Secretary of the union, were fruitless. When called, Comrade Oyelekan’s line was not picked up, and an inquiry text containing questions sent to the same number was not responded to as at press time.

While Comrade Olanrewaju picked up his call, he, however, told this reporter that he was busy and would call him back in two hours, a promise he failed to keep at press time, even though a set of inquiry questions meant for him were also immediately sent to him as a text message.

However, in a previous interview with National Record, Comrade Olanrewaju, when asked why the union had not opposed the redundancy in Seven-Up defended the sacking as if he were a management staff of the company.

“They [Seven-Up] were bringing in new machines; you know this is an era of artificial intelligence; so many things are happening, and some workers, they are un-trainable because they have served for so long, maybe because of their level of education or because they are biased in education, they could not fit in and we put it under the law that they will recruit very competent and technically qualified people, which as I am speaking to you, they have started complying with.

Comrade Olanrewaju

“Because of this, we cannot stop them from moving them out of the company, but of course, we agreed with them on the number of those affected, but it was not our prompting,” Olanrewaju had stated.

This reporter however gathered that while many of the so-called redundant workers were recruited back as casual staff, some others claimed to be ‘untrainable’ by the General Secretary were hired by outsourcing firms.

The leadership of NLC was not willing to speak to this reporter. When contacted, NLC’s Head of the Department of Information, Comrade Benson Upah, said: “I’d advise you channel your inquiry to the union (NUFBTE).”

Similarly, both the President and General Secretary of NLC failed to respond. While the General Secretary of NLC, Comrade Emma Ugboaja, failed to pick up his calls or respond to inquiry text messages, the President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba, said he was busy. Wabba also failed to respond to the inquiry text message forwarded to him at press time.

The wave of casualisation

Tracing the root of casualisation in the food and beverages sector in Nigeria, a former branch chairman of the Food Union, Comrade Abadom Lawrence Amechi, recounted an experience from a 2016 seminar he attended as a union leader.

Comrade Wabba, NLC President

Amechi, a frontline trade union activist under the aegis of Redemption Group, said: “In 2016, there was this seminar we had – NUFBTE, our own union, the Food, Beverage and Tobacco Senior Staff Association (FOBTOB), and the Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE). We had a seminar where all of us gathered somewhere in Ikeja.

“What they tried to do with that seminar was to convince us that outsourcing was in vogue and that as a union, we may resist it but it will eventually come to stay. That was the core message of that very seminar,” Comrade Amechi said, lamenting that trade unionist who participated in the seminar never envisaged that the menace of casualisation was going to be made easier from inside the unions as has been done in the Food Union.

The coordinator of the seminar was the then Executive Secretary of AFBTE, Mr. Aderemi Adegboyega, whom Comrade Amechi said is now the owner of an outsourcing company and current president of the Association of Owners of Outsourcing Companies.

Comrade Abiodun Philip, the Deputy Chairman of the Ogun State Council of the NLC, also a frontline member of the Food Union Redemption Group and purported to have been expelled from the union by the Oyelekan leadership, noted the difference between casualisation and outsourcing, when he said: “What they did is to change casualisation to outsourcing – it is an advanced way of manipulation of casualisation. It’s just semantics.”

Philip said casualisation has become so normal in Nigeria that many workers do not even know that it is illegal to employ workers without giving them basic employment benefits after more than six months.

Comrade Emma Ugboaja, NLC General Secretary

He said from the big-time multinational corporations to emerging firms in the food industry, the norm is outsourcing, contract-staffing, and other nomenclatures, all of which he said “are pseudonyms for casualisation.

Figures and findings from the food sector

In a Ph.D. research carried out on casualisation in the food and beverages sector in Lagos State in November 2018, Adewumi Samson Adeoluwa of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, showed that the concept had by then become pervasive with majority of the firms in the sector already adopting the practice.

According to the research, its “findings show that while 67.6 percent of the entire study population indicates that outsourced employment remains the most utilized strand of employment casualization (in the sector), 65.3 percent (of the study population) gave similar evidence for contract employment.”

While he referred to outsourcing as the ‘transfer of conventionally performed tasks by an organization to a sub-contractor outside the organization, which prefigures a cost reduction strategy and the need to gain more advantage within the competitive labour market’, he explained that ‘the employment of contract workers is no longer conditioned on the need to engage more hands when production increases, rather it has become a norm with the intention to minimize costs and maximize profits’.

Good or bad deal?

On the question of whether casualisation is a good or bad deal for workers; Comrade Emechi answers a categorical No!

“No matter how beautiful they want to present it or what they want it to look like, I know that it’s not as good as permanent employment. I know that there are certain things we (permanent staff) get that they don’t get and they don’t earn as much as permanent staff, whether in the bank or anywhere,” Amechi stressed.

Even the casual employees themselves do not see the practice as good. A casual worker who chose to remain anonymous said her working conditions are so bad that she is “always afraid of losing the job every time.” Another casual worker said that the working condition is the reason why he keeps “applying for government jobs despite being currently employed.” The general view is that casualisation is institutionalized underemployment.

Comrade Amechi

A 2021 Guardian report indicates that the percentage of casual workers in the Nigerian labour force averages at about 67%. The report also indicates that the least casualised sector had about 45% casual staff and the most casualised sector had up to a whopping 90%.

According to the Manager of Fair-Trade, Mr. Martin Maerz, the nation’s food and beverages sector generates about 1.5 million jobs which are a whole 5% of Nigeria’s workforce.

Unemployment in Nigeria was at about 33% in 2021 according to the National Bureau of Statistics. At a recent lecture in Lagos, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, the President of the African Development Bank (AfDB) puts the figure of unemployment at about 40% of youths.

Unemployment is known to be a direct cause and effect of casualisation. This means that the existence of casual workers makes it possible for companies to employ one person to do the work of three persons by making them work extra-long hours.

Unsettled and consumed by power tussle

Amongst the over a thousand workers who have lost the means of sustenance for their families in the struggle for rule of law and democracy in the union are several trade union leaders and the rank-and-file members at the unit, branch, and national secretariat levels of the Food Union.

For instance, one of the first victims is Comrade Adewunmi Abiodun. An employee of NBC/Coca-Cola; Comrade Abiodun was elected the State Treasurer of the Lagos State Council 2 of the union in 2018. But less than two after in 2020, Abiodun’s working career at NBC came to an unceremonious end after he was queried and told to stay away from the workplace on what this reporter gathered was a trumped-up charge that he was absent from work for three months.

The reality, according to Abiodun, is that the management celebrated his birthday and even paid him overtime during that period for work done. Comrade Abiodun said though he was at times on union engagements that took him off work during that period, he usually traveled after officially getting permission from the management just like other union officials enjoy that privilege.

NBC Products

His real offense, National Record gathered, was his outspokenness and open support for leadership accountability and demand that Oyelekan has had enough tenures as president of the Food Union. During the disciplinary panel at the company, Comrade Abiodun resisted attempts to unceremoniously terminate his employment as he refused to sign a termination letter given to him.

After his resistance, he was suspended and asked to stay away from work pending investigations.

“The question I asked them that made me not sign the termination letter was; why are you terminating my appointment when you know that the allegation is not true, the gentleman said he knows, but that they asked him from the head office to query me for absence,” Abiodun said.

This reporter gathered from reliable colleagues at the company that Comrade Abiodun was not just an award-winning worker at the company, he was also an excellent unionist, who in addition to his open opposition to Oyelekan’s tenure elongation, also challenged him (Oyelekan) for inappropriate treatment of another local unionist. For these, Abiodun was accused of being disloyal to the national leadership and seen as a threat that must be dealt with – and he lost his job.

According to Abiodun; “nobody from my company (NBC) gets to that position (State Officer of the union) and moves higher. Right from my predecessors, a lot of them, I can count them.

“Once they get to state, Oye [as Oyelekan is often called in the union] will remove them if you are vibrant as a state officer from NBC. Because he knows the next step that person is coming to is the national and he wants to stay forever… Any perceived vibrant state officer from NBC is removed.”

He recounted how his immediate bosses at the company tried to find a middle ground in the victimization but Oyelekan exerted a huge influence over them and the management. He said: “Over time, my boss will tell me that you have a bright future, you are a graduate, let’s promote you so that you will leave them for their wahala [troubles]. But the problem my predecessors have had in the past is that they don’t get beyond that position.”

Comrade Abiodun explained how Oyelekan exerts his influence: “Because we are from the same company, getting rid of me was easy because we are in the same company and the company respects those on higher ranks. That was what happened. But getting rid of Comrade Peter Onoja and others was very difficult for him for a long time.”

When asked about the efforts of the state chapter and the other members of the executive who he worked with in resisting his termination of employment, Abiodun said: “Except the state chairman who stood by me and even when the state secretary did not write, the state chairman went outside (of the executives) and he wrote to the NBC; he wrote to the National Union and everybody on the issue of this query.”

He further explained the reason for the attitude of the other local leaders to his travails: “What I know my president for very well is promising ten or even twenty people one particular position just to get rid of one person.” He said nobody wrote from the national secretariat to the company on the matter.

Abiodun said one day he got an alert from his bank for what he assumed were his benefits for the 17 years he worked in the company, even when the company had said the investigation was going on. He said for the past two years, he’s been hoping that the company will recall him.

He said instead of the recall, he has been threatened by the police, while his branch chairman had been detained for two weeks without being taken to court.

He also alleged that hired thugs have in the course of the crisis been sent after him. In his words: “An assassination attempt was made. I ran out of my house; for three months, I didn’t come to my family. There was police harassment from Ikeja Area Command, and I had to write to Alagbon [FCIID] because the Area Command is under Alagbon. I had to write to them also… and a police officer called the Area Command to ask them to stay off union issues.”

Comrade Abiodun Philips is also a victim of these targeted attacks by the NUFBTE National leadership. He was expelled from the union after efforts to get him sacked were ignored by the management of Nestle Nigeria Plc.

Comrade Philips said even after the effort to sack him failed, Oyelekan was still not deterred. “They wrote to NLC Ogun State that I have been expelled, that I used the platform of the food union to contest as the Vice Chairman of NLC Ogun State chapter, and that I have been recalled by the Food Union.

“But the NLC Ogun State chapter replied that they are law-abiding and that they are aware that the case is in court and they said that until the case is decided, the status quo should be maintained. They now petitioned my company that I have been expelled, and why I am still being released to attend NLC meetings.

“My management invited me and there, I said it was not just Food Union that elected me but the entire chapter which must be the one to decide.”

Comrade Onoja, former National Signing Trustee and assumed leader of Oye;s tenure elongation…affected by the redundancy exercise at 7-Up.

As we go to press, Comrade Peter Onoja, who is the leader of the Redemption Group, is said to be in remand. Onoja, National Record gathered, was among those declared redundant by Seven-Up in May 2022 after he suffered a transfer from Lagos to Kaduna following pressures from the national leadership.

Comrade Onoja

Efforts to speak to Onoja failed as he was said to have been remanded in prison by a Lagos court following a petition from the union’s national secretariat to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) which is prosecuting him for allegedly embezzling about N75 million while he was branch chairman of the Seven-Up Branch of NUFBTE.

A member of the redemption group who confirmed Onoja’s remand since early December 2022 also told National Record that his remand was part of a power tussle and politics in the union.

The source, who pleaded anonymity, said Comrade Onoja and other members of the union also wrote a petition against Comrade Oyelekan to the EFCC for alleged embezzlement of over N2 billion and that Oyelekan and the union’s National Treasurer are also being investigated by the EFCC whose operatives have interrogated and still doing so up to now.

Another source also revealed that the real motive for Onoja’s remand was the fear by Comrade Oyelekan that the then National Delegates Conference of the union scheduled to hold last December was going to face stiff opposition if Onoja was not taken out of circulation.

“We gathered that the union leadership spent a lot of money on the EFCC to do everything possible to detain Onoja so that he will not create trouble for the union during the scheduled December conference, but the conference was shifted.

“When we heard of this, including our lawyers, we tried to alert Onoja but he didn’t pick up our calls. The next thing we heard was that he had gone to the EFCC officer where they just held and dragged him before a magistrate who remanded him,” the source said.

Although the delegates’ conference of the union is scheduled for this January in Ibadan, members of the union are however not sure if it will hold and whether Comrade Oyelekan will indeed leave without installing a stooge who will continue with his legacies.

This investigation by National Record is supported by the Wole Soyinka Centre for Investigative Journalism (WSCIJ) under the Collaborative Media Engagement for Development, Inclusivity, and Accountability Project (CMEDIA) funded by the MacArthur Foundation.

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