Nigeria: End the prosecution of socialist activist, Abbey Trotsky!

National Labour Council (NLC) and TUC must take action to halt the persecution of Abbey with the immediate commencement of a serious campaign against casualisation and related indecent labour practices in workplaces

The Campaign for Democratic and Workers’ Rights (CDWR) calls on trade unions, pro-masses’ organizations, and activists to support the demand for an immediate end to the continuous persecution of Comrade Abiodun Bamigboye, popularly known as Abbey Trotsky, on trumped-up criminal charges by the Nigeria police at the instance of the management of the SUMAL FOOD LIMITED Ibadan.

Abbey Trotsky is the Oyo State Coordinator of CDWR and doubles as the Acting National Chairperson of the Socialist Party of Nigeria (SPN). He has been under a string of state prosecutions since 2019. This is as a result of the support and solidarity given by the members of the Oyo State Chapter of the CDWR to the protest and strike embarked upon by contract/casual workers of Sumal Food between 2nd and 3rd October 2018.

Abbey has suffered a series of harassment including arrest and detention by the police and the Department of State Services (DSS) for over five years. He was arrested 8 times by the police and DSS between 19th December 2018 and 9 June 2019. He was later forced to report weekly at the office of the AIG Zone 11 Osogbo Osun State, between 28 May and 7 June 2019 after which he was arraigned at Iyaganku Magistrate Court on 7 June, 2019 first on four-count criminal charges but later increased to an eight-count charge.

The last sitting of the lingering criminal matter came up on Wednesday, 20th December 2023 under a new Chief Magistrate (Mrs) Modupe Ogunsakin for mention and later adjourned till 20th February 2024. Chief Magistrate Ogunsakin is the sixth presiding magistrate in the matter which has had records of seventeen adjournments and seven re-arraignments.

Unfortunately, the December 20 re-arraignment was the first time Abbey Trotsky was denied the opportunity to continue to enjoy his previous bail condition following a new re-arraignment. The basis for this denial by the Chief Magistrate despite the application for such by the police prosecutor was that the previous bail bond couldn’t be found in Abbey Trotsky’s case file, hence ruled that the matter was starting afresh (de novo).

The CDWR faults this basis! That previous bail bonds was missing in Abbey Trotsky’s file is an indictment on the court. It also raises a huge suspicion over the authenticity of the entire case file and the veracity of the documents and information therein. We demand a reproduction of the missing bail bond as well as unrestricted access to the entire case file at least to ascertain its authenticity.

We commend the Oyo State chair of the NLC, lawyers, and activists whose intervention saved Abbey from being remanded at Agodi Prison by securing his bail. The Chief Magistrate had initially rejected the first surety that stood for his bail and ordered that Abbey be taken to prison.

It is also important to state that aside from the criminal matter, there is a civil matter which was instituted against Abbey Trotsky at the National Industrial Court (NIC), Ibadan by over 20 outsourcing companies known for indecent labour practices of recruiting workers under a casual or contract employment condition for virtually all leading factories, including SUMAL FOOD LIMITED, in Oyo State. Worthy to note that, some of these outsourcing companies were established by some leading rightwing members of the Food Union (National Union of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employees, NUFBTE) and these platforms are notorious for enslaving workers.

The motive behind the continuous prosecution of Abbey Trotsky is an attempt to make a scapegoat of him, deter other members of CDWR from intervening in the plight of poor casual workers, and strike fear into the hearts of casual workers across workplaces in the state and country at large. This is more so that a new minimum wage which will be due for an upward review in the first quarter of the year 2024 could also trigger a fresh round of agitation for pay rise among workers from one workplace to another in the state and across the country.

Therefore, we call on the national leadership of the NLC and TUC to join us in the CDWR to demand an end to the state prosecution of Abbey Trotsky at the instance of SUMAL FOOD LIMITED and also immediately commence a serious national campaign against casualisation and other related indecent labour practices.