Gavel

A gavel. 

| File | Nation Media Group

“I pity myself for being a Kenyan,” cries man accusing Chinese employer of assault 

What you need to know:

  • Mr Onyango claims he was assaulted by Mr Yu Haibo, his employer, on August 22, 2019 because of the dispute.
  • He blames his former employer, a Chinese national, who hired him at a construction firm in late 2014.   

Moses Onyango, 49, is a troubled man. And he blames his former employer, a Chinese national, who hired him at a construction firm in late 2014.   

“I have tried all means to evade him, but he has always used his allies to trace me. I cannot continue living this way. I must share my story. Someone who can help might listen and rescue me,” begins the father of four. 

His quest for justice that began nearly three years ago is turning out to be a dangerous game. 

He was hired by the Weihai International Economic and Technical Company (WIETC) in late 2014, alongside 54 other workers as a casual labourer for the construction of a water plant in Ndakaini, Murang’a County. 

Soon, they realised that the National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) and the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) money that was being deducted from their salaries was not being remitted.

Some colleagues did not even have the NHIF and NSSF numbers, yet deductions were effected on their salaries, he claims. 

The workers picked Mr Onyango to present their grievances to NSSF headquarters in Nairobi. 
That task has come back to haunt him. 

He walks around without a mobile phone and borrows one when he needs to contact anyone. He has a notebook full of contacts.

Records of the salaries of the 55 workers in November 2017 showed that at least 24 workers in WIETC had no NHIF and NSSF numbers, yet money was deducted from their salaries for the health insurance and pension respectively, each month. 

Disgruntled party

“We have been really suffering, we simply want to know where our money is. The amounts were hardly being remitted to the parastatals,” Mr Onyango explains.

The back and forth between the disgruntled party and their employer, that began in late 2018 has raged to date. 

Mr Onyango claims he was assaulted by Mr Yu Haibo, his employer, on August 22, 2019 because of the dispute.

The matter was reported to Capital Hill police station through OB-Number 61/22/08/2019. He sought the assistance of the Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) after police failed to follow up the case. 

KHRC wrote to WEITC: “Kindly let us know at your earliest opportunity whether you would be interested in having your matter mediated and/or amicably settled out of court and whether August 29, 2019 from 9am would be suitable to hold the mediation,” wrote Ms Sandra Oyombe, the KHRC programme adviser, Legal Affairs. 

KHRC also asked the company to propose a suitable date to hold the talks should August 29, 2019 not be convenient. 

The meeting never happened, Mr Onyango says. 

A police surgeon medical report obtained at Mama Lucy Hospital showed that Mr Onyango experienced mild tenderness on the chest after being assaulted by a known person. The report was signed by a Dr Kiato on August 29, 2019. 

Case against Chinese man

A month later, Mr Onyango escalated the matter to the Regional County Criminal Investigation Officer, (RCCIO) Nairobi, in a letter dated September, 16, 2019. He accused an officer of mishandling his case against the Chinese man.

A month later there was no feedback from the police.

Mr Onyango then went to the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR), which referred the matter to the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) of the National Police Service (NPS) on October 3, 2019 through referring officer Barasa Kiptoo.

On October 8, 2019, the IAU responded in a letter signed by Dan A. Ashikobe for the director, Internal Affairs Unit. 

It said: “This office does acknowledge receipt of your letter and wish to inform you that the Unit is following up on the matter and will keep you updated on progress made.”

This is the last response Mr Onyango ever got from the police. 

He then wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on October 15, 2019.Two days later, he again reported the matter to the director, Complaints, National Police Service and again to the deputy inspector General of Police on November 25, 2019.

He wrote another letter to the DPP on December 17, 2019 through another lawyer, G. Omenke. 

Assault case

“We have every reason to believe that the investigation officer has been heavily compromised to stall the case due to the conflicting information being given to our client. It is for this reason that we kindly request your office to invoke the power bestowed upon you by the constitution and have the matter transferred to the DCI for proper investigation and handling,” G. Omenke wrote. 

No response came. 

On February 26, 2020, Mr Onyango went back to the Office of the DPP. The issue was received by a Complaints Officer identified as Kelvin Kamau. The matter was noted to be under investigation.

That was the last time he followed up on the assault case. 

“I gave up, there is no justice in this country. How can a foreigner come to my country, do all these evil things and still be protected by the state? I pity myself for being a Kenyan,” Mr Onyango told the Nation.

He then joined the firm’s former employees to demand their unremitted pension funds and medical cover amounts. 

Together, the 55 employees wrote a letter to the NSSF on May, 25, 2020. When two months went by and no response came from the NSSF, the employees sought legal redress and issued a demand letter to their former employer through their lawyer, Mr Charles Omboko. 

“Our clients carried out their employment duties diligently but at some point, in 2018, it came to their attention that you had without cause unilaterally, un-contractually, illegally and unlawfully failed to remit or make payment to the NSSF Provident Fund Contribution and/or withheld their contributions to NHIF Fund from 2015 without any notice, explanation and/or lawful case,” Mr Omboko wrote.

Citing this injustice, the lawyer demanded the company to ensure the full remittance of the NSSF and NHIF deductions together with the interest thereto. 

“General damages as service pay for your illegal and unlawful act at the rate of Sh300,000 for each of the 55 employees being a total of Sh16,500,000,” the advocate demanded. 

Employees’ demands

The Chinese firm was given a seven-day ultimatum to pay the amount to the employees, failure to which legal proceedings would be instituted against it. 

The firm responded in a letter dated August 20, 2020 by Samuel Kairu of Nyagah B.Kithinji and Co. Advocates. The response expressed dismay over the employees’ demands terming it “misguided and a scheme to extort money” from their client. 

It further stated the claim was not genuine as there was no list of the 55 employees attached to the demand letter demonstrating their consent to be involved in the matter. 

“We have also noted that your key demand is the remittance to the NHIF, NSSF and payment of Sh16,500,000 to your clients as damages. It is unfortunate that your clients would make such a claim on the basis of no presence of loss or justification,” read the letter.

“Additionally, it is not their responsibility to compel our client to submit the purportedly unremitted contributions. Their efforts are therefore an attempt to blackmail and intimidate our client into settling unverified and fictitious claims,” the company’s lawyer added.

An affidavit seen by the Nation shows that 49 out of the 55 employees had signed the document by February this year, consenting that the matter be advanced to court. 

But this action appears to have piled more trouble for Mr Onyango. 

He began receiving threats from unknown callers instructing him to stop following up the matter or he would face dire consequences. When the threats increased, he discarded his Sim card. He then resorted to using a phone number from a different service provider. 

In late 2019, a colleague from the company he identified as Felix, one of the Chinese employer’s assistants, arranged a meeting to resolve the matter. 

Rubbished the claims

He recalls the meeting was going well until three other people walked into the restaurant and joined the two at their table. Alarmed, Mr Onyango says he feigned a call and walked out of the restaurant.

On February 9, this year, Mr Onyango, was heading to Nairobi city centre from Kawangware when two men boarded the bus. 

One sat next to Mr Onyango and was trying to get a good look at his face due to the cap he constantly wears to cover his face. The other sat next to the driver. 

“I could see that he was perusing through the soft copy of the attendance sheets we used to have when we worked at the company. The documents he was looking at had the company’s letter head. Each sheet has the picture of the employee. I am sure he was looking for my sheet.” 

Contacted by Nation, Mr Felix rubbished the claims by Mr Onyango and called him a “very difficult” man to deal with. He said he left the firm in 2019. 

“Moses is malicious. His aim is to tarnish the company’s name. He wants to get money from it but not in the right way,” Mr Felix said. 

“I even met him and we had agreed on some things. He is my fellow Kenyan and, on some issues, I also disagreed with Mr Yu Haibo regarding how he treated his workers, but in my work, I have never seen such a malicious, difficult man as Mr Onyango,” he concluded.

Mr Yu answered his phone when called by the Nation, but immediately hang up when the caller identified himself as a reporter. The Truecaller app also confirms the number belongs to Haibo Yu WeiHai). 

The former employees of WIETC are yet to proceed with their case in court as they do not have the money for a lawsuit. 

Welcome!

You're all set to enjoy unlimited Prime content.