Alex Enumah in Abuja
Family members of a 300- level student of the University of Ibadan (UI), the late Richard Gbadebo, who died last month while working in a factory in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, have petitioned the state government , seeking the investigation of circumstances that led to the death of their son.
The family in conjunction with Alliance On Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB), Oyo State Chapter and International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, Nigeria Chapter, in the petition dated August 3, 2020 and addressed to the Attorney General of Oyo State and Commissioner for Justice, is also praying for the prosecution of the owners of the factory where Gbadebo died due to alleged absence of necessary safety measures in the factory.
The petition, written on behalf of the family and group by their lawyer, Mr. Femi Aborishade is titled: “An Open Appeal to the Attorney General of Oyo State to Prosecute Owners/Managers of Henkel Nigeria Limited and Expand Global Industries Limited Who are Suspected to Have Caused the Death of Richard Gbadebo through failure to Observe Duty of Care”.
“We have the brief of our clients to invite the Oyo State government to thoroughly investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Richard Gbadebo. According to the family, Richard was the only son in the family and a 300-level student in the Department of European Studies. The urge to assist the family finances pushed him to accept to work to earn some income during the COVID-19 lockdowns involving stay- at -home of students.
“In particular, the office of the Attorney General of Oyo State is invited to invoke and act upon Section 211(1) & (3) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, and institute criminal proceedings against Henkel Nigeria Limited and Expand Global Industries Limited and their managers who are the minds and alter ego of the companies in the exercise of statutory duty of care. These measures are considered imperative in the public interest as well as the interest of justice”, the petition read in part.
According to Aborishade, unless the Oyo State Government ensures justice for the late Gadebo, “employers of labour may not take seriously the life, safety and health of workers by providing the necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and fencing of every dangerous part of any machinery”.
The petitioners claimed that the deceased would not have been killed by the machinery he was working with if the necessary PPE was provided and the dangerous parts of the machinery were properly fenced to prevent the kind of
calamity that befell Richard Gbadebo.
Recalling how the late 300-level student died while trying to support his family financial, his family said Richard’s death was broken to them by his colleagues.
According to the report, he was said to have slipped and fell into the bowel of the machinery he was working with.
“That the machinery is meant to be operated by at least four persons. But that Richard was the only person operating the machine at the time of the incident.
“The colleagues who were outside the engine room claimed they noticed blood mixed with water where only water was supposed to flow out. The blood alerted them and they went to check the machine only to find Richard trapped in the machine”.
They further claimed that upon the retrieval of the corpse on July 28, 2020, at about 12noon, Richard’s stomach was sliced open, his trousers and boot were on and the head was intact but without any trace of blood on his body.
“The family of Richard Gbadebo is perplexed at the strange observations made when the agents of the companies brought out their son from the factory,” Aborishade said.
“The public perception is that pervasive impunity prevails in the Nigerian society because successive Nigerian governments tend to fail to act as prescribed by law where the lives of ordinary workers are concerned.
“It is the fervent hope of our clients that the Oyo State Government and the office of the Attorney General would not fail Richard Gbadebo, his family and humanity in the instant case. The blood of Richard Gbadebo is crying for justice. Our clients demand justice for Richard Gbadebo”, he added.