Family petitions Oyo govt, as activists allege cover-up
Factory remains closed indefinitely—Oyo govt
By Victor Ahiuma-Young & Adeola Badru
IBADAN—FOLLOWING the tragic death of Gbadebo Richard, a 300-level University of Ibadan student, who died last Monday, while on a night shift at the Henkel Industries Ltd, makers of WAW detergent, located at Oluyole Industrial Estate, Ibadan, Oyo State, facts emerged that no single blood was found on his body or stains around the body-bag that conveyed his remains to the mortuary, despite claims that the machine had shredded off a larger part of his hands and intestinal organs.
Richard’s death has remained shrouded in mystery.
Family petitions Oyo govt as activists allege cover-up
But the family of Richard has petitioned the state government, seeking justice over the perceived culpability of the owners of the firm in the untimely demise of Richard Gbadebo.
Already, Campaign for Workers’ Democratic Rights, CWDR, Alliance On Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond, ASCAB, Oyo State Chapter and International Lawyers Assisting Workers, ILAW, Network, Nigeria Chapter, have alleged moves by the owners of the company to cover up the death and sweep under the table its alleged negligence and failure to observe duty of care in respect of Richard Gbadebo who died in the course of working for the two companies.
The family, in a 15 paragraph petition to the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice Ministry of Justice, Oyo State, lamented that that there was no official of the companies available to give account of the circumstances that led to the death of Richard.
In the petition through the ABOPE CHAMBERS, headed by Femi Aborisade, the family claimed the “corpse of Late Richard Gbadebo was not removed from the companies’ premises until around 12noon and taken to Teju Hospital, Ring Road, Ibadan, between the hours of 1-2pm on the 28th day of July 2020. For undisclosed reasons, the two companies delayed taking the corpse for an autopsy until August 3, 2020.”
They decried that whereas it had never discussed any issue about monetary compensation with the companies, it (family) was surprised and embarrassed to read statements credited to the company which tended “to trivialize the murder of their son. The statements are attributed to one Aliyu Jibril, the Human Resource Manager of Expand Global Industries Ltd, who is alleged to have said that the companies have “reached out to compensate the family of the deceased”.
According to the legal firm of ABOPE CHAMBERS, among others, “The family only gathered from Richard’s colleagues that he 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. However, upon the retrieval of the corpse on 28th July 2020, at about 12noon, the 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.
”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.
“Unless the Oyo State Government ensures justice for Richard 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. It is the concern of our clients that Richard Gbadebo 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.
He was the only son of his parents—Family source
Similarly, a reliable source told Vanguard how the father of the deceased found it hard to believe when the remains of Richard were unwrapped from the body-bag which had conveyed him to the mortuary.
The late Richard was described as a hard-working Nigerian youth, who had decided to engage himself in a holiday job having been at home for close to four months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
He took up casual work at Henkel Industries Ltd, makers of WAW detergent, located at an Industry in Oluyole Estate, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The source said Richard’s mother, Mrs. Abosede Gbadebo, had initially breathed a sigh of relief when her son opted to work as a casual worker, to bolster the family’s finances, especially offsetting his UI school fees which had not been paid as of the time of volunteering to seek employment.
But little had Richard known what gruesome fate that awaited him.
The source said: “Incidentally, his mum is also a member of staff of the company where Richard sought employment.
“Until his death, he was a 300-level undergraduate of European Language, of the Faculty of Art, University of Ibadan. He was the only son of his parents.
“Over the years, operators and owners of industries, within Oluyole Industrial Estate axis, had gained infamy and considerable notoriety as terrible employers, and its industries tagged as unsafe places to work, even as some Ibadan residents had labeled Oluyole industries simply as spectacles of companies who operate reckless, tyrannical and repressive labour laws by its inhumane foreign owners.
“The public perception of Oluyole Industries in Ibadan is summarized as a slave camp with repressive labour laws, supervised by evil taskmasters.
“My choice of words may be a little bit harsh, but I implore you to do some background checks from those who know some of the workers around the area. Nonetheless, a few industries within the area still have a fair condition of service.”
“One shocking sight that some observers and the dad found hard to believe has to do with when the remains of Richard were unwrapped from the body-bag which had conveyed him to the mortuary. No single drop of blood was found on his body neither were bloodstains around the body-bag, according to the dad who witnessed the body at the mortuary, despite claims that the machine had shredded off a larger part of his hands and intestinal organs.”
Family raises questions
The family source also said raised some questions which needed answers.
He said: “The question that has continued to defy logical answers is this: How could a machine, whose height is only scaled through the stairs, kill a staff by shredding his hands and intestine alone, leaving out the head and chest areas?
“How could an inexperienced casual staff be left unsupervised with a lethal industrial machine?
“When the incident occurred, why was he left stocked in the belly of the machine for hours to the point that no stain of blood was on his body, nor blood stains when the body was unwrapped at the mortuary?
“Or perhaps, was his death a conspiracy by some yet to be identified elements within the organization and why has the arrest of some members of staff as claimed by the industry turned out to be a lie?
“Few hours after the tragic incident, the entire area around the industry was engulfed in protests from members of the University of Ibadan students’ body.
“It took a sustained effort of several law enforcement agencies to maintain peace and order after the incidence.”
Oyo govt officials held hostage
The Permanent Secretary, Oyo State Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Dr. Bashir Olanrewaju, told journalists and ministry officials, that they were held hostage by the factory management.
It was learned that some workers resisted the state government’s move by holding them hostage for about 30 minutes, before the State Commissioner of Police, Nwachukwu Enwonwu, intervened and got them released.
Olanrewaju said: “The intention was to talk to them, not necessarily to disgrace them, as they need to be producing under a very safe environment. It was also to investigate to know how it happened, to prevent such in the future.
“But the management resisted our men when we got there. We were held, hostage. I was one of those held hostage. We invited the police and we were rescued, when the police came. Immediately, we called the police and they rescued us.
“We are conducting an investigation, after that, we will decide the next line of action to determine their culpability, whether the accident was preventable or not, whether they made some mistakes and how the mistakes could have been prevented.”
Oyo govt seals factor
Miffed by the development, the Oyo State Government, ordered shutting down of the factory when the factory management held government officials who paid a visit, hostage.
The government, then, directed that all workers in the factory should exit the premises.
Meanwhile, the remains of Richard have been buried last Wednesday.