Rights activist and lawyer, Femi Aborisade, has asked the Oyo State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Prof Oyewo Oyelowo, to commence prosecution of Henkel Nigeria Limited and Expand Global Industries Limited for causing the death of Richard Gbadebo, a student of the University of Ibadan.
Gbadebo, a 300-level student of the Department of European Studies, Faculty of Arts, reportedly died in an industrial accident in the Ibadan station of the company.
Spokesperson for the soap-making factory, Aliyu Jibril, in a statement on Thursday said the company was working closely with the police and Ministry of Labour to ascertain the circumstances leading to the tragic incident.
Aborisade, in a letter to the AG, appealed that the company should be prosecuted due to its failure to “observe duty of care”.
He said, “Nigeria is a country governed by laws. Under the laws of Nigeria, it is obligatory for the owner of a factory to exercise duty of care and provide safety measures to safeguard life, where the operations in the factory involve working with anything, whether living or inanimate, and whether moving or stationary, of such a nature that, may endanger life.
“Where there is failure to exercise the duty of care prescribed by law, the owner(s) and their top managers who have responsibility not to endanger life are deemed to have caused the death or any other consequences that may result thereby.
“No official of the companies was available to give account of the circumstances that led to the death of his son. 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 today, 3rd day of August 2020.
“Indeed, the agents of the two companies initially resisted the presence of any representative of the family while taking the corpse for an autopsy. The companies’ agents conceded only upon protests by the family.
“Our clients, specifically, the family of Richard Gbadebo, briefed us that up till today, 3rd August 2020, no official explanation as to the circumstances leading to the death of Richard Gbadebo has been made to the family.
“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 rights lawyer stated that unless the Oyo State Government ensures justice for Richard Gbadebo, employers of labour may not take seriously the life, safety and health of workers by providing the necessary Personal Protective Equipment 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,” Aborisade added.