Governor Seyi Makinde of Oyo State and Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige, have been charged to order immediate investigation to the mystery surrounding the death of Gbadebo Richard.
Gbadebo, who was a 300-level student of European Language of the Faculty of Art, University of Ibadan and was the only son of his parents, reportedly died, while on a night shift at the Henkel Industries Ltd, makers of WAW detergent, located at Oluyole Industrial Estate, Ibadan, Oyo State.
The deceased was alleged to have slipped into a soap-making machine he was working with and died during production.
Human rights activist, Femi Aborisade, who wrote the separate letters to the governor and the minister on behalf of the family of the late Richard Gbadebo as well as the Alliance On Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB), Oyo State Chapter and International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, Nigeria Chapter urged them to take a decisive action on the matter.
In the letters written to the duo and a copy of each was made available to journalists in Ibadan on Monday, Aborisade through Abode Chambers stated that the call for a commission of inquiry was predicated upon Article 11(d) of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No. 155 of 1981 on Occupational Health and Safety and Sections 33 to 36 of the Trade Disputes Act.
The letters titled: “An open call for a commission of inquiry into the death of Richard Gbadebo in the course of working in the premises of Henkel Nigeria Limited and Expand Global Industries Limited,” further stressed that, article 11(d) of the International Labour Organisation’s Convention No.155 of 1981 on Occupational Health and Safety provides that the competent authority or authorities shall ensure the holding of inquiries, “where cases of occupational accidents, occupational diseases or any other injuries to health which arise in the course of or in connection with work appear to reflect situations which are serious.”
The letter added: “By virtue of Section 254C(1)(h) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, as amended, all international standards relating to labour, employment, matters arising from workplace, including health and safety, and so on, are deemed to be incorporated into the Constitution and they enjoy constitutional flavour. As ILO’s Convention No. 155 of 1981 on Occupational Health and Safety is an international standard, it is deemed enforceable.”
“In particular, by the provisions of Convention No. 155 of 1981 on Occupational Health and Safety, the aim of a public inquiry is with a view to “identifying their causes and establishing preventive measures.”
“By the provisions of Sections 33 to 36 of the Trade Disputes Act (TDA), the Minister of Labour is empowered to appoint Board of Inquiry to investigate “industrial conditions” or “any other matter” of interest.”
“The Commission of Inquiry should include representatives of organized labour, including the National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees (NUCFLAMPE), the Chemical and Non-Metallic Products Senior Staff Association (CANMPSSA), occupational health and safety professional bodies, student union of the University of Ibadan, the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA) and the Nigeria Bar Association, among others.”
“The findings made through the public inquiry may be useful in determining the real challenge posed by the state of working environment in HENKEL NIGERIA LIMITED AND EXPAND GLOBAL INDUSTRIES LIMITED in order to safeguard the welfare, safety and security of workers.”
“We, therefore, call on the Oyo State Government to work collaboratively with relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies of the Federal Government to conduct a public inquiry into the gruesome death of Richard Gbadebo. HENKEL NIGERIA LIMITED AND EXPAND GLOBAL INDUSTRIES LIMITED should be made to produce the CCTV footage and/or grant Our Clients’ experts access to the CCTV installed in the companies’ premises for expert examination,” he called on the governor.
The death of Gbadebo, according to him, was full of mystery, adding that apart from the post mortem report which definitively linked the death to the machine he was operating, very little was known about the circumstances leading to his death.
“However, according to the family, late Richard Gbadebo, was on a night shift duty on July 27, scheduled for the period between 6pm and 7am. Sometime in the morning of 28th July, the parents received a call from a colleague of Richard stating that Richard had slumped at work. The father, Mr. Olusola Gbadebo arrived the premises of the companies about 7.30am.”
“The family of late Richard Gbadebo briefed us that when the father arrived the companies’ premises about 7.30am, nobody officially received him. In fact, he was not allowed to enter the premises until about 12noon when the gate was opened for an ambulance. The corpse of late Richard Gbadebo was only removed from the companies’ premises around 12noon and taken to a private hospital, Teju Hospital, Ring Road, Ibadan, between the hours of 1 and 2pm on the 28th day of July 2020.”
“It was only in the course of taking the corpse to Teju Hospital that the father had an opportunity to see the corpse of his son for the 1st time since about 7.30am he had arrived the companies’ premises. Indeed, the agents of the two companies initially resisted the father entering the ambulance.”
“Up till date, according to the brief of the family, no official explanation as to the circumstances leading to the death of Richard Gbadebo has been made to the family.”
“As far as Our Clients are concerned, they are determined to work in partnership with governmental authorities and use the death of Richard Gbadebo to ensure that never again shall any life be lost due to unsafe work environment, not only in Oyo State but indeed in the whole of Nigeria,” he said.