THE family of the late Richard Gbadebo along with the Alliance on Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB), Oyo State Chapter and International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) Network, Nigeria Chapter has called for the setting up of a Commission of Inquiry into the death of the 21-year old student of the University of Ibadan while working in an Ibadan-based soap-making factory on the night of on the night of July 27, 2020.

Comrade Femi Aborisade, human rights lawyer and Managing Partner of Abope Chambers, who disclosed this in a memo to both the Oyo State Governor and the Minister of Labour and Employment said the call for a commission of inquiry is predicated on 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.

Aborisade, in the memo dated 24th August, 2020, entitled; “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;” and made available to National Record, explained that Article 11(d) of Convention No. 155 of 1981 is clear on the required steps to be taken in relation to occupational accidents, occupational diseases or any other injuries to health.

We have the brief of Our Clients to invite the Oyo State Government to carry out a public inquiry to factually establish 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, University of Ibadan. 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.

Aborisade stated: “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”

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“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, Aborisade stated, should include representatives of organised labour, including the National Union of Chemical, Footwear, Rubber, Leather and Non-Metallic Products Employees (NUCFRLAMPE), 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.

“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,” Aborisade asserted.

He noted that up to now, “apart from the post mortem report which definitively links the death to the machine he was operating, very little is known about the circumstances leading to the death of Richard Gbadebo. He also revealed that there has not been any official explanation to the family as to the circumstances leading to the death of the young undergraduate.

“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…

“We have the brief of Our Clients to invite the Oyo State Government to carry out a public inquiry to factually establish 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, University of Ibadan. 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.

“The Alliance On Surviving COVID-19 And Beyond (ASCAB), Oyo State Chapter and the International Lawyers Assisting Workers (ILAW) represent the interest of the public and the international community of pro-labour lawyers in ensuring justice for the deceased Richard Gbadebo…

“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 (PPE) and fencing of every dangerous part of any machinery.

“It is the concern of our clients that justice for Richard Gbadebo lies in establishing the circumstances leading to his death, prosecuting those who are deemed to have killed him by failure of duty of care, in order to serve as deterrence for future reoccurrence in Oyo State as well as in the country as a whole,” Aborisade further argued.

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