PATHETIC: 5 WORKERS LOSE LIMBS, HANDS IN INDUSTRIAL ACCIDENT
It was a pitiable sight at the Federal High Court, Ikeja, Lagos, recently, as hundreds of workers besieged the premises in solidarity with five sacked injured casual workers in a company owned by Indians.
They were asking Justice J.S. Ada to enforce their rights and adequate compensation paid by the respondent, Celplas Industries Nigeria Limited, Matori, Lagos metropolis.
The five aggrieved workers, with various degrees of permanent injuries are Ejike Okonkwo, Onyime Akpan, Uchenna Ozoemenam, Nnamdi Ezekiel and Nwachukwu Chinedu.
According to the President of Citizen Rights Watch, Mr. Gabriel Ojumah, who led the protest and filed court action on behalf of the workers, the first applicant, Okonkwo, was employed in 2008, and deployed in the injector department of the respondent's company until August 23, 2009, when he was injured as a result of an explosion from the machine he was operating, thereby, causing him severe burns on his body. Besides, Okonkwo's left hand, including the fingers affected by the industrial accident, are now paralysed.
He disclosed that when the victim approached the management, requesting for further treatment of the affected hand, the officials refused to listen to his plight. Rather, he was ordered to resume work, an action which made all the applicants to approach Citizen Rights Watch to take the matter to court.
Ojumah also revealed how one of the victim's hands was chopped off, when it was stucked in the malfunctioning machine, while another had his fingers chopped off due to poor medical treatment.
In a motion on notice, the lawyer told the court that the employment of the applicants as casual workers, was degrading and at variance with Section 34 of the Nigerian constitution.
He prayed the court to among others, declare that the dehumanization of the applicants, by the respondent's machines was an infraction of their rights to life and dignity of their person, as guaranteed by Sections 33 and 34 of the constitution.
Besides, Ojumah is seeking a declaration that the applicants are entitled to damages and an order of the court, directing the company to pay N50, 000,000 million, as damages to the victims over their injuries.
Speaking with Daily Sun, the defence counsel, Abdul-Mujib Mumuni, stated that apart from vehemently opposing all the claims abnitio, he had raised the issue of lack of jurisdiction of the court to entertain the matter. He based his argument on the fact that if someone wants to initiate action under fundamental human rights enforcement procedure rules, he must be sure that the right he is complaining about must be directly covered by chapter four of the Constitution.
He averred that the claims as presently, constituted was an irregularity. He said: 'In our considered opinion, the rule of law that will apply in this circumstance will be Workmen Compensation Act of Nigeria 2004, and not enforcement of fundamental human rights, because legally speaking, you don't even have a right to work. My client had substantially applied this provision by way of compensation but they refused to accept it.'