By Chuks Ehirim
The gruesome murder of one Mr Eugene Enwerem, a casual staff of an Owerri, Imo State-based construction firm-RHAS Construction Company, belonging to a Lebanese national, may pitch the company in a legal battle with Civil Liberties Organization [CLO].
The company staff are said to be subjected to slavish conditions of service such as working between the hours of 6A.M to 6P.M,for a batch while another batch of the workers serve between 6P.M. and 6A.M., on a paltry sum of N12,000 per month.
Enwerem who was said to be the head of the laborers in the company, was actually a victim of the insurgency in the North which made him to relocate to Imo State where he hailed from.
He was said to have accepted to work as a casual staff in the Lebanese firm, not minding the very poor pay because there was no alternative job for him to engage in. The workers were said to have embarked on strike, to protest the poor conditions of service, sometime last May, which led to intervention of the company’s management and resulted in a marginal review of their pay.
Two days after they called off the strike, Enwerem was persuaded, by his supervisor, against his will, to come for night duty, from where he did not come back alive.
Reacting to the mysterious death of the man who left behind a widow and three year old son, the Civil Liberties Organisation (CLO), it would engage the legal process to ascertain the real cause of Enwerem’s death.
In a statement , Executive Director, Comrade Ibuchukwu Ezike, the CLO said it would pursue the matter to its logical conclusion, to ensure that those behind the murder of the man are brought to book.
In the statement, a copy of which was made available to this reporter, Ezike asserted that “the Civil Liberties Organisation is hugely shocked by this barbaric, inhuman and lawless treatment meted out on late Eugene Enwerem by RHAS Construction Company (Nig) Limited, Owerri, Imo state and, therefore, condemns the act”.
He added that “We are also worried by the fact that Nigerians are recruited by both indigenous and foreign employers of labour as casual staff, an act that gravely undermines human rights and International Labour Law. We totally reject the theory of epilepsy being touted by the company’s Medical Doctor as the cause of Enwerem’s death.
“His wife, Mrs. Theresa Enwerem clearly told CLO that her deceased husband had no history of epilepsy and had never suffered it since their 13 years of marriage. More worrisome, is the fact that the Enwerem family was not contacted before an unprofessional autopsy was administered on the victim, another clear case of human rights infraction and (this) lead(s) to the fact that there is something RHAS Construction company was hiding.
“According to CLO investigations, four persons were on duty with Enwerem on the 24-25 of May, 2013, when the gruesome act happened. They are Mr. Chukwuemeka Agecheta and James Jones, a pay loader driver and two mobile policemen. CLO demands the arrest, questioning and prosecution of these Nigerians without delay. Also, CLO calls on both the Nigeria Labour movements in the country –the NLC and TUC on one hand, and the Federal Government on the other, to rise up to the challenges and ensure that employers of labour found guilty of casualisation of workers are brought to book in accordance with the provisions of the law.
“Lastly, we demand thorough investigation of the doubtful circumstances that led to the accidental death of Mr. Enwerem with the view to punishing those liable for this dastardly act while urging the Nigerian authorities to hold RHAS Company (Nig) Limited hostage till it pays commensurate compensation to the Widow and children of late Eugene Enwerem, including taking care of his children’s education to the university level. CLO calls on all peoples of good consciences to rise up in solidarity with the highly devastated Enwerem family and demand that justice be done to them”.
The statement was also accompanied by a report of findings by the organization on the matter. Bellow is the full text of the report.
REPORT OF AN ALLEGED CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE BY RHAS CONSTRUCTION COMPANY NIGERIA LIMITED (A DIVISION OF RHAS NIGERIA LIMITED) WHICH OCCASIONED THE DEATH OF ONE MR. EUGENE NWACHINEMEREM ENWEREM WHO UNTIL HIS SUDDEN DEATH WAS A STAFF OF THE SAID COMPANY
The Law Office of DC. Denwigwe SAN & Associates of Plot 34 Works Road, Owerri, Imo State was approached by one Mrs. Theresa Enwerem, the widow of Late Eugene Nwachinemerem Enwerem on the 12th day of June, 2013 who narrated to our office of the above incident that led to the death of her husband on or about 24th – 25th day of May, 2013 in a most mysterious and gruesome manner. It is in this regard that we write as follows:-
(1) Late Mr. Eugene Nwachinemerem Enwerem who reportedly hailed from Umuduru Nnerim Amadugba in Isu Local Government Area of Imo State was before his untimely and mysterious death a forty two (42) year old consummate husband to the wife Mrs. Theresa Enwerem and a doting father to his only three (3) year old son, Divine Osinachi Eugene Enwerem.
(2) The late Eugene who was resident in Northern Nigeria with the family for several years before he was displaced by the recent crisis/insecurity in the country created by the activities of the insurgence, was doing well in his business but had to relocate to East and finally settled at Owerri.
(3) At Owerri Imo State, Late Eugene secured a job as a casual worker with Rhas construction Company Nigeria Limited (a division of Rhas Nigeria Limited) a lebanese foreign firm incorporated under the laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having its Office at Teachers House, Plot 9 Port- Harcourt Road, Owerri, Imo State reputed for hotel finance, refurbishment and Management.
(4) According to Mrs. Theresa Enwerem, the widow of late Eugene Enwerem, the husband had severally returned home to express his frustration and discontent over unfair work conditions in his workplace. The exploitation of the company’s casual workers by the management in relation to salaries, wages, poor conditions of employment, negligent attitude of the company connected with lack of safety at work and safeguards regarding to health and living conditions of workers and their families. More worrisome to Late Eugene the wife further stated, was the random deductions without authorization by some Management staff of the company.
(5) As a result of these dissatisfying factors of the casual workers of the company as enumerated earlier by late Eugene to his wife during his lifetime, a one-day warning strike of the casual workers was embarked upon on or about the 24th day of May, 2013 with the intention to engage the attention and rapid response of the Managing Director of the Company who summoned a meeting of the casual workers to address their agitations.
(6) At the meeting as narrated by Late Eugene to the wife, the Managing Director of the company one Mr. S.T Sariadeen personally and privately sought the audience of Late Eugene as the overall leader of the casual workers, the said Managing Director described as a responsible and committed worker devoted to his duties.
Late Eugene at the said meeting implicated some Management staff of the company that exploited the casual workers and short- changed them to include Mr. Amanze, the Personnel Manager of the company and his immediate subordinate and supervisor Mr. Azubuike Anazodo and one Mr. Jack a Lebanese.
(7) the Managing Director of the Company who was terribly embarrassed by the shocking revelations of exploitations and short-changing of the casual workers by some of the Management staff stated herein, further negotiated with Late Eugene and promised enhanced salaries, wages and other fringe benefits of the casual workers. The Managing Director thereafter, personally made a monetary gift to Late Eugene to motivate him and persuade the workers to call-off the strike and resume work immediately.
(8) Incidentally, little did the Late Eugene knew that the startling revelation made to the company’s Managing Director, of the fraudulent activities of some staff aggravated their anger and they conspired among themselves to lure him to work that night at the behest and incessant phone calls of Mr. Azubuike Anazodo.
(9) On duty with the Late Eugene Enwerem on or about that fateful 24th day of May, 2013 night preceding 25th May, 2013 morning were Mr. Chukwuemeka Agaecheta, and a Pay-loader operator from the South West of Nigeria, one Mr. James Jones at the deplorable Asphalt Yard at Irette.
Also on duty / guard providing security that said 24th – 25th May, 2013 night till morning were two (2) Mobile Police Men.
(10) It was very unfortunate and disheartening Late Eugene Enwerem’s widow lamented that with the presence of co-workers of the company and attachment of mobile policemen on duty on or about 24th – 25th day of May 2013, the conspirators and killers of her husband were yet to be apprehended.
(11) Mrs. Theresa Enwerem decried the mysterious manner the Late husband who reported to work hale and hearty on or about the 24th day of May , 2013 was gruesomely murdered and dumped inside a very high Asphalt Mixer bucket which he could not have ordinarily entered without a ladder due to its height or being thrown in by some persons.
(12) At the material time Eugene was murdered and dumped inside the Asphalt bucket, his personal belongings the wife said, were removed from him which include, his shirt, under pant, Telephone and wallet till date.
(13) On Late Eugene’s body were no wounds, bruises or lacerations sustained to show the impact of the Asphalt Mixer on him to buttress the claim of the company that his death resulted from an industrial Accident.
(14) The two Mobile Policemen on duty at the Asphalt Plant/Yard on the night of the incident reportedly were on hand and quickly deposited the corpse of Late Eugene at the General Hospital Mortuary, Umuguma without notifying his immediate family and particularly his relation Mr. Zaccheus Ekezie that work in the same company of the Late Eugene purported to have died as a result of industrial accident.
(15) About a week after his death, the so – called company Medical Doctor without conducting a proper medical examination on the cause of death of Late Eugene speculated assertively that he died as a result of epileptic feat suffered at the workplace. A farce his widow of over thirteen (13) years refuted vehemently having lived with him for a long time without any reported incident or medical history anywhere of suffering epilepsy during his life time.
(16) Mrs. Theresa Enwerem further stated that her Late husband was a responsible adult, a loving father and husband who would not for any reason or consideration take away his own life by jumping into such a height of Asphalt bucket if he was not murdered and dumped their to cover up the conspiracy,
(17) Assuming but not conceding the Late husband died negligently from the operational failure of the Asphalt Mixer as claimed or speculated by the company. The company the widow said, had not exercised due care and caution or failed to ensure and enforce safety standards in work place or taken adequate steps to prevent the so-called accident as was regularly complained by the late husband before his untimely death and must therefore take criminal responsibility for their negligence.
(18) It is in deed regrettable and correct to say that no monetary compensation can replace or quantify the loss of a dear bread winner of the family.
However, the company have so far made an offer of monetary compensation of Seven Hundred and Fifty Naira (N750,000.00) and promised the provision of a casket for the burial of her dead husband which the widow rejected as not as not being adequate to cater for the education of the three (3) year old child of the deceased and the indigent widow.
(19) The family of Late Eugene are devastated by the circumstances surrounding his mysterious death alleging conspiracy and criminal negligence by the company and therefore cry out for justice.
Meanwhile, efforts made by this reporter and some other journalists in Owerri, to get the side of the construction firm did not yield fruits up till the time of filing this story.
To make matters worse, some co staff of the late Enwerem who are in a position to volunteer information regarding what happened to their colleague on the faithful night, have refused to speak to the media for fear of intimidation or outright sack by the company management.
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