NIGERIATwo casual workers at Chi Limited, makers of fruit and dairy-based juices and yoghurt, died when policemen who were called to the scene of protesting workers at the company’s factory in Ajao Estate, Lagos opened fire on them.

The deceased, a 19-year old Daniel Osikoya, and another worker, whose name is not yet known, died from wounds sustained from being shot in the thigh and leg. According to sources, Daniel only joined the company a few days before the incident.

However, the Lagos State Police Command said that the workers had attacked policemen sent to the scene with caustic soda, injuring an inspector.

The police added that the police responded within the ambit of the rules of engagement.

The workers were said to be protesting against perceived discrimination between them and the regular full-time employees, saying the management only cater to the welfare of the full-time workers.

Some of the casual workers who spoke to the media on condition of anonymity said that the distribution of yuletide gift items by the company to only regular employees was what brought the issue to a head.

The casual workers who work in the production department said they came to a decision for each person to take away one carton of the company’s products – which range from Chivita juice, Happy Hour to Ice tea, Caprizone, among others as their own New Year’s gift.

“It is pure injustice to give only the full-time workers gifts without giving any to casual workers, who do most of the jobs. That was why we fought for our rights. It is unfair for the policemen to attack us.

We were about to move the cartons out of the company’s gate when the policemen invited by one of the company’s security men started shooting.

“Bullets hit Daniel in the thigh and another worker was shot in the leg. I was with the two workers that were shot; it was God that saved me. They shot at us as if we were thieves.

“They were not taken to a hospital on time and Daniel died around 8am that day. He bled to death. The other victim died this afternoon (Tuesday). Because of that incident, we were not allowed to work,” a worker said.

Another worker who said he has been with the company for two years narrated the events that led up to the shooting:

“Each worker usually takes away a carton of drink at the end of the year. Some production workers on afternoon duty had already taken some cartons on Friday and our bosses didn’t talk.

“Those on night duty wanted to leave with their own cartons around 5am on Saturday when the policemen started shooting. Two persons died from the injuries they sustained.”

“Later, policemen attached to the company came to the gate and told their colleagues to let us go with the products.

“Most members of the management are Indians. They are treating us like slaves in our own country.”

Late Daniel’s father, Mr. Olufemi Osikoya, said that the family will proceed with legal action against the company.

“My son was a decent person. If not for some issues the family is sorting out, he was supposed to have been in a higher institution.

“He was shot in two places. Instead of them to rush him to a public hospital, he was taken to the company’s clinic.

“We were called around 7am. When I got there, he was groaning in pain and had lost much blood.

“He gave up immediately we got to the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Ikeja. He joined the company in December. I learnt that his colleague that was shot is also dead.”

Commenting on the incident, the Police Public Relations Officer in Lagos, SP Dolapo Badmos, said the workers were violent.

“The command received a distress call that workers of Chi Limited were disrupting business activities of the company.

“The command’s operatives were mobilised to the scene to douse tension, but the workers attacked the policemen, throwing caustic soda at them.

“As a result, one inspector suffered severe burns and he is recovering in a hospital. Why should a policeman on duty be attacked? That attitude should stop.

“Attacks on policemen are not right and must be condemned; they are also human beings with families.

“The command received the report that one person was shot dead.

“There is what we call rules of engagement and use of firearms under the police acts and regulations.

“The command has studied the situation and discovered that the personnel deployed acted in accordance with the rules.”

Chi Limited is owned by Tropical General Investments Group (TGI Group) (60%), and The Coca-Cola Company, 40%.

January 4, 2017; Punch