Company ‘abandons’ distributor after death in police cell

funeral

Details unfold as the inquest into the death of Ademola Adedeji continues.

A distributor at Rite Foods Limited, Ademola Adedeji, who died in police custody in February, was ‘abandoned’ by his company, court testimony showed on Wednesday.

Under cross examination at the ongoing coroner’s inquest, Managing Director of Rite Foods, Saleem Adegunwa, said that “they did not bother” to find out the cause of death since he was under police care.

The company did not also visit the hospital or morgue to confirm the distributor’s demise, nor meet with his family after the incident; although they said they made efforts for the latter, a claim the deceased’s family vehemently denies.

“I believe the police know their job and they had taken over. I told the CSO (chief security officer) to report to the police… At that point the police had taken over, it was outside my jurisdiction,” said Mr. Adegunwa, who insisted they did not abandon their former distributor.

“I understand that they (company officials) went to meet his family but met the absence of the wife. Thereafter, to make contact with them became extremely difficult because there was an onslaught of accusations of murder,” Mr. Adegunwa added.

Mr. Adedeji, 39, allegedly owed Rite Foods Limited, where he was a distributor, about N10million, and was arrested by the company after they claimed he issued them four dud cheques.

“We’d been amicably discussing with him. All efforts to try to get him to come with a payment plan over a period of two months proved abortive,” said Mr. Adegunwa.

“So we had to formally report to the police,” he added.

‘Perfectly healthy’ 

Mr. Adegunwa also corroborated one of his staff’s earlier testimony that the deceased was “perfectly healthy” when he was handed over to the police.

“The reason we impounded his vehicle was with the expectation that he was gonna come back from the police station and we’d discuss. We were going to use the vehicle to offset the loan,” Mr. Adegunwa said.

In an earlier testimony, Chief Security Officer at Rite Foods, Innocent Osuji, who called the police to arrest the deceased and also drove them to the police station, said that he didn’t probe further on the circumstances of death.

Mr. Osuji stated that he did not ask for the hospital the deceased was taken to, the mortuary his corpse was deposited, or who signed the death certificate because police “did not give him room for questions at the time.”

The Director of the Office of the Public Defender, Omotola Rotimi, who also represented the deceased’s family, maintained that the company was as culpable as the police in Mr. Adedeji’s death.

“A case they (Rite Foods management) have been working with the police, but they don’t have the postmortem report,” said Mrs. Rotimi, after the company said they had no knowledge of the report.

Mrs. Rotimi also said that the police acted on the managing director’s directive not to release the deceased, a claim Mr. Adegunma denied.

The police counsel was absent in court.

The coroner, Tajudeen Elias, announced that it Is high time the pathologist who conducted the autopsy testified, but Mrs. Rotimi said that he was unavailable.

“I heard information that for the pathologist to be able to come, he has to get clearance from the chief pathologist,” Mrs. Rotimi said.

“Unfortunately, Prof. Obafunwa (the chief pathologist) is not around, he is out of the country on a three weeks’ vacation. Even this pathologist is also on vacation as at now,” she added.

Mr. Elias adjourned till October 10, for the police to present their three witnesses.