Three forest operators who deal in woodcutting have been killed by chemical reaction dumped in the forest by a Chinese manufacturing company, WeWood company, in Omotosho, Okitipupa Local Government Area of Ondo State.
The three victims who include, Mr Akinmusire Monday(35), Mr Samuel Louis (45) and Master Ododolewa Adebowale(19) were said to have died of toxic waste deposited by the wood company.
Speaking on the death of the trio, a brother to one the victims, Akinmusire Emmanuel, explained that the men including Adebowale who is writing the West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), left for the forest reserve to fell trees and cut them to size for sale but never returned home alive.
According to him, Samuel Louis, a father of four children, who lived in Akinfosile area, hired the two other men and headed to the forest as usual but when they did not return home, a search party went after them, only to discovered the motorcycle that conveyed the men to the forest with no sign of them.
The incident was reported to the community head, Olufara of Akinfosile, Oba Olamide Ayodele, who reported the case to the police, while a combined team of police, vigilante, Amotekun Corps and youths from the community headed into the bush.
The bodies of the three men were discovered the second day, covered with black substance suspected to be toxic waste from the wood manufacturing company.
Emmanuel disclosed that a pit which contained the toxic waste was discovered while pit had overflowed and washed off into the forest where the three men were working and submerged them.
Emmanuel said the bodies of the victims were seen on the flowing track of the toxic waste which killed them instantly as there were no sign that they struggle to the death.
The development infuriated the youths from the area who visited the wood company to table their grievances over the death of the family members after removing the bodies of the deceased and deposited them in the morgue.
However, family members of the deceased, have petitioned the state government, seeking the investigation into circumstances that led to the death of the three victims.
Counsels to the family, J.I Adeyanju and Dayo Akindejoye Esq ascribed the terrible incident to “the recklessness, irresponsible and dumping of toxic, corrosive, harmful, explosive and hazardous substances by a Chinese Company (WeWood).”
They stated that the “deposited its (WeWood) waste product led to the untimely death of the younger brother of our client, Mr Akinmusire Monday, aged 35 and two others after inhaling the hazardous substances.
“Evidently, the Company flagrantly violated the provisions of the enabling laws with impunity which is detrimental to the host communities without adherence to Environmental Safety and International best practices.
“The Environmental Impact Assessment Act, National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency ( Establishment) Act, and the Harmful Waste (Special Criminal Provision) Act spelt out guidelines for the dumping of hazardous substances which were clearly violated.
“The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (Establishment) Act specifically prohibits discharges of harmful quantities of any hazardous substance into the air or upon the land and the waters of Nigeria or at the adjoining shorelines.
“Rather than complying, WeWood chose to honour these laws in the breach. Ever since the WeWood came on board, its activities have been a threat to life, natural resources and properties.
“The Ufara River remains constantly polluted, the water which the inhabitants’ progenitors used to drink is no longer good for drinking and no fishes to peasants in the community for consumption.
“The air pollution has regularly been experienced have made many business owners and residents desert the neighbouring Community”
The lawyers said further that “the younger brother of our client (Akinmusire Monday) was a vibrant, responsible and caring young man with a wife, five children, aged mother, in-laws and siblings who depended on him for their survival.
“Since his remains and others were deposited in a private morgue at Ore, all the dependants have not been finding it easy to sustain themselves. In fact, the aged mother has developed a blood pressure over the shocking news the sudden death of her presumed survivor and devastating incident.”
The attorneys to the family of Akinmusire, however, promised: “to do all that is legally allowed within the ambit of the law to ensure that justice prevails and the rights of all the dependants are protected.”
Confirming the incident, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Teo-Leo Ikoro, said the incident was an accident as a result of the toxic waste that overflowed where it was discharged.
He said: “There’s a company producing ethanol in the area, Omotosho, and it was an accident as a result of waste from the company.
“The bodies of the victims of the accident have been deposited in a morgue.
“But the company and the families of the victims are already talking and making arrangement on the matter. It was an accident.”
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