BENEDICT Etonu, a middle-aged man of about 50 years has been killed in a landslide that occurred at a Dangote Coal Mines Limited site located in Awoakpali Community, Ankpa Local Government of Kogi State, The ICIR can authoritatively report.
For almost 24 hours, Etonu was buried under mud—his body was found at about 2:28pm on Wednesday while the landslide took place at about 5 pm on Tuesday.
Two heavy-duty machines—a loader and bull-dozer were also covered by the landslide alongside the deceased, an eyewitness told The ICIR.
“Two excavators are currently working to exhume the body,” Fredrick Ahmadu, Awoakpali Community Representative to Dangote coal company informed our correspondent.
Narrating the incident, Ahmadu said the landslide occurred at about 5pm Tuesday evening while the deceased was trapped by excavated soil as he struggled to escape from the coal deposit site.
“He was working as a dump man,”he said.
Describing late Etonu’s job as much of traffic warden, who controls the heavy-duty machines on where to dump excavated coals, the community representative said as of 1:30 pm on Wednesday his body was not found.
“Around 4:30 to 5pm, there is a machine called dumper coming towards his area. So, as he was controlling the vehicle on where to dump the sand, suddenly the ground opened where he was standing and he went in,” he recalled.
“He struggled to escape but the other heap of sand came down and covered him.”
According to Ahmadu, while the personnel of the Dangote mining company searched to remove the remains of the deceased in the mud, neither the police nor the Mines Inspectorate Department in the state were informed of the accident.
This is contrary to the provision of Part VIII, Section 84 (1) (a), (b) the Nigerian Minerals Mining Act (2007), which states that all operations should stop while the incident is reported to the police.
The Mining Act also states that such incident should also be reported to the Mines Inspectorate Department in the state – Kogi. After this, the incident will be probed by the Minister of Mine and Steel Development through a four-man panel of inquiry.
“The holder of mining lease or licence shall, if an accident occurs in any mine or in connection with the mining operations conducted under its lease, temporary title or licence granted under this Act involving loss of life or serious injury to a person, report the accident as soon as possible, with full particulars of the accident -:
“(a) to the nearest Police Station; or (b) to the office of the Mines Inspectorate Department in the State in which the accident occurred,” the Act states.
“The whole staffs are mourning, the management too is mourning. So what we are doing now is to exhume the body.”
Adejoh Samuel, former Community Representative of Awoakpali also acknowledged the incident. He also narrated how the two heavy-duty machines – a dumper and a bulldozer sank with the deceased
“The dumper and the bulldozer fell inside with the man…and the sand buried them,” Samuel said.
As at the time he spoke with this reporter at about 12:35 pm, the company was still trying to exhume the corpse. “They only succeeded in removing one dumper around 12pm but the dozer is still there.”
According to him, some of the experts had to stay back from the site to avoid being lynched. But, he was not certain if the incident was already reported to the police.
The sad event both Ahmadu and Samuel disclosed has caused an uprising among the youths in the host community against the Dangote’s firm.
“I am going back to their office to meet my community boys so they won’t destroy things and keep them under control,” Ahmadu who spoke to this reporter on phone said as he ended the call.
The deceased 25-year-old daughter, Fadoje Etonu who spoke with The ICIR, expressed uncertainty on how her mother would take care of her six siblings.
She hinted that officials of the mining firm promised to visit the family of the deceased.
Dangote firm confirms incident
When contacted, management of the mining firm confirmed the incident. Though not much detail of what happened was provided.
“There was a landslide. We are trying to recover his body,” Hari Car, Senior General Manager of the firm told The ICIR.
“I cannot speak much on it, you can contact Alhaji Usman Jibrin, the coordinator of the mine.”
Car claimed the incident was reported to the Police Tuesday evening and also Wednesday morning. This contradicts the position of the Kogi State Police command which insisted that it was not informed of any accident on the mining site.
However, Williams Ovyeaya, Police Public Relations Officer, Kogi State Command did not answer repeated calls put to his line, neither did he return the calls.
But 10 minutes after receiving a series of text messages from this reporter, he denied knowledge of the incident he replied with a terse SMS that he was yet to receive such information.
“I have not received such information but I’ll find out,” Ovyeaya replied.
The site manager identified simply as Gowing was contacted but his line was placed on voice message all through the period.
Also, Usman Jibrin, the Mining Site Coordinator, who Car referred the reporter initially claimed ignorance of the incident when he was contacted.
“What happened,” he queried. The ICIR went further to brief him about the landslide incident and the victim, but he simply said, “your information is wrong”.
Later, he succumbed and said, “There was a landslide and he (the deceased) was standing uphill. There was no machine …..”. He went further to criticise initial claim of the reporter that the late Etonu was buried alive by sand and had not been found.
However, when asked if the deceased worker was alive, he shouted, “your information is wrong”.
“Please, I don’t know you. I can’t be discussing like this,” he stressed when further questioned if the incident was reported to the police and other appropriate authorities.
Again, The ICIR told him of picture evidence of the incident, then, he said, “Fine! use it. You can use it.” Thereafter, he advised the reporter to send his inquiry to the Corporate Affairs Department of Dangote Group.
A mail sent to the official mailbox of the company was however not delivered as it was returned as a failed delivery.
When Jibrin was told of how an earlier email sent to the Dangote Group, Corporate Affairs Department – [email protected] failed. But he simply said, “I am having a rest. I’m on the bed. I just woke up to pick your calls,” at about 12 noon.
Two phone numbers found in the media segment of the official website of Dangote Group, displayed for the public to contact the organisation were also unreachable.