Kwara communities quake under Chinese company mining activities

By Abdulwaheed Sofiullahi

Since 2020, when a Chinese mining company began its operations in Kwara state communities, it has left dozens of residents with life-threatening health issues.


IN a gripping tale of survival and resilience, Rahimi Ajadi recounts the fateful afternoon of November 2021 that forever changed his life and not in a good way. Returning from the farm with his wife, little did they know that the echoes of destruction were about to shatter their world.

As they were approaching Oremeji community where they live, the deafening explosion sent shockwaves through the air when  China Kaidi Quarry unexpectedly shot a bomb to blast fry rock at the mining site.

This caused his wife to collapse. Disoriented by the chaos, Ajadi was engulfed in darkness, unable to see anything amidst the turmoil. They were whisked away to the hospital, and so their journey of paying medical bills, which almost suffocated them, began.

Rahimi Ajadi, a man who developed eyes defects due to the quarry bomb blast of rock, at Oremeji Community
Rahimi Ajadi, a man who developed eyes defects due to the quarry bomb blast of rock and his medical documents while trying to treatment his eyes affected due to the China Kaidi Quarry, at Oremaji Community

At the Ilorin General Hospital, he had eyes and ears treatment, which cost him N60,000 for the cleansing alone. But the expenses didn’t end there. Prescribed medications to ease his pain and aid his recuperation burdened his pockets, rendering him incapable of affording the necessary drugs. For a small-scale farmer like Ajadi, the medical expenses are huge.

“We narrowly escaped death that day, thanks to divine intervention, as we found ourselves near the quarry site while trying to enter our community when the Kaidi quarry blasted rock with a bomb which polluted our ears and eyes. The detonation of explosives caused the air to be filled with pollutants, and the ensuing dust covered our eyes, leaving a lasting impact on my vision,” recounted Ajadi, who is 55.

Despite all these, he said his eye condition persists, but he is unable to seek additional care due to a lack of finances.

An image collage of Adegoke Adegorioye, a resident of the Surulere Community lost his eyes due to China Quarry operation and medical documents while trying to treat his eyes.
An image collage of Adegoke Adegorioye, a resident of the Surulere Community lost his eyes due to China Quarry operation and medical documents while trying to treat his eyes.

A few kilometres away from Ajadi’s community is Surulere, where Adegorioye Adegoke resides. He has similar experiences also.

“It was a day that will forever be etched in my memory,” Adegoke began, his eyes reflecting the weight of his words. “I was peacefully asleep in my room when suddenly, without warning, the Kaidi quarry rock bomb blast began. The entire house shook violently, jolting me from my sleep. Panicking, I tried to flee, but I collided with the wall in the chaos, injuring my forehead.”


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The severity of the incident compelled Adegoke’s neighbours to rush him to the hospital. Little did he know that this would mark the beginning of a long and costly battle for his health.

“Ever since that day, my eyes have been plagued with problems,” he lamented. “I’ve spent a considerable amount of money seeking medical treatment, but to no avail. The wounds refuse to heal.”

Adegorioye sold possessions for medical costs amid financial devastation. Frustrated, he sighed at the community situation. “It’s disheartening,” he said, unable to afford repairs. Unexpected incidents caused property loss and homelessness.

China Kaidi Quarry

The China Kaidi Quarry – a mining company specifically for granite, is located at Asa Local Government in the Eyenkorin district along the Ilorin-Ogbomoso highway. Since it began operation, the quarry has been embroiled in numerous issues, one of which is its proximity to residential communities.  

The blasting site is less than a kilometre from the last house in Oremeji community. This is contrary to  The National Environmental Regulations (2013) forbid quarrying or blasting within a 3km radius of of residential, commercial, or industrial areas (Section 20).

Pictures of the China Kaidi site
Pictures of the China Kaidi site

The Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act (2007) also excludes mining near inhabited towns and villages (Section 3c). Kaidi Quarry violates these laws, raising compliance concerns.

Impact of mining close to residential areas

An environmental scientist and a professor, Emmanuel Adekunle, from the University of Lagos, speaking on the detrimental impacts of blasting rock with explosives by companies like Kaidi Quarry, said, “The air pollution resulting from these blasts poses significant health risks, causing respiratory ailments and exacerbating existing conditions.”

He said noise pollution can lead to irreversible damage, including cases of blindness.

To address the issue, he emphasizes the need for strict regulatory enforcement, soundproofing measures, and relocating residential areas further away from the quarry to protect the well-being of the affected communities.

In May, Ayodele Ayodeji, a special adviser at the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, when contacted regarding the quarry’s license approval and it’s violation of proximity, instructed the reporter to send all complaints and questions regarding China Kaidi quarry to his WhatsApp number. 

After several days, Ayodele replied, “I will be out of government in less than two weeks, so I have forwarded your questions to the relevant department.”  However, he did not provide additional information on how to reach the person he handed over to.

More affected residents recount damages

Wasilatu Rasheed is another victim of Kaidi Quarry activities.

Rasheed, who lives in Oremeji community, said, “The air would be filled, and the entire house would be shaking, with walls cracking down.” 

Wall of Wasilatu Rasheed’s house cracked by the bomb blast of rock
Collage image of Wasilatu Rasheed, a blind woman at Oremeji Community and Wall of her house cracked by the bomb blast of rock

Before relocating from Lagos to Kwara state and prior to the commencement of Kaidi Quarry operations, she had enjoyed her sight. However, the unsettling noise and resulting shock caused her to experience a rapid darkening of vision. Seeking medical assistance, she was met with a staggering cost of N120,000 for each eye treatment, a sum that she – herbal medicine vendor – can’t afford. Helplessly, she said “I am pleading for help,” as her uncompleted house continued to suffer structural damage.

Monsurat Adebayo, another resident who moved to the Oremeji community two years ago, shared a similar tale of adverse health effects since being exposed to the quarry’s activities. Recounting her first encounter with the forceful blasts, she explained, “The first time it happened in my presence, I was at the door of my house. The force of the bombing flung me from where I was standing, and I fell down in front of the house.” After repeated incidents, she noticed its toll on her well-being.

Part of the Moshood Aminullahi's house cracked due to the rock bomb blast at Surelere Community
Part of the Moshood Aminullahi’s house cracked due to the rock bomb blast at Surelere Community

Moshood Aminullahi, another distressed resident of Surulere community,  described the devastating impact on his home. With rooms in disrepair and a constant sense of insecurity, he voiced the concern shared by many in the community: “They are about to bring down our house, and we have nowhere else to go.” In a heartfelt plea, he urged the government to intervene and provide assistance to the affected households, offering a glimmer of hope amid the overwhelming challenges they face.

Residents’ multiple protests 

The battle between affected communities and China Kaidi Quarry, as it’s known in the community, took a turn when residents stood against the destruction of their health, homes, and properties. It wasn’t just Oremaji and Surulere Communities suffering; neighbouring areas like Alagbado, Apata, Olorunda, Passa, Ogele, and Orire also felt the detrimental effects. In 2021, these communities united in protests, demanding an end to the destructive mining operations.

Monsurat Adebayo, a resident at Oremaji community who developed heart attack due to the extreme sound of the bomb blast used to blast rock from the China Quarry
Monsurat Adebayo, a resident at Oremaji community who developed heart attack due to the extreme sound of the bomb blast used to blast rock from the China Quarry

Segun Oladele, the association’s secretary representing the affected communities, said the residents staged multiple protests to halt rock blasting but with no positive effect as the company hired policemen to secure the site, preventing further demonstrations.

He said eventually the the company requested a meeting with Eyenkorin District’s head and offered N2.5 million to the affected communities to resume operations.

“We don’t want money. We want them to vacate the site and fulfil their obligations. Why offer money after we protested?” he said.

He explained that the money was used to repair the damaged transformer.

Oladele explained that they had sent multiple letters to various stakeholders like ministries of environment, works, and the local government among others. The letters were acknowledged, but there was no response.

Oladele, showing a video of a  protest held on April 7, said it led to a meeting with China Kaidi quarry on  April 8 and 9. There were rumours that there was informal compensation.

On May 6, the reporter contacted Oladele to confirm the rumour. He verified receiving funds from the company to support affected individuals. “We collected money to assist impacted people. In my community, some received N30,000, others N20,000.”

Efforts to speak with the company proved abortive.

Houses cracked due to the rock bomb blast at Oremaji community
Houses cracked due to the rock bomb blast at Oremaji community

A lawyer who is representing some of the affected communities confirmed that multiple letters were sent with regards to their plight. 

The lawyer, S.U. Solagberu, said, “I sent a letter to the Kwara State House of assembly through the local government overseeing the quarry’s operations. I visited the federal secretariat, where ministries like environment and works are situated. I submitted a formal complaint but received no reply.”

Solagberu added, “I wrote a personal letter to the Executive Governor of Kwara State, Mallam Abdulrahman Abdulrasak, hoping for intervention. Unfortunately, my plea went unanswered.”

Solagberu explained that he was also directly affected by the activities of the mining company. 

“They destroyed my farm, and the once-thriving pond now lies barren. They prioritise profits over well-being, disregarding the fact that no credentials justify their operations in such a hazardous location.”

Frustrated by the authorities’ silence, Solagberu sought alternative avenues, “We tried to rally support, bringing affected individuals to the Baale’s house. They promised to address concerns but prioritised their own interests.”

With limited options, Solagberu concluded, “I must implore the media to shed light on this issue. Perhaps their efforts can draw the federal government’s attention and prompt an investigation.”

Despite the flagrant violation of laws and the severe negative impact on the community, a disconcerting reality unfolded—policemen stood guard, ensuring the security of the quarry site day and night.

In a desperate attempt to seek justice, community representatives gathered and submitted a complaint letter to the state and local government police commanders. However, their pleas fell on deaf ears as the authorities failed to take action. Instead, they appeared to protect the Chinese workers and obstructed the community’s access during protests.

“I have heard rumours that the officers in those police offices are oblivious, but the individuals guarding the site are receiving bribes from the China Quarry company,” expressed Solagberu.

“In the letter I sent to their office, I explicitly stated that the policemen are enabling the unlawful operations of these individuals and disregarding the health and safety of the masses.”






     

     

    In a recent development, the new government of Kwara state has shut down the operations of the mining company.

    The decision to seal off the quarry was taken after the inspection carried out by the Kwara State Environmental Protection Agency (KWEPA), where numerous safety violations were discovered, including the absence of essential safety equipment for workers, inadequate training programmes, and insufficient measures to prevent accidents. 

    The sealing-off team, was led by the state director of environment, Abayomi Idowu, who said, “The closure of the quarry site is a necessary step to protect the lives of people living in the area, the workers and the environment. We cannot compromise on safety and responsible mining practices”.

    This is a welcome development for residents of Oremeji and Surlere communities. It is, however, not known if this is temporary or will be permanent nor if they will receive compensation for the damages.

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