•Residents accuse Chinese firm of endangering lives, businesses
By Sunday Ani
Workers and residents in the Amuwo Odofin Industrial Estate, Lagos, have raised concern over the activities of a Chinese iron and steel company operating in the area.
They have accused the company of engaging in activities that produce gases capable of endangering life; they maintained that the firm’s activities amounted to detonating a time-bomb.
The people now fear that the company’s staff might be at the risk of life-threatening fumes, as they might not be equipped with safety kits.
The residents and workers have also accused the company of damaging some roads in the area as a result of its activities.
“All the heavy-duty trucks you see parked on both sides of the roads either belong to the company or its customers. They carry heavy iron rods, which most often fall, create big holes and damage the road. Most of the truck drivers abandon their vehicles in the middle of the road, thereby making it impassable for other road users.
“You can see that the road is so bad that one lane has been condemned. It is only one lane that is left for other motorists. You can see it yourself; it is not a fabricated story. This is what we see here every day,” a man who identified himself as Anthony said.
The residents also lamented that efforts to get the company to retrace its steps in the past have not produced any positive result as the management of the company has refused to listen to all entreaties.
Sequel to the company’s refusal to address the environmental issues that its operations had raised, a non-governmental organisation, Freebond Labour Services, was said to have taken the matter to the Lagos State government.
Daily Sun gathered that the NGO’s petition had got the attention of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who was said to have directed the Ministry of Environment to look into the matter.
Speaking on the outcome of the governor’s directive, a worker in one of the companies in the area, who did not want his name mentioned, said: “After looking into the matter as directed by the governor, we received a letter from the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) saying that the emission was neither poisonous nor harmful. They, therefore, directed all the companies around this place to conduct an ambient air quality study. They also invited all the companies in the area to a meeting in which the representatives of the companies told them that they would not be part of the ambient air quality study since some of them had already spent so much money to carry out Environmental Assessment Study and Environmental Audit Report.
“We have done that, why are we being asked to do an ambient air quality study?”
Daily Sun gathered that the gas being emitted from the Chinese company has been polluting the environment, with potential health hazards.
An unnamed staffer of another company in the area said: “The medical director of our company’s hospital has warned that continuous inhalation of the smoke could lead to cancer. He said smoke from cigarette was much safer than the smoke being emitted by the company.
“We learnt that the smoke could affect cosmetics and pharmaceutical companies. When the smoke comes in contact with cream, powder and perfume among others, the end users would bear the health consequences. The same thing applies to drugs produced by pharmaceutical companies.”
The discontent has reached fever pitch, and now the people of Amuwo-Odofin are asking for the immediate relocation of the company to a place where its activities would be less detrimental to health.
Speaking on the losses being sustained by the people, a worker in one of the companies said, “If you were a customer coming here and you see all these articulated vehicles driving against the traffic, won’t you be scared?
“As a result of the congestion the company often causes, robbers on okada have a field day feasting on us. It got to a point where we had to ask the police from Festac Division to begin to station their vehicles at both ends of the road.
“Some companies have relocated from this place to Agbara, in Ogun State. My company is also planning to move to Agbara because of this. You know the number of people that will be affected when that happens?”
The correspondent learnt that the management of the Chinese firm has allegedly boasted that nothing could happen to them as long as money still had influence in Nigeria.
However, people were of the opinion that Ambode should visit the area for an on-the-spot assessment of their concerns.
Efforts to get the reaction of the Chinese firm did not yield any positive result as the company’s public relations officer declined comments when contacted on phone. She stated that the reporter ought to have sent a letter to the company for approval before she could comment on the matter.
When the reporter sought to see her in her office, she declined, insisting that unless a letter was forwarded to the company, there was nothing anybody could do to get a response.
Also when the Zonal Head of the Amuwo Odofin unit of the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), Mr. Hameed Muibi, was contacted on phone to confirm the report that his agency gave a clean bill of health to the steel company, he referred the reporter to LASEPA General Manager in Alausa, Ikeja, whom he said was in a better position to respond to the matter. Efforts to reach the senior officer fell through as his phone line did not connect until press time.