From Laide Raheem, Abeokuta
in the Holy book, Bible, it is written that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. But in Ogbe-Eruwon, Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, fear of “flying rocks” is the beginning of wisdom for the people.
Ordinarily, the village should be basking in the euphoria of having two giant quarry companies operating within it, while others do their businesses nearby. Rather, it has been a nightmarish experience for the villagers.
Apart from the noise pollution as a result of blasting exercise, rocks that fly into the community whenever this exercise takes place, has put villages in imminent danger. Ogbe-Erunwon village is one of the villages where large deposits of igneous rocks are found. Hence, several quarry companies – indigenous and foreign, especially the Chinese – situate their operation bases in the locality.
Virtually, all the villages along the OGTV-Ajebo-Kajola-Ogunmakin Road have at least, one quarry company. Despite the fact that the road is in deplorable state, commuters always contend with heavy duty trucks, transporting stones, granites and stone dusts, to other parts of the country. In fact, travellers on the axis always feed their eyes with the avalanche of stone dusts heaped by the quarries for sale.
Ogbe-Eruwon is probably the only community with two quarry companies. But since one of the two commenced operations in 2014, it has been “save-our-soul” cry by the residents. Barely one year of commencing operations, the residents, having witnessed events, which apparently posed danger to their lives and properties, wrote a petition to the Federal Ministry of Environment, Abuja.
In the petition, residents appealed to the minister, Amina Muhammed, to save them from imminent dangers of “flying rocks” from the blasting activities of a quarry company in the community. Signed by the Community Development Association (CDA) chairman, Adio Moses Sholanke, the community alleged that the quarry owned by A&B Global Strategies Limited, had been carrying out its blasting activities with a little distance of about 100 metres away from the village.
According to them, the villagers are being exposed to danger as “flying rocks” hit the community, each time a blasting occurred. It stated further that despite the on-the-spot assessment of damages done to the village by the officer in charge of Mines Environment Compliance Department of the federal ministry in the state, after a “Save-Our-Soul” letter in 2015, and the company’s promise to put in place safety measures, it had continued to wreak havoc in the village:
“Upon all the promises from the representative of the company that there would be a change, the blasting activities did not subside, and the damage to the community continued, which has made the whole community to be living in fear.
“Many times, we were forced to vacate our buildings for fear of flying rocks, whenever blasting activities are to be initiated by the company.
“We are appealing to you, to urgently attend to this ugly situation facing the community, before the community that has been in existence for over 200 years is wiped out by this company.”
A visit by Daily Sun to the village revealed that the quarry company located at the entrance of the village operates very close to it. A tour around the village also showed some rocks, claimed to have flown from the quarry.
Apart, holes, allegedly drilled by the flying rocks, were found on the walls of some of the houses, while roofing sheets were shattered. A particular building was said to have been destroyed by such rocks.
Narrating their plights, Baale of Ogbe-Eruwon, Pa Ismaila Adeogun, said they have been living in fear since the quarry company commenced operations. He disclosed that many times, the residents had been forced to vacate their homes, even at night, to escape from being hit by rocks.
The octogenarian pointed out that rocks had not only damaged their homes, they had hit residents. He mentioned one Kazeem Saubana, who last month, while returning from the farm, was hit by a rock on the right side of his face:
“There are two quarry companies in our community, but one has been giving us headache. Whenever there is a blasting exercise, rocks always fly into the community, wreaking havoc on our buildings and injuring people.
“We always live under serious fear, and our environment has been seriously devastated by the quarry. If you look at the distance between the quarry and our village, you will notice it is close. On several occasions, we have vacated our homes, even in the middle of the night, when the vibration from the blasting would become unbearable.
When we went to the management of the company to lodge our complaints, they promised to look into the issue. They also said they would provide amenities like boreholes, clinic, town hall as well as making cash available to repair our homes damaged by these rocks.
“But to our surprise, they only brought a paltry sum of N500,000 to be distributed among owners of 100 houses, to repair their roofs. Isn’t that ridiculous?” He appealed to government to come to their rescue before any casualty would be recorded.
Taye Adeogun recounted how she narrowly escaped being pelted by a flying rock. She was out frying cassava flakes (Gaari) when a rock flying from the quarry, landed by her side and threw her off balance. She added that the economic activities of the village have been seriously affected by the quarry.
The woman leader of the community, Madam Sidikatu Afape, alleged the company never meant well for the community. She alleged that the stream that serves as the only source of drinking water for the residents, has been polluted by dust emanating from the quarry activities. She urged the Federal Government to shut down the operations of the company until safety measures are put in place.
A&B Global’s site engineer, Fatai Iyanda, refuted the claims by villagers of “flying rocks” hitting them and their houses: “The company did not only observe the stipulated 500 metres distance to the nearest community, we always ensure the presence of the officer in charge of mining activities at the Federal Ministry of Environment and Anti-Bomb Squad of the police, whenever we want to blast. And they always stay for over 15 minutes after the blasting to assess the situation.”
He said out of the two quarries operating in the community, only A and B Quarries, entered into agreement with Ogbe-Eruwon. He, however, submitted that the company has not been able to fulfill the terms of agreement because of the rancour among the CDA executives, noting such has been hindering the company’s CSR. He assured that “as soon as the CDA is ready, the company will honour all the terms of agreement.”