The broken dam holding toxic substances produced by a Chinese company operating in Omotosho forest reserve in Okitipupa, Ondo State, has claimed the lives of three men in Ondo State.
The information was confirmed by the Ondo State Police Command in the state.
The Wewood company is engaged in cassava to ethanol production in the area and also involved in the production of plywood and tiles.
The victims of the unfortunate incident are: Akinmusire Monday (35), Samuel Louis (45) and Ododolewa Adebowale (19). The men were in the forest to extract timber for saw millers.
Our correspondent S’Teller gathered that Mr Louis, a father of four children, was a contractor who traded in wood, while Mr Monday, a father of five children, was an operator of the saw machine used in the business, while the 19-year-old Adebowale, was a student writing the ongoing West African Senior School Certificate Examinations (WASSCE), and was serving as a helper.
Members of their families raised the alarm at the Akinfosile community on Wednesday, when the three men did not to return home.
The members of the community were mobilised the following day to search the forest for them, only to discover their bodies washed down a flood channel in the forest reserve.
The traditional ruler of the community, the Olufara of Akinfosile, Olamide Ayodele, told journalists who visited the area that he had to call the Divisional Police Officer, the Vigilante Corps and the Amotekun Corps, to inform them about the development.
According to the monarch, the combined efforts of the groups ensured the bodies were recovered.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Tee Leo-Ikoro, said the deaths occurred due to the overflow of a mini dam created by the company.
He said, “the toxic waste from the dam flowed down the slope and killed the unsuspecting lumberers in the forest.”
“The incident is basically an accident and the company and the community are in discussion to resolve the issues,” said Mr Leo-Ikoro.
Meanwhile, Attorneys for the families of the deceased are seeking compensation and punitive measures against the company.
Messrs J. Adeyanju and Dayo Akindejoye, the lawyers, blamed the incident on “reckless” and “irresponsible” dumping of toxic, corrosive, harmful, explosive and hazardous substances by WeWood.
“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 lawyers asserted.
“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 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.”
All effort to reach WeeWood for their response proved abortive.