Sunday, April 14, 2024

Two police officers, APC Publicity Secretary, 13 others die in abandoned mining pits

  • Residents lament, demand government’s intervention


Residents of Ebonyi State have called on the state government to sand-fill all abandoned mining pits littered across the state, saying the uncovered holes have become death-traps to inhabitants and visitors in the affected communities.

According to them, no fewer than 15 persons, including two police officers, a politician and 13 others have died, owing to accidents that the neglected pits have been causing for a few years.

The last of the casualties, according to them, happened on Sunday, October 8, 2023, when a tipper driver,identified as Akputa Nwogha, lost his life in an abandoned mining pit located near Chukwudi Onwe’s compound, in the Amaikeaba axis of Abakaliki, the state capital.

Before Nwogha’s untimely demise, a former Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Ogochukwu Elem, and two officers of the Nigeria Police Force in the state had also died in similar circumstances at Enyigba community of the state in August 2021, after their vehicle plunged into the ditch.

Calling for government’s intervention and prompt filling of the pits, some residents, including Jeremiah Nwamkpuma and Nwankpuru Esther, hinted that the deceased tipper driver got drowned inside the pit, which serves as source of water to residents of the area.

They also called on mining companies to work in accordance with mining laws by sand-filling pits that were no longer in use as leaving them open was causing more hazards than the water they might be providing for the community.

Nwamkpuma disclosed that the pit at Amaikeaba community had caused the death of 15 persons, both young and old, including a set of twins and a police officer who went there to wash his motorcycle.

In an interview with The Point, he said, “The community excavated precious stones from this pit many years ago and many people have met their sudden deaths there. This last incident made it a total of 15 persons who have died here (pointing to the pit).

“If there is anyway the government can stop these untimely deaths for residents of Amaikeaba, it will be appreciated. I think government should commence sand-filling of abandoned mining pits and hold mining companies responsible whenever any of this tragic incidents happens again. This pit doesn’t dry up even in the dry season because of its depth and use by inhabitants. Government should come to our aid urgently to avert further reoccurrence.”

Other residents who spoke on the condition of anonymity blamed the state government and community stakeholders for allegedly collecting bribes from mining companies, which made them lack the moral standing to checkmate the miners to ensure they mine according to laws and not to the detriment of residents.

“The state government and community stakeholders are the cause of the untimely deaths of our people. They collect bribe from mining companies and when that is done, they will not be able to question the actions of the companies. Can you imagine, in August 2021, we lost the APC Publicity Secretary, Ogochukwu Elem, and two police officers in a similar pit at Enyigba. They were on their way to a function when their car plunged into an abandoned pit near the road.

“They could not be rescued alive since it took about three days before a crane was brought for their evacuation.

The three young vibrant men just died. The pit is near the road. The state governor then, David Umahi, ordered that the pits and every other one no longer in use in the state should be sand-filled but as I talk to you, nothing has been done about that order and that is the lack of implementation problem in government,” one of the residents lamented.

Responding, during a visit to the Amaikeaba abandoned pit, the State Commissioner for Solid Minerals Development, Chidi Onyia, who was visibly sad about the deaths, promised to find out the exact company that mined there, synergise with them, the natives and other stakeholders, on how to sand-fill the dreaded pits to avert more casualties.

“This current administration is just three months old in office. We shall find out the mining company that worked there, discuss with indigenes and stakeholders on the right modalities to start reclaiming the process of the land through sand-filling,” he pledged.

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