One hundred and seventy three (173) evacuators of the toxic waste dump in Koko community Delta State, out of which forty were reported to have feared dead over twenty eight years ago, have accused the Federal Government of neglecting them in the dangers they were exposed to during the process of their assignments.
The evacuators said to be contract workers, were engaged by the Federal government to evacuate the toxic waste shipped into the country by an Italian company in 1988.
But our informed sources said, the waste was allegedly dumped by the Italian firm (name withheld) and was emitting dangers to the lives of residents of KoKo community who have partitioned President Mohammadu Buhari to come to their aid.
A copy of the petition signed by one Shedrick Mofe, a copy of which was made available to DAILY POST reads, “We humbly appeal to Mr. President to come to our aid, we were hired to evacuate the dump allegedly carried out by an Italian firm, we did our job, until now we have not be compensated.”
Some of the contract workers, one of them Sheriff Keamah, told DAILY POST that many of them who engaged in the risky process of evacuating the dump, have not been compensated by the Federal Government, disclosing that “six among us at present are in critical condition having been affected with the endemic waste, we have been suffering, and have written several letters to the FG unreplied, we don’t know what to do again. Some of us have lost their lives in the cause of this trouble, it is unfortunate that our lives till now are still in danger”.
While unconfirmed sources said over forty of the workers had lost their lives due to the complications arising from direct exposure to the toxic chemicals, investigation revealed that the 173 workers, who participated in the evacuation exercise were supervised by one Silver Ajamo.
Further investigation revealed that the workers were hired by a firm, Tonald associate, which was said to have been contracted by the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA) to carry out the evacuation exercise.
One of the deceased participants, Sunday Nana had his family members relocated elsewhere as a result of the noticeable changes on the plants in his immediate surrounding where grasses have reportedly dried off even during rainy seasons.“ The soil, at best, remains malnourished as a result of the dumped toxic waste“, a source said. It was gathered that the survivors had lately been threatening legal action and other possible measures against the federal government if it failed to pay them their due compensation.
Attempt by DAILY POST to speak with the medial officer in charge of the KoKo General Hospital, Dr. Mukoro Simeon, did not yield any result as he was shielded by his staff who insisted he was not available for comments.
DAILY POST had wanted the doctor to confirm if any of the patients brought to the hospital in the recent past had been diagnosed with toxic-related diseases.
It was gathered that the Federal Environmental Protection Agency was directly in charge when Koko toxic waste incident occurred about 28 years ago. FEPA staff were said to be deeply involved in the evacuation process.
The then Military Government under President Ibrahim Babangida, had forced the Italian company that shipped the waste to Nigeria to take them back to their country.
Mr. Dandy Eze of the Paths to Freedom, a Non-Governmental organization, who has volunteered to fight for the remaining affected workers to get compensated, confirmed that over 40 of those who carried out the assignment had died as a result of hunger, starvation and strange ailments.
Eze, however cautioned and the remaining participant against taking the law into their hands in the course of agitating for their compensation, adding that violence is counter-productive. ”Those that have been canvassing for it should sheathe their sword because it is better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. Nothing meaningful can be achieved in an atmosphere of violence,” he said.
Further checks revealed that in 2008 the Federal Government paid compensation to some NPA staff, who carried out the evacuation exercise. But the affected contract workers were dropped and not paid.
When our reporter visited Koko community, most of the residents who spoke on condition of anonymity claimed that federal government neglected them after the colossal and disaster that befell them over 28 years ago. They said “ we are suffering here in Koko community. After the toxic waste episode, we have been left with nothing to show that a community exists, it is unfortunate, we need Mr. President to come and intervene in our problems especially those who died in the cause of evacuating the toxic waste. “