Investigation uncovers disregard for safety rules at Chinese-owned quarries in Ogun
Ding Xing, Xiyuan Quarry and A & B Quarry, three Chinese-owned quarries in the Obafemi-Owode area of Ogun State, have been called out over issues of poor welfare, poor remuneration, and lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for workers.
The conditions were uncovered in an investigation carried out by a popular online newspaper, TheCable.
At the first quarry, Ding Xing, a worker identified simply as Solomon disclosed that the management has ignored calls by workers to provide PPEs.
“I have been working in the quarry for two years. We are not being treated well at all. We are treated like slaves.
“We work under dangerous circumstances; there are no provisions of personal protective equipment such as helmets, face masks, boots, and reflective jackets. We have many people that have lost their limbs, legs in the process of working at the company. There are no PPEs to protect us from danger,” Solomon was quoted to have said.
He added that the management did not care whether workers lived or died.
A worker at the second quarry, Xiyuan, recounted how a colleague identified as Femi died due to poor working conditions at the quarry two years ago.
The worker, who pleaded anonymity, said that Femi died at the Xiyuan Quarry in Kobape on October 3, 2020.
Femi, riding a motorcycle, was said to have dropped off one of the Chinese operators at the residential area of the quarry and was returning to the work area when he collided with an oncoming truck. His vision was said to have been impaired by the haze of dust at the quarry.
The worker, who said that Femi died as a result of injuries to the head and before he could get to the hospital, added: “Femi will still be alive if only there were PPEs here, he hit his head on the ground and that would not have happened if he was putting on a helmet.”
Another worker, Olamide Babatunde reportedly lost a leg while working on one of the machines at the Ding Xing quarry site in July 2020.
He was said to have been bedridden for five months. After paying his hospital bills, the company did not offer Babatunde, who worked there for five years, any other form of assistance, the report stated.
Babatunde, who decried the treatment meted out to him, said that he also lost his manhood in the accident and can no longer impregnate a woman.
According to the investigative report, accommodation provided for workers at the quarries are “overcrowded and in bad shape”, causing workers to sleep like rats.
“At Ding Xing, some workers sleep on the floor while others construct makeshift beds out of cartons placed on a wooden base.
“The experience at Xiyuan Quarry is reportedly worse, with some workers disclosing that they kill snakes inside their rooms almost every week. One of the workers said due to the open ceiling and bad doors of the rooms, snakes easily gain access,” the report stated.
The workers who spoke in the course of the investigation were quoted to have said that many of them were casual workers and so do not enjoy any other benefits apart from daily wages that range from N600-N900.
The workers also said they go nothing as hazard allowance despite the dangerous working conditions.
They added that any worker that protests the working conditions or that the Chinese owners saw as “activists” were immediately sacked.
The report quoted Habeeb Whyte, a lawyer to some of the companies, as saying that he quit the role because his “mind could not take being on the side of injustice”.
Whyte, who now defends some of the workers, said that because of illiteracy and other factors, many workers were signing away their rights in a bid to find work and survive.
“The condition is just too stringent and so many of those workers don’t look at it before they sign it. They don’t read the terms and conditions of the work very well before signing.
“Imagine in a letter of agreement, the employer said he can send a worker away at any time without prior notice and you as a worker agree to that,” he said.
The Ogun State chapter of the Nigeria Union of Mine Workers (NUMW) said it has on several occasions demanded the management of the Chinese quarries provided PPEs for their workers.
However, Tunde Shoneye, spokesperson of NUMW, noted that the Chinese quarries were getting away with not doing so because of some collaborators.
“Because of the way Nigerians are treated, we have had cause to take about two to three of them up at certain times. I think about two or three lives have been lost through negligence because there was no PPE.
“It is a pity we have not been receiving cooperation from the mine officers at the federal ministry of mines in the state. We have to take them to the commissioner for trade and investment in the state and the woman really berated and condemned their attitude and warned them seriously. So, we are not folding our arms, but you know, we act on information, when we get one, we pick it up,” Emmanuel Bankole, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) chairman in the state, also said.