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Niger mining pit collapse: Families of trapped victims cry out

More than a week has passed since the collapse of a mining pit that trapped labourers at a mining site in Galkogo Community in Shiroro…

More than a week has passed since the collapse of a mining pit that trapped labourers at a mining site in Galkogo Community in Shiroro Local Government Area of Niger State. The rescue efforts have stalled, putting the families of the victims in a dilemma.

Labourers working at a mining pit owned by African Minerals and Logistics Limited are trapped inside the 400-metre-deep pit as it caved in while they were underground following a heavy rain the previous day.

Daily Trust correspondent reports that initial efforts to rescue the trapped victims, who included the site manager, Alhaji Ishaku Ibrahim, stalled because of the lack of appropriate equipment.

One of the relatives of the victims, Mallam Salihu Saidu, also confirmed to Daily Trust that the victims were yet to be rescued.

He said the families of the victims were having sleepless nights, hoping that with efforts from concerned authorities, the victims may still be rescued alive.

“The families have not lost hope. Nothing is impossible with Allah, but I doubt if any of the victims will be alive now. It is so sad!”

Also speaking, Ummi Musa, who said her brother is among those trapped said: “Nobody has confirmed if they are all dead. Probably some of them would have died and some would still be alive, but nobody has any assurance that they are all dead. We want government to keep trying to see if they can be rescued.”

While the authorities have kept sealed lips after failed efforts to rescue the victims, the families have continued to grieve, appealing to authorities to at least recover the bodies of their brothers for proper burial.

niger mining pit collapse1
niger mining pit collapse1

Similarly, while government agencies, including the police, had put the number of trapped victims at 20 and said that six were rescued, families and residents held a contrary position, insisting that the number of people trapped in the pit was more than 50, adding that the six people were not rescued from the pit but were lucky to have escaped when it was caving in.

Some staff of the Niger State Emergency Management Agency confirmed to Daily Trust on condition of anonymity that aside from the six people rescued the day the pit collapsed, no one had been rescued since then.

One of the staff said: “The six people rescued were on the first day, while one person was confirmed dead. Since then, no single person has been rescued.”

A reliable government official told our correspondent that some families of the victims have held the Muslim seven-day Fidau prayer on Monday.

“Federal Ministry of Solid Minerals Development and the company operating the mining site are using artisanal miners to dig the place. The rescue effort is being done manually. And some families held seven day Fidau prayer on Monday for their relations. They believe the victims would have died by now.”

However, the Director General, Niger State Emergency Management Agency, Alhaji Abdullah Baba Arah said the rescue effort was still ongoing.

The president of Lapma Youth Forum, Babangida Zaharudeen Kudodo, also told Daily Trust that the victims were still trapped with no serious rescue effort currently going on.

He said the company managing the site was also yet to condole with the families of the victims and the community.

“The six people they said were rescued actually ran away when the pit was caving in.  The area is rocky and some of them were hit by falling rocks and sustained injuries. These were the six people said to have been rescued.

“At least 50 people were said to be underground when the pit caved in. The pit is about 400 metres deep, it is almost about 10-storey building. The workers used ladders to enter.

“So, those inside have not been rescued yet. I am telling you authoritatively that none of those victims trapped in the pit has been rescued. That pit has not been opened; the place is still there, if anyone wants to see he should go there and check if they have opened that place. So, the people are still inside.

“In fact, the pit is filled with water and on Friday and Saturday, they were not able to do anything at that site. The only thing they were doing was pumping the water out. On Saturday, because of rain, they couldn’t even do anything. So, nothing was done to rescue the victims on Saturday or even to pump water out of the pit.”

While appreciating the federal government for showing concern, Kudodo blamed the mining company, African Minerals and Logistics Limited, for lacking empathy and regard for human life and the community where they have been mining for years.

He said for over a decade that the company has operated in the community, there has never been any corporate social responsibility project it executed for the people.

“The minister had even tried; he came. Where is the chief executive officer of the mining company that has made millions of naira from that site?

“It is over seven days since the collapse but the company has not come to condole with the families of the victims. I was there when the presidential delegation came to condole with the community and families of the victims at government house.

In another statement by Lakpma Youth Forum, signed by its spokesman, Abdullahi Suleiman Erena, it said their members who were at the site of the collapsed mining pit had confirmed that no single soul had been rescued from there.

“It is a pity that human beings will be allowed to stay under the earth for days with no meaningful effort to get them out.”

“In fact, there are indications that bodies have started to decompose in the mining pit. At the moment, we have more questions than answers. How can a licensed company operate a mine without any contingency plan in case of accidents? How can a company rely on labourers to dig out people trapped inside rocks with bare hands? Why will a company of the standing of African Minerals and Logistics Company rely on mini water pumps to drain water from the pit and use manual labourers to scratch the rock? How long will this last? Are we waiting to bring out skeletons?”

“We also want to reiterate that this is a wakeup call to the government at all levels to take the insecurity situation in the Lakpma axis of Shiroro LGA seriously because illegal miners and unscrupulous elements are taking advantage of the situation to perpetuate aregime of impunity and slavery.”

On Monday, the immediate past chairman of Shiroro LGA, Suleiman Dauda Chukuba, while condoling with the families of the victims in Galadima-Kogo, called on the company as well as the state and federal governments to let families know the fate of their relations in the pit.

He said there was a need for quick action from the company, the federal and state governments to rescue the victims.

Our correspondent made efforts to reach out to the company for comments. A Google search showed the “African Minerals and Logistics Limited” with address at 12 Randle Road, Apapa Quays, Lagos 102272 Lagos and a mobile number 07033510909.

When a call was put through, a male voice who picked the call confirmed to be Femi Fajemisin, but claimed that he was no longer a staff of the African Minerals and Logistics Limited, the company managing the collapsed mining site.

“Actually, I worked with this company when I was in Lagos. That is all what I know. And it is over nine years since I worked with this company,” he said.

He said he could not understand why his phone number was still being retained on the company’s website.  “I worked with the company some years back as a clearing and forwarding manager. That is all I know. That is all, sir.”

Similarly, a search on Facebook by our correspondent showed another telephone number which, after a call was picked up by a man who gave his name as Lincoln Ohize.

He said he worked as a storekeeper with the company but left its services four years ago.

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