Members of the Ewekoro Community of Ogun State have dragged multinational cement company, Lafarge Africa Plc, before the Federal High Court in Abeokuta, accusing the company of polluting and destroying their environment through the mining of limestone.
In a class action suit filed through their lawyer, Mr Idris Faro, the community members are demanding N1trn in damages to compensate for the alleged “pollution and destruction of the plaintiffs’ town, farmlands, rivers, air and general environment, arising from limestone mining and cement manufacture for a continous period of 60 years,” by Lafarge.
They want the N1trn damages to be paid with an annual interest of 15 per cent until the final liquidation of the sum.
They also want the court to order Lafarge to refund them the money they spent in filing the lawsuit.
The plaintiffs – Asiwaju Olamide Shodipe, Alhaji Raufu Akintokun, Shakirat Ologunebi, Ayinde Akintokun and Olufemi Tewogbade – filed the N1trn lawsuit on behalf of themselves and the entire Ewekoro community.
Apart from Lafarge Africa Plc, they also joined as defendants six persons, whom they described as the company’s “lackeys, stooges and errand boys”.
The six other defendants are Chief Satari Balogun, Chief Joshua Akintokun-Oniyitan, Chief Ayantan Shodiya, Chief Tajudeen Adebowale, Chief Taye Akintokun and Prince Bola Awesu.
In their second amended statement of claim, the plaintiffs said Lafarge sited its largest plant in Nigeria in their community at Km 64 Lagos-Abeokuta Expressway, alleging that the company’s activities in the last 60 years had taken a toll on their well-being and means of livelihood.
They recalled that the defunct Western Region Government of Nigeria acquired part of their land and gave to West African Portland Cement Company for limestone mining and cement manufacture.
The said WAPCO was later acquired by Lafarge, which had carried on with the business, “using powerful explosives like dynamite in the mining and blasting of limestone in Ewekoro town, which, apart from causing disturbing noise, has damaged a lot of houses in Ewekoro town.”
The plaintiffs said, “A huge expanse of our farmland, measuring 426.599 hectares, which were not even part of the original acquisition, have been entered into by the 1st defendant (Lafarge) and it mines limestone thereon.
“The cement dust from the giant chimneys of the 1st defendant’s plants billows into the air, polluting the plaintiffs’ town, farmlands and rivers for a continuous period of 60 years.
“The cement dust has depleted the population of fishes, crabs and other animals in the rivers in and around Ewekoro land.
“Also, the livestock in Ewekoro have reduced in number as a result of inhalation of cement and pollution of the grassland where they graze.
“Farmlands, measuring about 1,000,000 hectares, have been polluted by cement from the 1st defendant’s plant for about 60 years, destroying crops.
“Dwelling houses in Ewekoro town have been splatered with cement dust billowing from the defendant’s plants.
“The livelihood of about 300,000 farmers and fishermen, including the plaintiffs, have been destroyed by the 1st defendant’s mining of limestone and cement manufacturing for about 60 years in Ewekoro town.
“Ewekoro inhabitants suffer from asthma, skin diseases, respiratory diseases etc, due to cement inhalation and this has led to loss of several lives over the years.
“The 1st defendant has made trillion of profits or more for about 60 years in Ewekoro land.”
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