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Shattered dreams! How factory machine grounded casual worker’s varsity career

By Evelyn Usman

Twenty-year-old Mike Aghanenu had a tall dream. He aspired to become an engineer some day. Thus, after his secondary school education at Havanna College, Igando, Lagos State, in 2009  where he got the required results to further his studies, he wrote the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Examination (JAMB), test  in 2010.

Unfortunately, he did not make the required marks. Determined to keep his dream alive, Mike decided to work for a while, with a view to saving towards his university education. Then, he got a job as a factory worker at Lebanese-owned Aliberti Company,  in Ikotun in 2010, where he was paid N12,000 monthly.

The dream of becoming a mechanical engineer became evident after he scored 240 marks in the just- released JAMB result where he chose University of Benin as first choice and Delta State University as second choice.

While he was preparing for the post-UME examination, tragedy struck at his workplace, last Tuesday and his dream was not only shattered but his entire life.

As at press time, the remains of Mike are lying in the morgue. Reason? He was sent to an unprepared grave during an industrial accident in his workplace.

His death, no doubt,  came as shock to his parents as they  are yet to come to terms with its reality. More painful is the fact that Mike was the first and  only son among two children.

Different versions of what killed him
No one could at first tell exactly what happened to the once bubbling  young man. Not even his parents could tell when Crime Guard called to find out the circumstances led to Mike’s demise.  There are different accounts  on how  he died. A version said he was trying to clear the gutter  in the company’s premises when he was electrocuted. Another version  said he was grinded by one of the machines at the factory.

Late Mike

It was against this backdrop that Crime Guard visited Aliberti Company on Wednesday to get the  true version. But the company’s spokesperson, who identified herself as Bimbo Okuneye was not forthcoming with the true picture.

Rather, she referred this reporter to the police,saying investigation into the circumstance that led to Mike’s demise was still on, an utterance that degenerated into a verbal confrontation between her and members of the bereaved family who were also at the company to ascertain the cause of their son’s death.

But for the intervention of the Divisional Police Officer in-charge of Ikotun, the situation would have turned violent. It took close to an hour before the company  brought a man who identified himself as the supervisor of the section Mike worked  and one who witnessed it all.

The supervisor, Mr Olotu Fredrick, explained that, “ Yesterday morning (Tuesday), when we  resumed, the late Mike started his machine. We have two machines ; one for grinding foam and the other for grinding fibre. I operate that of the foam while he operated that of the fibre which is easier.

“As work went  on, I discovered from the sound of one of the machines that something had stuck inside. I told them to stop the machine and when we opened it,  a nail was discovered inside.

“Immediately after that, Mike started using a hose to blow off the dust from the fibre machine when the incident occurred.”

Asked to explain how it happened, the supervisor narrated: “The machine he was working on has two switches  which must be put off  before blowing off the dust. But Mike only switched off one. I guessed  he mistook the silence from the  engine to mean that it was off, not knowing the other end was still on.

“As  he used the hose to blow off the dust from the machine, all of a sudden,  the brunches  of the machine threw him inside the grinder and immediately, I shouted at one of the workers to switch off the machine.”

At this point, the supervisor could not speak any further. Rather,  he tried to gesticulate,trying hard not to betray his emotions.

The machine as gathered, first caught Mike’s hand. The more he tried to remove it, the more the machine  kept chopping it until it got to his ribs and parts of his body, with blood spilling all over the place.  Crime Guard gathered that although the machine was put off,  it took a while before Mike could be brought out.

This was because the machine needed to be dismantled. However, when this was done, it was already late for Mike , who passed out , with an expression of shock on his face. He was reportedly rushed to a private hospital around the area where unfortunately , he was certified dead.

Family aggrieved
The bereaved family members have  registered their displeasure over what they described as display of  “an  uncultured manner” by management of the company in handling the issue. First, they claimed the company did not intimate  them of the tragic incident, wondering why  it had to deposit their son’s body at the morgue without  contacting them.

The family raised alarm over plans to sweep the case under the carpet as they claimed they were prevented from seeing the corpse of their son by some men in plain clothes who claimed to be policemen, as at Thursday. Their anger also bordered on the fact that Mike’s corpse  was deposited at the Isolo General Hospital mortuary,even when they kicked against the idea.

Crime Guard learnt that effort was being made as at Thursday  to transfer the corpse to another mortuary.
The bereaved father, Mr Festus, who just arrived the country, was at his wits end. When approached, he said,  “what do you want me to say? My only son and heir is gone! He was a level-headed boy who believed in hard work rather than delving into something that would drag the family’s name in the mud. He was everything you could think of in a good child.

“My anger is that the company never thought it wise to pay us a condolence visit, two days after the incident. They did not even deem it fit to inform us that  our son was dead. We heard it from another source. In fact, the news of his death reached us in the evening, whereas it occurred in the morning. Tell me, is it wise for me to have come to the company before I am told what happened to my son? I am heart-broken, I cannot talk much”, he said in an emotional-laden tone.

But the company maintained that they visited the bereaved family. Okuneye explained that they went there and met some people praying, a claim the family denied. It was later discovered that they did not  disclose their identities when they got there, apparently for fear of the unknown.

Again, the company said after the incident, the deceased’s next of-kin as indicated in his file was contacted, where the bearer informed them he was far-away in Delta State. But on how that was possible, the family wondered.

Okuneye, however, apologised on behalf of the company for its shortcoming after it became apparent that her utterances could have sparked off a renewed feud, assuring that the company would work  with the  family  to ensure that Mike was not only given a befitting burial but  meet some of the family’s conditions.

She said: “ As you can see, we did not work today because of the death of Mike. We are not happy that this has happened. It was  an accident which was never planned . And,  to put the record straight, this is the first time a thing like this is happening in this company, since its inception over 30 years ago.”

A police van was, however, stationed opposite  the company with armed policemen, to avert any likely protest that could turn violent.

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