30-year-old Adekunle Adesanya had high hopes for his future the day he was employed as a factory worker at Dangote Cement in Ibese, Ogun State.
The secondary school certificate holder had dabbled into hip hop music and hoped to take it to the next level.
But first, he needed a job to keep body and soul together as he worked to get recognition in the music world.
“I applied for the job with Dangote Cement as a divertor machine operator because I could not find something better. I had no means to go further in my education but I did not lose hope of going for higher education in the future,”Adesanya told our correspondent.
The Ijebu-Ode indigene was employed at the factory on February 10, 2012.
He told our correspondent that though he was employed as a casual worker at the factory, the authorities told those in his set they would soon be incorporated as full staff. This, he said, was why he accepted the N26,000 per month salary.
But barely one month into his employment, Adesanya would regret ever setting foot in the company.
He was on night duty on March 20, 2012. The young man went to work without an inkling of the calamity that was about to befall him, the calamity that turned his life upside-down. That day, he went to work, looking forward to a successful day at work.
“I was on night duty that day. Night duty starts at 6pm and ends at 7am the following morning.
“I was on the shift at the divertor machine. My responsibility was to see that finished cement bags pass through the conveyor belt unhindered. I was also responsible for sorting out any bags that gets caught in the machine and rearrange it for onward conveyance through the belt,” Adesanya said.
He had done this same job hundreds of times, he knew what he was doing, he explained. But that day, he would lose his arm to the same machine.
The young man claimed that he did not just lose his arm to the machine, he nearly lost his life because of the factory management’s negligence.
Adesanya said, “Anytime a bag is caught between the belt, I am expected to stop the divertor machine in order to properly rearrange the bags. But that night as I stopped to rearrange some bags of cement that were stuck, the machine suddenly kicked back to life and I had to quickly jump off it.
“When this happened, I went down to the control room to report the incident so they could rectify the problem with the machine. But I was told to go back and continue using the machine because that was the way they had been using it for a while.”
He claimed the incident happened three times and he complained to the factory’s control room at each time.
Adesanya said he would have been sacked on the spot if he refused to continue working on the machine. He did not want to lose the only job he had at the time, he said.
The now physically handicapped young man explained, “After the third incident, I had to go to the technician on duty to express my anxiety about the situation and the problem with the machine.
“He too said I should go back to work and try and manage it well. When I went back to the machine, I met one Mr. Joseph, who supervises the machine. He complained that I was not at my duty post but I explained the situation to him.
“The man stayed with me to rearrange the bags because at this point, many of them had become stuck on the belt. But while we were on the machine, the same thing happened. The machine turned on by itself. I quickly jumped off but the checker was caught between the railings and I had to pull the cable out to stop the machine.”
Adesanya did not stop working on the machine because he said he feared being fired.
He did not want to lose his job in an environment where there are probably 100 others waiting to fill that same position.
He said around 4am, he stood on the edge of the machine, to remove some bags that had been stuck again.
“The machine came on in an instant. The belt caught my feet and I fell down between the belts. The belts caught my right arm and chew it off from the shoulder. Nobody was there to help me but I managed to pull myself out and called for help.
“I lay in a pool of blood as other employees who heeded my call could do nothing. There was no medical staffer on duty.”
Adesanya said he was later taken to a clinic around 5am and was given treatment.
He explained that some management staff of the factory, in company with one Mr. Malik, whom they referred to as the Deputy Managing Director, came to visit him in the hospital and promised some compensation and prosthetics.
Adesanya’s voice thickened with emotion. Tears he had held back without success ran down his cheeks as he continued.
He told Saturday PUNCH, “I stayed in different hospitals for about six months until I was discharged. The company paid the hospital bills. But this is one year after the incident, the company has not fulfilled any of its promises.
“I cannot go on with my life like this. I have become a disabled man because of that company’s negligence. The least they should do is to make life a little easier for me by compensating me and providing me with prosthetics.
“Am a tenacious young man with great dreams but this incident has set me back. What can I do without my arm? Where do I start? The management of Dangote Cement has turned a deaf ear to my cry.”
Adesanya’s lawyer, Mr. Femi Falana, has demanded N50m compensation on his behalf.
A letter addressed to the company by Falana stated in part, “It is so pathetic and disheartening for your client to have abandoned our client since the tragic accident caused by your client’s negligence.
“As our client do not intend to sleep over his right as contained under the relevant acts governing matters of this nature,we have our client’s instruction to demand and hereby demand that the sum of N50,000,000. (fifty million naira) be paid to our client as compensation.”
When the company did not pay, the lawyer filed a suit against it at the Abeokuta High Court.
When our correspondent contacted the Group Head, Corporate Communications, Dangote Group, Mr. Anthony Chiejina, he said the company had not abandoned the Adesanya as he claimed.
“The company has not stopped his salary for more than a year since the incident happened. We have also being taking care of his hospital bills.
“At the moment, we are making arrangements to get him prosthetic arm from either South Africa or the US.”
Adesanya later confirmed to Saturday PUNCH that the company had indeed been paying him monthly.
“Yes, it is true that they have been paying my salary since the accident occurred. I get paid every two weeks because that’s how the company pays its staff,” he told our correspondent over the phone.
Source: Punch Nigeria