A major disaster could happen any moment in Bun village, along Shimawa Road, in the Shagamu Local Government Area of Ogun State.
Residents told PUNCH Metro that sand miners, in collaboration with some land speculators, had for the past five years been excavating the base of electricity towers in the community.
They said with the imminent rainy season, some of the towers could collapse, endangering lives and causing power outage in some southwest states.
The states that could be put in blackout included Lagos, Ogun and Ondo states.
A community leader, Mr. Ganiu Soneye, said appeals to the sand miners had gone unheeded.
He said, “We have asked them not to work there again, but they refused. I don’t deal in sand and I don’t support their activities. The community elders persuaded them, but they didn’t leave.
“We are praying that any of the electric towers will not fall because if they fall, everybody will be affected. The police come once in a while to chase them. Please assist us.”
Our correspondent, who visited the area, observed that a gully had formed in the area as some men were seen with caterpillars digging out the red earth.
Another resident, who did not want to be identified, said the miners were emboldened by the land speculators, whom they usually bribed.
“They carry many truckloads of sand from the site on a daily basis. They pay the Omo oniles peanuts to get their backing. They do not think of the danger they are putting people into. It’s a developing community and houses are springing up every day,” he said.
Our correspondent observed that The Redeemed Christian Church of God constructed a road in the area to connect the Redemption Camp at Mowe to the New Arena on Shimawa Road.
The road was, however, diverted at the point where the towers stood.
The Head of Media and Public Relations, RCCG, Pastor Olaitan Olubiyi, said the church wanted to prevent a tragedy should the towers give way.
Olubiyi said the church had drawn the attention of the Ogun State Police Command and the state government to the problem without any response.
He said, “Anything that makes any of the towers to fall will have very serious consequences. It will not only affect power in the whole of the southwest states, lives may be lost. That is our concern as a church and we had to divert the road.
“We had petitioned the police and written to the Ogun State Ministry of the Environment, including the electricity company, without any result. At a point, we hired some military men who patrolled that area to stop the sand miners. But immediately the soldiers left, they returned to the place. The government must muster the willpower to confront them before it is too late.”
The Minister of Works, Power and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, referred our correspondent’s enquiries to the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
The Assistant General Manager, TCN, Egbin Sub-region, Oluwagbenga Ajiboye, who spoke to PUNCH Metro on Monday, said the firm was aware of the situation and would visit the site on Tuesday.
He lamented that the company’s workers had been attacked several times by hoodlums working for the sand miners.
“We are worried that something terrible could happen because of their activities. We have been there several times to stop them. We even gave some military officers money to help us. We, however, suspect that they have informants in the police because before we arrived there most of the time, they would have run away,” he added.
When he called back on Tuesday, he said before the officials arrived in the area, the sand miners had left, abandoning 10 caterpillars at the site.
He said the company had written several letters to the state government for help, adding that no response had been received.
A copy of one of the letters, signed by the General Manager, TCN, Lagos region, Ijora, G.O. Nwokoye, was addressed to the Ogun State Commissioner for the Environment.
The letter said, “There are dangerous ongoing excavations threatening the power transmission lines containing Egbin Power, Omotosho Sub-station, Oke-Aro Sub-station and Papalanto-Abeokuta/Ota towers respectively.
“This ugly trend started years back and several appeals and complaints to the perpetrators to stop the dastardly acts and the imminent danger their activities pose to the towers and indeed power supply in the entire Lagos, Ogun and Ondo states and environs, have yielded no positive result.
“Recent patrols of these lines show that our complaints to stop the nefarious activities by these perpetrators have not been taken seriously. Rather, their activities have been intensified, thus posing grave dangers to the towers as the excavation is getting close to the tower bases. This has exposed the towers to near collapse.”
The TCN identified five towers threatened by the excavation and appealed to the state government to forestall the disaster.
The state Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Adedayo Adeneye, said officials of the state Ministry of Urban and Physical Planning had visited the site.
He said the Commissioner in charge of the ministry, Mr. Bolaji Oyeleye, was awaiting their report, adding that the government would address the situation.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, on Monday and Tuesday promised to get back to our correspondent after speaking to the Divisional Police Officers in the Ogijo and Redemption Camp police divisions.
He did not get back as of the time of filing this report.