On the night of May 22, a mysterious incident abruptly cut short the joy of the Aremu family after a rocket-like object shattered the roof and landed inside their home in Gbaga, a community in Ogun State.
Five-year-old Praise was asleep when the object flew into the room.
It landed on her arm, severing it – from the elbow – from her the body. The fingers on the remaining arm were badly injured.
A horrified Olaoluwa Aremu, her mother, wept uncontrollably as she narrated the event to PREMIUM TIMES on Thursday.
“She is just an innocent child, she doesn’t deserve this. I just pray my daughter will be back to her normal self.”
Mrs Aremu said her daughter had done her homework and retired to bed at 11.15 p.m. when the nightmare began.
“We gisted late into the night before we went to sleep,” said the heavily-pregnant mother, as she continued to fight back tears.
“All of a sudden, we heard a loud noise and we didn’t even know where it was coming from, it was very sudden and my little girl was lying on the floor and I didn’t know what to call that stuff and it hit her hands.”
She said Praise was rushed to four different hospitals but they refused to attend to her.
She was finally taken to the Lagos University Teaching Hospital where she is receiving treatment.
“She (Praise) was sleeping in front and her elder sister was sleeping close to her, the first hand from the wrist to the elbow… I pray God should help me, the hand was totally destroyed but the second hand the only the fingers were affected.”
Accusations and denials
The Ikorodu-Sagamu expressway is home to several steel-rolling industries. For years, Gbaga and other nearby communities had had to accustom to the loud noise and polluted air that emanate from the factories.
The residents of the community said they heard a loud noise from one of the factories on the night of May 22. Although there is no concrete proof, all fingers were pointed at the nearest steel-rolling factory: the Indian-owned Phoenix Steel Mills Limited.
“There was a loud noise and some people that were outside at that time said they saw something like a red arrow go up from the company but did not know where it dropped,” said one of the residents who preferred not to be named.
“It was this morning that they were now hearing that it is this place and the havoc it has wreaked.”
A member of the community development association who identified himself simply as Mr Kayode told PREMIUM TIMES that they would allow law enforcement agencies to carry out their investigations and unravel what actually transpired.
“Already, the police have been to the scene twice and we have also briefed the CDA lawyer, so we know what next step to take legally,” Mr Kayode added.
PREMIUM TIMES learnt that officers of the police anti-bomb squad visited the community on Friday.
Phone calls and text message to Abimbola Ogunyemi, the Ogun State police spokesperson, were not answered.
Phoenix Steel Mills Limited is one of the largest producers and exporters, in Nigeria, of steel iron rods, aluminium products, steel iron beams, channels, ingots, and angles.
The company’s yearly production – which stands at 100,000 tons – is the second-highest in Nigeria, according to Business List.
When a PREMIUM TIMES reporter visited Phoenix Steel Mills on Thursday, hostile guards at the gate denied him entry.
They only agreed to collect his phone number.
Minutes later, a staff of the company who identified himself as Idowu Adejumo called the reporter on the phone and made a spirited attempt to defend his organisation.
Mr Adejumo, who is the company’s Human Resource Manager, told PREMIUM TIMES that after due consultation with the line manager on duty Wednesday night, there was nothing like an explosion from the company.
“I can confirm to you categorically that there wasn’t anything like an explosion in our company yesterday (Wednesday), I just spoke with the line manager in our furnace and he said there was nothing like that, maybe it was from somewhere else.”