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Home / Pollution / Ogun community chokes on soot as Chinese recycling firm burns used tyres

Ogun community chokes on soot as Chinese recycling firm burns used tyres

Over the last three years, different night comes with the same concern for residents of Orimerunmu community in Ibafo under Ifo Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area (LGA), Ogun State, as they have to struggle to breathe clean air. No one imagined the magnitude of environmental and health impact a Chinese-owned company, Yoyo Resources Recycling Company, would have on people when, in 2018, it opened an operational site within the confines of the residential area.

Tyre recycling company
An aerial view of the recycling company. Photo credit: Adebo Mayowa

The company’s operation began on a small scale – mostly sorting tyres and transporting them elsewhere until, one day, people living around the neighbourhood woke up to see their houses covered in thick soot. This so-called recycling company now operates without any restrictions as it brings trucks and trailer loads of used tyres to be burnt for extraction of some by-products like black oil, black powder and binding wires.

The health impact of this iniquitous act is telling on hundreds of vulnerable people who reside within the same community, from cough to body rashes, persistent respiratory illness, typhoid dues, polluted water, skin reactions, respiratory/lungs problems, it seems to be endless.

The company’s operation began on a small scale – mostly sorting tyres and transporting them elsewhere until, one day, people living around the neighbourhood woke up to see their houses covered in thick soot. This so-called recycling company now operates without any restrictions as it brings trucks and trailer loads of used tyres to be burnt for extraction of some by-products like black oil, black powder and binding wires.

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The health impact of the operation seems to be telling on hundreds of vulnerable people who reside within the community, from cough to body rashes, respiratory illness, skin reactions, and typhoid fever.

“I have lost my voice. It feels like the smoke enters my brain and is now affecting my reasoning,” says one Mrs. Roselyn Akaisi, a resident of the community.

Residents show how black the sole of their feet gets when walking inside their living rooms.

Tyre recycling company
One of the houses in the community. Photo credit: Adebo Mayowa

They also fear the possibility of an explosion (and the severity of such an incident) as the company is located opposite a petrol filling station in Ibafo.

There are reports that the Chinese company has resisted all pressures upon it to relocate from the neighbourhood.

“We are going nowhere,” an official of the company is quoted as telling the community leaders.

One of the landlords whose house is just a few meters away from where the company is sited said: “The only thing we want is for these people to relocate. They can use this place as an administration office – if they must, but not for operations. Their activity is killing us, and we can’t watch them carry on.”

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The community, seeing that the matter may have gone beyond them, engaged the Ogun State Government at the state capital in Abeokuta. The Environment Commissioner, who attended to them, reportedly explained that the company was not registered with them and promised to take it up.

Tyre recycling company
Soot pollution in the community. Photo credit: Adebo Mayowa

Sometime in 2020, the Deputy Governor sent a team convened in a government van to inspect the factory and interrogate the staff. However, no development has occurred since then.

A legal approach is being considered and the Chinese company is said to have engaged a law firm, Iyiola Oyedepo and Company, to make a case for them.

Explaining the nature of the company’s operations, Mr Tunde, another resident, explained: “They start to burn new sets of tyres around 7.00pm and it goes on till 6.30am, making it difficult for people to sleep. It feels like we are being tear-gassed every day. Smoke and soot everywhere. They work round the clock, no holidays – even during the COVID lockdown.

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“After the Ogun State Government sent an inspection team to review their activities, to our surprise they brought in two big new machines to scale up their horrible work. They even went ahead to mobilise mobile policemen who now man the gate and deny people entry or access to the management for any form of dialogue.”

With consistent efforts to eject the company from the community, compensation was offered to drill boreholes and repair the bad roads. Knowing that such compensation is meaningless, especially considering the health impact of continuing open burning of tyres, the community in unison rejected the offer.

“The company is illegal, they don’t have a signboard, they have no right to burn tyres at night in a residential community. We have given them an ultimatum to stop activities or relocate since October and we will stand by it. My nephew is sick, we are tired of going to the hospital again and again. I am just a retired civil servant and want to leave the rest of my life in peace,” Mrs. Akaisi insists.

By Seyifunmi Adebote

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