Residents say CICO refuses to protect area; CICO says victim was “negligent”
A 21-year-old man, Jonathan Doe, has reportedly drowned in an unprotected rock-crushing pit created by Chinese construction company “CICO” situated in the Township of Louisiana.
According to reports gathered from the area, Jonathan Doe was the third person to have drowned in the unprotected pit created by CICO management. Doe, a 9th grade student at the Upper Caldwell Community School (UCCS) along with eight other friends, came from the market in the Township on Saturday, September 29 and they all decided to swim. While swimming he got tired.
Emmanuel Morris, who was among the group with Doe, told the Daily Observer that they regularly went to swim in the water. “We were 9 in numbers that came here. Two of my friends, while swimming, took up a challenge to cross the water, the first two guys managed to cross successfully but Jonathan, being the third person, tried to swim across but could not make it, “I told him not to take the risk, because the place was very deep, I knew that he could not easily get back even if he reached across and so I told him to come back but he didn’t,” Morris said.
According to residents of the area, the unprotected pit has been in the area for more than five years now without any measures by CICO to protect it.
“It has come to our attention as citizens of this township that CICO does not want to protect this area, thus causing series of deaths,” said Jeff W. Neewray, a resident of the township. “This death trap was formed by the Chinese company (CICO) for mining purposes. This is where the company is mining rocks an other mineral resources; they take all of the rocks to be used on roads construction,” he said.
Neewray explained that the incident was not the first of its kind, saying “this is the third time, something must be done by government. CICO dug the pit and left the area without protection. Neewray further described the incident as an irony and said CICO, as an international company in the township does not seek the well being of the citizens.
In a related development, the management of CICO, has taken the full responsibility for the death of Johnathan Doe, and given the victim’s family a sum of US$2,000.
When contacted earlier for their response to the drowning, the human resource officer of CICO, Philip Gongar, told the Daily Observer, “Currently, we cannot talk to any journalist and besides, this was negligent,” he said, describing Jonathan Doe’s decision to go swimming. However, in a follow-up phone call, Gongar said that “CICO has taken appropriate measures” to avoid further occurrence in the area. He said the company is placing sign boards near the pit, warning people of the risk of swimming in the water.
Residents told the Daily Observer that CICO also provided similar amount of money to the family of a 26 year-old man who drowned there in October, 2016. In 2013, however, a 20 year-old girl also drowned there, but it could not be confirmed whether her family received any assistance from the company for burial.
For Jacob A. Brown, it is not about the money. Brown, who was present when Doe drowned, said the death of his friend will not be compromised and that they are going to take serious issue with CICO and the Liberian government.
“CICO management has given the family US$2,000, but we think this is not enough to bring this fellow back to life,” he said. “We are going to make sure CICO leaves our township if they cannot adhere to their corporate social responsibility as a company; we will also engage the EPA and other relevant authorities very soon,” he stated.
Furthermore, since the latest drowning, the Liberia National Police from Zone 7 depot visited the scene and an investigation has since begun.