·Widow, family of one of the victims, demand for justice
By Our Reporters
A month has gone but nothing concrete has been done to assuage the sadness of the families of the victims of the Seplat tragedy. The police says the families or Seplat people have not come to make entry. The question is, does the police not a mandate to start action when tragedy occurs? Must somebody come and make entry for the law to kick in?
Barely a month after the Seplat Energy Plc’s tragic incident that claimed the life of a Briton, and three other workers declared missing by the company, controversy rages on over the whereabouts of the missing persons.
This is as the affected families are anxiously waiting for updates from the oil giant and it’s partners but are said to be denied useful information as the missing workers remained unaccounted for.
Howard Slim Adikankwu was among the three missing persons and his family members are demanding for justice, at least that they see their missing person, or if dead, the corpse be given them for burial.
The Delta State Police Command has said the families should lodge formal report on the matter.
Bright Edafe, the command’s Public Relations Officer (PPRO), in a telephone chat in Asaba, Wednesday, said, “The problem is that the matter was referred to marine (police division) to handle and the alleged three persons that are missing, none of the families has made an official report to the police station that they are looking for their persons.”
The Divisional Police Officer (DPO) Marine Base in Koko, said Seplat refused to come in to make statement but the people related to these alleged missing persons did not even come and report, to give statement that will be used as a basis to hold Seplat responsible.
“Why interface with the company? Now, they are not getting desired result. They are supposed to make an official report. That’s the normal thing.
So, not until they lodge a formal report, police cannot do anything because police cannot be the complainant and witness at the same time in the court”, said Edafe.
The PPRO advised that his phone number be given to the victims’ family members so they could call him.
Sheriff Oborevwori, Delta State Governor, had shortly after the tragic incident, urged the management of the company to intensify rescue efforts for the missing crew members and also launch an inquiry into circumstances surrounding the unfortunate incident with a view to avoiding future occurrence.
The pain of Adikankwu’s family:
Slim left for work at an offshore rig run by Depthwize on behalf of Seplat, and may never return home. Vivian, his wife does not even have a corpse to bury and pay her last respect to.
Slim who is among the three unaccounted personnel of the ‘Majestic’, an oil drilling rig owned by Depthwize Nigeria Limited, who was contracted by Seplat Energy, left a trail of tragedy, agony, and an unsettling reflection on Nigeria’s value for life.
The ‘Majestic’ collapsed around the swamps of Ovhor in Sapele Local Government Area, Delta State, on Tuesday, August 15, 2023, while in transit to its drilling location. Shortly after the incident, Seplat Energy, released a statement stating that the rig had a total of 96 crew members on board, with 92 persons successfully rescued.
“…92 of the 96-member crew are accounted for and safe. However, tragically one fatality occurred during the incident, while three other rig personnel are still missing,” Roger Brown, CEO, Seplat Energy stated.
Videos from the scene of the incident later flooded the internet, including one in which some of the rescued members were being paddled away in a boat. A survivor was seen wearing only underwear, repeatedly looking back at the submerged rig, while occupants of the boat kept muttering words in shock, and thanking their God for saving their lives.
However, as the days turned into weeks, a disturbing pattern emerged – a lack of urgency, transparency, and accountability in the aftermath of the disaster. The mere mention of ‘Slim’ provokes tears from the eyes of Vivian Adikankwu, wife of one of the uncounted personnel of the Majestic. Chances are that he may be dead. But the pain she feels is aggravated because she does not have closure.
In an interview, she narrated, “The last time I saw my husband was on the 10th of August when he left for Warri. He went to his location the next day. He called and told me the rig will move from it’s present location on Saturday and that they would get to Ovhor on Sunday or Monday. And he called me that Monday night and we spoke for some time. In less than 24 hours I got the sad call about this sad incident,” she narrated while fighting back her tears.
Depthwize stingy with updates:
Vivian laid bare her emotional ordeal as she grappled with the absence of her husband and raised critical concerns about the adequacy of Seplat Energy’s efforts to locate the missing workers.
She revealed that her husband was engaged for the job by Human Resources firm, Ynsynk Nigeria Limited, a company based in Port Harcourt going by the books, which recruited workers for Depthwize Nigeria Limited, the owners of the collapsed rig that drilled oil for Seplat Energy.
The following day being Tuesday, I tried reaching my husband but to no avail, I thought it was just network issues until I later got a call around 2p.m from one Richard Ogbechie, HR at Depthwize, who told me that he was sorry that my husband was missing,” Vivian narrated.
“I told him my husband left the house five days ago for work. He told me that the rig that my husband was working on submerged around 4a.m that day but that their office was alerted by 5a.m. He said others were rescued but my husband and about four others were missing.
“I called my brother-in-law immediately. I was confused. I dropped my phone. It’s been 14 days now since I last heard from my husband, and no real action has been taken by his employers to locate him. Day after day, we hear promises upon promises, but my husband has not been accounted for,” said Vivian, her voice tinged with both grief and frustration, as tears continuously well up in her eyes.
Continuing with the heart-rending account, she shared how her family and friends are struggling to come to terms with the situation, anxiously awaiting updates while actively seeking any snippet of information they can find on the whereabouts of her husband.
The brother-in-law, Horace Adinkankwu, also confirmed her narration and stated that their father’s burial was scheduled for the upcoming week, disclosing that their widowed mother was still unaware of her missing son. “We don’t even know how to begin to tell her,” Horace said.
Horace, elder brother to the missing Adikankwu, expressed his concerns about the company’s preparedness for such emergencies, and lamented that the company was not in constant communication with them, and would only say something after the grieving wife contacted them.
“It appears to me like the company does not have the equipment. The divers being used to conduct the search, according to them, are local divers. My major pain is that they don’t even talk to us, we are the ones reaching out to them,” he told us.
We also gathered that the other missing rig workers were: Mr. Felix Izuchukwu and Mr. Ogaga Ositoyibo, who were also active workers in the rig and employees of Depthwize Nigeria Limited.
He narrated further: “One time we received information that one of the missing workers had been found. When we got in touch with the company, they denied it! But they now called us the next day that it was true, but they were yet to identify the corpse.
From what we gathered, the local divers only saw the hand of the person, with the rest of the body trapped, but they could not get it out, and they could not see the face as it was very dark under the water. This only goes to show that the company is not using professionals, or the right equipment for the job”, Horace offered.