…we are facing effects of overexploitation yet no compensation, mining host communities allege
EMMANUEL BAGUDU, ABUJA
In 2016, Nigeria made 14 commitments around 4 thematic areas, in its National Action Plan (NAP) while signing up to the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Nigeria’s NAP which is designed to be implemented from 2017 to 2019 serves as a document that validates the country’s participation in the OGP.
NAP Identifies Priority areas that require urgent government actions while OGP is a multilateral initiative that aims to secure concrete commitments from national and sub-national governments to promote open government, empower citizens, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to strengthen governance. Founded in 2011 by 8 countries with the Purpose of instigating domestic reforms and deliver efficient service among member states, today, OGP has an enviable membership base of 79 countries and 20 Sub-nationals.
This piece is yet another attempt by TNG’s Human Right and Anticorruption desk to hold government accountable on one of its promises and commitments in the 2017 to 2019 National Action Plan tagged; “Extractive Sector Transparency”. Emmanuel Bagudu reports.
“Extractive Sector Transparency” was Commitment three (3) in the 2017-2019 NAP. Numbered “NG003 2017 Nigeria”, the commitment promises an all-inclusive policy and legislative transparency framework in the nation’s extractive sector. In fact, it is a highly prioritised commitment being placed at number 3 out of 14.
It’s less than 2 months to the end of 2019, the last implementation year of the NAP and the extractive sector in Nigeria seems to be having a lot of questions to answer regarding their operations in their host Communities. With 0.3 contributions to the nation’s Gross Domestic Products, extractive sector operations must meet the needs of their host Communities and allegations of Injustice by Employees and Communities especially in the mining sector a key branch of the extractive sector must not arise.
But this is not so. Mining Host Communities are seen in different events across the country reeling out allegations of Injustice, brutality and exploitation by companies. Their case is nothing far from questioning the “Extractive Sector Transparency” commitment in the NAP. They believe that if there was an agreement or promise during the OGP signing called “Extractive Sector Transparency”, their Communities will not be suffering the way they are at the moment.
From Kaduna to Zamfara, Plateau to Kogi, Gombe to South Eastern Ebonyi; the story is the same; mining host Communities keep accusing companies of neglect despite the enormous profits they are making. Silvia is a resident of Enyigba in Abakaliki Local Government Area of Ebonyi state. She couldn’t control her rage at Royal Salt, an Indian mining company operating in her local government. According to Silvia; the company has failed to implement the Community Development Agreement (CDA) it entered into with the community. She said Royal Salt has failed to build a hospital, provide water and jobs to the people of the community as indicated in the CDA. “We welcomed Royal Salt with open arms without knowing that they were coming to deal with us, humiliate us and deprive us of what belongs to us….” “…. Since Royal Salt came in they have refused to implement the CDA. As I am speaking with you now, we don’t have good roads, there is no water, and our water has been polluted. There is no employment, the few people they employed, they treat them like slaves, they don’t pay them salaries, how can Indians be beating our people like children?” “….They promised to build hospitals, provide jobs, they have not provided it. They are supposed to employ about 80percent of their workforce from our community but they are not implementing it,” she said. Silvia also alleged that the operatives of Royal Salt claimed they have the protection of Nigerian Government and can do anything they like.
Gombe State where Ashaka Cement operates has the same story. A traditional head (name withheld) claimed activities of Ashaka Cement contaminated their water leading to unknown ailments in the host Communities. In Kogi state where coal is mined in large quantity by DANGOTE and ETA ZUMA it is the same story; citizens of Awo Akpali and Okobo communities in Ankpa local government area of the state who spoke to TNG claimed their life is in danger. “Vibrations from heavy mining machines will not led babies and little children sleep at night, water has been contaminated from activities of coal mining in Okobo community” Adejo Samuel, a Lokoja based civil society activist told TNG in a telephone conversation. “Specifically in Awo Akpali where I reside, the effects of coal mining are water, air, and noise pollutions, which affect our health, crops, plants and animals. Erosion and flood which damaged our road network and our farm land equally affecting our economic activities. We hardly transport our products, produce and farm crops to the market as a result of the bad nature of our land” Samuel Added.
In Ganawuri a border town between Kaduna and Plateau state, the burden of taxation on artesinal miners is the most pressing concern. Located in Riyom Local government area of Plateau state, Ganawuri has quite a high deposit of TIN and COLUMBITE under its grounds. Inhabitants of Ganawuri who have had the experience of working with Foreign Miners engaged in Artisanal Mining but claimed there is no much profit owing to high taxation from Government’s task force. “It is the same case in other Mining Communities in the Jos Plateau” Hikima a veteran Tin Miner told TNG in a telephone conversation.
In another life-threatening situation, a mining specialist (name withheld) in the Jos-Plateau have claimed that about 1,100 tin and columbite mines, abandoned after the mining boom of the 1960s, now pose serious health risks to as many as 2 million people living in the area, a danger to local people living around mining fields in Jos, Barikin-Ladi, Bukuru, Bassa and Riyom areas of Plateau state.
ALLEGED BREACH OF “EXTRACTIVE SECTOR TRANSPARENCY” COMMITMENT
Mining host communities have made their case and Journalists, civil societies and Analysts have so far been taken it hard on the government of Nigeria. They all believe the government’s inability to monitor the mining companies is a breach to the “Extractive Sector Transparency” Commitment in the 2017-2019 NAP.
Silvia in another chat with Journalists claimed government and security operatives have failed to meet up with their responsibilities of meeting the needs of Mining Host Communities “…. whenever we complain, they use police and soldiers to intimidate us….They brag and say to us, the Nigerian government is in their pocket. They are using our security against us. We have complained several times to the state government, they are not doing anything.” “These Indians are wicked” Silvia alleged.
Silvia and other Mining Host Community members were brought to Abuja by the Business and Human Right Round Table Forum made up of Journalists and Civil Society Members to narrate their ordeals in the hands of Extractive companies in their Communities. They were very free to narrate their various encounters and their various accounts indicated that the “Extractive Sector Transparency” Commitment in the NAP is just a mirage.
FG MUST ACT TO REMAIN AMONG OGP NATIONS
The United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPBHR) stated that the duty of the state (country) is to protect human rights. UNGPBHR principle maintains that “….It is the State’s duty to make it clear to third parties especially businesses not to infringe on the rights of the people and even when this happens, that there are remedial measures to address them.”
This obviously is not so. Abiodun Baiyewu Executive Director “Global Rights” the CSO that put together the Business and Human Right Round Table in Abuja said in an interview with Journalists that mainstreaming human rights norms into the entire process of mining activities would address the underlying issues that have trailed operations in the extractive sector. “Human rights norms requires the infusion of the dictates of various concepts of human rights into every stage and facet of industrial undertakings. This implies that every stage of the project from the policy conception to the encounter with the consumers or beneficiaries must observe and sustain the standard of human rights,” Baiyewu said.
Miss Baiyewu added that “the way forward is to naturalise the resources and put them in the hands of the local people rather than looking for foreign investors in the name of dollars and pounds….”
Its less than 60 days to the end of 2019; whether the federal government of Nigeria will intervene in the plights of mining Host Communities in these few days, only time will tell. It is also worthy of note that Nigeria has designed another action plan following the expiration of the 2017-2019 NAP, this implies that the Civil Society community, the Press and other stakeholders must “up their game” in holding government accountable in all its commitments. This may perhaps minimize to the barest minimum possibilities of Government’s failure in its OGP Commitment and put human right first in all its governance processes.