Civil Society Organisations and mining host communities have lamented over poor living conditions, expose to extraction hazards and alleged neglect by government and mining companies operating in their areas.
The stakeholders who gathered at a three days West African Mining Host Communities Indaba summit, organised by Global Rights and African Coalition for Corporate Accountability(ACCA), with the theme “Enhancing Efficient Natural Resource Management for the Sustainability of Extractive Host Communities in West Africa” in Abuja, said the situation is unacceptable.
The Executive Director Centre for Community Excellence, Adamu Katorkoshi decried the disturbing trends of mining activities negatively impacting human and environmental lives on a daily basis, which is common to many mining host communities.
Katorkoshi noted, “the major or primary objective of any government is the protection of life and properties, it is the constitutional responsibility of the government at the national and state level to ensure safety and the security of this mining host community that is first because it is when you are alive that you will think of other social infrastructure.
“These mining communities have nothing to show that they are endowed with natural resources, no good roads, no potable water, no schools and there is nothing to indicate that they are blessed with natural resources. This is the duty of the government and mining company to ensure that host communities have benefited no matter how small it is from the mineral sources in their own localities.
“But with escalation of the conflict they were forcefully displaced, now there is no room for compensation or corporate social responsibility, therefore the land now is free for any company to operate and for anybody to work without paying any compensation.
“The ban on mining is just on the newspapers because some people are still mining in the communities, this continues because the government do not have the security agencies and other mechanism put in place that will stop the mining, therefore mining still persist to the detriment of the host communities.
“Bandits are doing more of the mining in the community, this has some political and economic linkages because in most of these communities before the escalation of the conflict, the community members advocated for the mining communities and the government to do something to improve their lives,” he said.
On his part, Dr. Dauda Garuba of Mamba Point Development Services expressed concern over the constant degradation of the mining host community, lamenting that the natural mineral extraction has hampered development in the communities.
Garuba said, “If at the end of exploitation, community have nothing to show for the resources that God bless them with is as good as just leaving the mineral in the ground. Over time, we have seen situations where communities where natural resources are taken become the face of poverty in the land.
“Sometimes you hear billions of Naira or dollars mentioned, but when it comes to taking a look at the life, what the life of the people living in the area where this huge source of huge money is coming from, you then begin to ask yourself whether to weep or not.
“I don’t feel proud as a Nigerian to say that all the huge amount of money we have raised in this sector, this is what we have for people in the sector. For instance, between 1999 and 2020 this country has raised over 740 billion US dollars, from oil and gas between 2007 and 2020 this country has raised over 620 billion naira from the solid minerals. The question is what is the story of communities from where these huge money has been raised.
“The mining sector is particularly pathetic, because you meet devasted sites all over the country, the fact is that if we don’t change our way of life, especially with respect to the governance approach to resource management, we may just be repeating what we have seen in the Niger Delta.”
In the same vein, Princess Ogbuinya Sylvia of Einyim Agalagu Ndufu Alike Ikwo Local Governement Area of Ebonyi State urged the federal government to come to the aid of the communities as the harsh conditions from the mining activiities is affecting the health and farmlands of residence.
Ogbuinya lamented the use of security forces against residents noting, “I don’t know why Nigerians are protecting the expatriates, but we the citizens of this country, our rights are being denied, they use soldier to attack us, personnels that are supposed to protect us,” she decried.
Also, the Programs Manager Global Rights, Edosa Oviawe, while speaking on the premise of the summit stated that,it is a platform for all stakeholders, in the solid mineral sector to have frank discussions on issues or challenges, gains and of course propose solutions on some of the impacts of mining activities on host communities across the West African region.
Oviawe reiterated that, it is a summit “where we interrogate the whole issues across the West Africa region, Nigeria, to see how can we make our host communities sustainable.
“At the end of of this three days convening, we should be able to come up with with a very workable roadmap for for the West African region. On how to engage and how to collectively address the negative impacts of mining activities in our communities, and how to, of course, empower our host mining communities, on how to equally engage with other critical critical stakeholders like the government and of course the company themselves to ensure that we will have a sustainable environment.”