The federal government has been urged to address issues of “exploitation” and environmental degradation mining host communities across the country face due to the activities of mining companies in Nigeria.
Participants at a town hall meeting involving NGOs, mining host communities, stakeholders and government representatives made the call on Monday in Abuja.
The participants included; Environmental Rights Action (ERA), National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Ministry of Mines and Steel Development, Accountability Lab, NEITI, and community representatives from Kogi, Gombe, Ebonyi and Plateau states.
In her opening remarks, the Executive Director of Global Rights (Nigeria), Abiodun Baiyewu, said the mining exploration has led to loss of lives and properties in host communities without government’s intervention in preserving the environment, especially water preservation.
She said: “A lot of times, meetings are held for the hydrocarbon industry, but not in mining. Nigeria’s history will not be complete if we don’t tell the story of the role mining has played in shaping our lives, whether for good or bad. We have been known for tin mining in Jos, Coal mining in Enugu, among others, but mining has done us both good and bad. Electricity was generated from coal before 1960s until it began to fade.
“We bleed resources and breed poverty in the country, as a result of mining activities. Communities have lost their waters and there are pockets of violence across the country, including the Shikira lead poisoning that led to the death of more than 28 people in Niger state in 2015. The wealth from this country prosper other nations. What can be done for the communities where these resources are gotten from? We are bound to have global water crisis in 2050, when our population is expected to double, but are we ready?”
Also speaking, the Executive Director of ERA, Dr Godwin Ojo, said many companies in the mining sector are only after what they can make from host communities, regardless of the pains and sufferings they inflict on the communities, even as he accused government of “unholy alliance with mining companies in exploitation of the people.”
“There is an unholy alliance between government and prospectors; in order to maximize profit. Industries, prospectors, extractive sectors in the oil and gas, on mining coal, gold: the impacts are similar. They externalize production cost. They pass on the destruction or cost of production to the environment and the people, that is why they are able to make profit. They take advantage of weak environmental laws in Nigeria, because of poor governance issues, weak compliance and enforcement.
“Their primary concern is profit maximisation, which is to the detriment of host communities. Mainstreaming human rights into the mining sector means there is primacy of community interest in the mining sector and this is why I recommend the primacy of local interest. The resources belong to the community and they should be the ones mining. Communities should be encouraged to form cooperatives and the incentives given to foreigners should be extended to the local people,” he said.