FOLLOWING series of reports by the International Centre for Investigation (ICIR) on the controversial coal mining activities by the Dangote Group, mining communities from Kogi and Benue states have started speaking-up against what they described as an environmental injustice perpetrated by the mining firm against their people.
Representatives of the communities spoke during a training programme organised by the Global Initiative for Food Security and Environmental Protection (GIFSEP) held in Abuja.
The communities said it was important for the Federal Government to take the health and social well-being of the rural communities more seriously above the economic gain of the mining firms.
Samuel Adejoh, a representative of Awo-Akpali Community in Ankpa Local Government Area of Kogi State disclosed at the training that Dangote Coal Mine Limited has commenced the construction of a health care centre and a block of primary school at the community after The ICIR reports.
He however said the buildings which were started in April are yet to be completed.
According to him, several efforts made by local actors within the state prior to the development had failed. However, he tasked the firm to ensure early completion of the projects.
Abdullahi Saidu, community representative of Onupi community also in Kogi State disclosed how the community was excluded from preparing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which led to the mining firm to present a fake EIA.
According to him, the inability of the mining firm to fulfill its obligations as contained in the Community Development Agreement (CDA) forced it to suspend operation and moved to Benue State.
“We mobilised our youths against them. We demanded to see the consent letter that gave them permission to commence mining in our village, so they just referred us to the paramount ruler,” Saidu said.
“One thing about Dangote is once they visit any mining location, they create enmity among the villagers. The next thing you see is conflicts among the opposition groups.”
However, he called for an amendment of the Nigerian Minerals and Mining Act.
Meanwhile, some of the concerns shared by the group were reflected in the two parts report published by The ICIR.
Onoja John, traditional ruler of Owukpa village, Ogbadibo Local Government in his remark narrated how mining commenced in the community in 2017. No development came to his community as of 2018.
He revealed that he had to approach the firm but after meeting with the officials, they claimed to have paid an undisclosed sum to Owukpa Development Association (ODA), thus neglecting the development of the host community.
The traditional ruler thereafter directed youths in the community to stop work at the mining site.
He was allegedly reported to the Benue State Police Command for questioning after which top traditional chiefs met at the visit.
“We dialogue and reached a resolution. The resolution has been disregarded by the company. I was even issued a query by the big chief. As I’m talking, I wish I have a cover because my life might be at risk.”
After listening to the narrations, a coalition of civil society organisation which GIFSEP is a member promised to create advocacy on the issues raised.